More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

Gazette Column
Pro-gun legislation in the Iowa Statehouse has succumbed to a barrage of bullets. Unfortunately, this is not a metaphor. The nation’s latest mass shooting, this time at a Florida high school, contributed to the demise of an Iowa bill aimed to loosen gun-permitting regulations. Instead, lawmakers want school districts to adopt security plans that address “active shooters” and other disasters. Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who managed Senate File 2106, said the untimely and unnecessary deaths of 17 Floridians “apparently changed the optics.” Well, it’s about damn time. [caption id="attachment_1934" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Students, friends and family gather at the memorial crosses at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., to remember those where were killed and injured in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)[/caption]…
Read More
Iowa Republicans are devaluing women – again

Iowa Republicans are devaluing women – again

Gazette Column
Iowa Republicans are once again making clear that they value the potential of pregnancy more than they value women. Their latest missive is Senate Study Bill 3143: “An act relating to the prerequisites for and prohibition against an abortion related to the testing for, and following the detection of, a fetal heartbeat, providing for a repeal, and providing penalties.” A nearly identical bill, HF2163, was introduced in the Iowa House: “An act recognizing the rights and protections accorded each life from the moment of fetal heartbeat detection, prohibiting the performance of an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, providing for licensee discipline, and providing a repeal.” Both bills basically state that, once a fetal heartbeat is detected by ultrasound, a pregnant woman cannot legally obtain an abortion. Doctors who defy the…
Read More
Iowa coalition begins death penalty discussions

Iowa coalition begins death penalty discussions

Gazette Column
As state lawmakers consider reinstatement of the death penalty in Iowa, a coalition of opposition groups plans to travel the state as part of an information campaign. They began Monday night in Cedar Rapids. “At the very least, we want Iowans to better understand what reinstating the death penalty will mean; how it will impact us all in a variety of ways,” said Sue Hutchins, a counselor who formerly worked in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and now helps lead Living Beyond the Bars, a support group for family and friends of inmates. The local group is working with the bipartisan Iowans Against the Death Penalty and Iowa Justice Action Network to convene a series of information sessions. “Iowans can have civil discourse on this issue,” said Wendy Wittrock, who spoke on behalf of Iowans…
Read More
Sexual harassment report urges action

Sexual harassment report urges action

Gazette Blog
Nearly five years after complaint 'there is nothing that has changed' On Friday, the Iowa Republicans shared a four-page report by Mary Kramer, which included specific recommendations “for achieving the goal of creating and maintaining a safe, respectful and professional workplace in the Iowa Senate.” Kramer, a former Republican lawmaker, U.S. ambassador and human resource professional, was asked by GOP leadership to prepare the report after a wrongful termination lawsuit was successfully brought against the state, placing taxpayers on the hook for $1.75 million. Although Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, has yet to acknowledge or express remorse for it, a court ruled GOP leadership retaliated against a female employee by terminating her employment hours after she had submitted a formal complaint of sexual harassment. Court documents, as well…
Read More
A 2017 summary in four quotes

A 2017 summary in four quotes

Gazette Column
If anything, 2017 was a quotable year. Here are four that sum up a year’s worth of news in the Hawkeye State. SEXUAL HARASSMENT “Several of the staff members interviewed indicated they possess a fear of retaliation, which is why they did not feel comfortable reporting any instances of harassment.” — Senate GOP internal report on sexual harassment at the Statehouse. Although several quotes surrounding the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus sexual harassment scandal that put taxpayers on the hook for $1.75 million could be used — many of them absurdities uttered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix as he has repeatedly attempted to whitewash bad behavior — this statement from the GOP’s internal investigation is most troubling. To date, no one has been held accountable and Statehouse employees, which include teenage…
Read More
Sexual harassment makes Iowa Capitol no place for teens

Sexual harassment makes Iowa Capitol no place for teens

Featured, Gazette Column
Legislative page program should be paused until Statehouse culture changes Each year the Iowa Senate, House and Legislative Services Agency employ high school juniors and seniors as pages. Unless persistent and significant workplace culture questions are answered, 2018 should be an exception. It’s been nearly five months since an Iowa court found that Kirsten Anderson, a former Iowa Senate Republican caucus staff member, was wrongfully terminated hours after she reported sexual harassment. It’s been more than a month since the state settled the case without an appeal, agreeing to pay Anderson and her attorneys $1.75 million from the state’s coffers. To date, no one has been held accountable. [caption id="attachment_1419" align="alignleft" width="500"] A portion of the Iowa Senate GOP's internal investigation report atop a picture of the Iowa Statehouse.[/caption] Perhaps…
Read More
Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Gazette Column
It is clear why Iowa Senate Republican leaders wanted to keep an internal investigation of sexual harassment claims secret. The rosy picture they attempted to paint of a better workplace environment is shattered. Amid public outcry and at the urging of Gov. Kim Reynolds, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix performed another 180-degree turn in this harassment saga, which began when Kirsten Anderson, the Republican Caucus communication director, won a wrongful termination lawsuit. The case was settled in September for $1.75 million — taxpayer dollars from Iowa’s general fund. The acknowledgment of guilt is all the more troublesome when paired with internal investigation findings, begrudgingly released by Dix today in the middle of the extended holiday. We now know Dix’s assertions — that the Senate is no longer is plagued by sexual harassment, and that workers do not fear reporting…
Read More
Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Gazette Column
Any hope that Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix is either prepared or willing to resolve ongoing sexual harassment issues at the Statehouse ended Tuesday. Dix, a Shell Rock Republican, sat down with reporters and did not directly answer questions relating to a wrongful termination lawsuit that has cost taxpayers more than $1.7 million, his own communications with the Senate Republican Caucus, findings from an ill-conceived internal investigation, reasons why a determination to hire a human resources director was nixed, or the single employment termination that came weeks after a court determined allegations of sexual harassment were true. Within a span of minutes, Dix once again repeated his court-dismissed claim that the firing of Caucus Communications Director Kirsten Anderson mere hours after she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint was…
Read More
Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Gazette Column
Can you believe it? This and similar sentiments arrive by inbox and social media feed each time teens are caught behaving badly. And, for the record, yes, I totally believe it. The most recent national dust-up arrived courtesy of four male students at Westside High School in Anderson, S.C. The young men were participating in a football game against a neighboring school, Daniel High School. The game was part of the “Touchdown Against Cancer” series intended to fundraise on behalf of and bring more awareness to breast cancer. Ten students had each painted a letter on their chests. When they stood together, the letters spelled out, “Bump Cancer.” Four of the students — two seniors and two sophomores — rearranged themselves to spell the word “rape,” had their photo taken…
Read More
How far has culture of sexism at Iowa Statehouse spread?

How far has culture of sexism at Iowa Statehouse spread?

Gazette Column
Been thinking there must be some deeply rooted cultural phenomenon that led Iowa lawmakers to propose — and, unfortunately, pass — bills that negatively impact women? Turns out, you’re right. A recent court case, brought by a former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus staffer, reveals the ugly details of sexual harassment at the Capitol complex in Des Moines. Charges by Kirsten Anderson, who was the communications director for the GOP caucus for five years, were confirmed in court testimony by other staffers, some of whom continue to work in the harassing and juvenile environment. One described an incident from more than 20 years ago, when she came back from lunch only to discover her computer’s screen saver had been changed to a topless woman jumping on a trampoline to the tune…
Read More