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…
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State won’t force my daughters

State won’t force my daughters

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past several years I’ve searched for a way to get my oldest daughter to move back to Iowa, and ways to keep my younger daughter in state. Thanks to the Iowa Legislature, I’m putting those plans on hold. There’s been plenty of “progress” this session that’s contributed to my decision. A full-throated denial of local control stands out, as do limitations on workers’ rights. But the final straw came this week when lawmakers decided that if my daughters become pregnant the state can force them to continue the pregnancy and give birth. It’s a decision that sickens me to my very core, and not just theoretically. I was one of those women who learned that a very much wanted child would not survive. I had to make the…
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How much can your city afford?

How much can your city afford?

Gazette Column
State lawmakers are putting your city between a rock and a hard place. Either way, you’ll pay. Senate File 481, which targets so-called “sanctuary” communities, was revived this week, earning a mostly party line vote (32-15) in the Iowa Senate. If the bill becomes law, every law enforcement agency in the state will be required to honor any and all verbal or written immigration detainer requests from the federal government. Further, every agency across the state will need to develop written policies by the start of next year to detail how their local officers will take on the added responsibilities of federal immigration law. Agencies and local governments that do not fulfill these mandates will be subject to civil lawsuits that can be initiated by anyone, including federal government agencies…
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Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Gazette Column
Have casual conversations with Iowans and a pattern emerges of the ways the national 2016 election narrative did and did not apply to the Statehouse. Since November I’ve been quietly talking to people around Iowa. I’ve reached out to farmers and small town residents I met during research on rural communities, as well as urban dwellers I met through discussions on public transit and affordable housing. As a general rule these aren’t folks who’d be labeled as political activists. That is, they vote, but don’t shake signs outside Congressional offices or hold court with the county central committee. They live in the present, focused on taking their kids to activities, worried about their mortgage and expending energy on careers or higher education. Nearly all political nuance is lost on them.…
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Let facts guide child neglect, abuse policies

Let facts guide child neglect, abuse policies

Gazette Column
Seventy percent of the roughly 1,600 children who die in the U.S. each year from abuse or neglect are under the age of three. Those most likely to die from neglect or at the hands of an abuser are infants not yet a year old. These and other statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And sadly, according to national officials, many more cases go unreported. Because of that, in 2014, the agency estimated that one out of every seven children will experience some form of abuse or neglect. This is the type of information Iowa lawmakers should use when considering new or expanded prevention laws. Instead, a well-intentioned update of Iowa’s Safe Haven law that allows infants to be voluntarily relinquished at hospitals and other…
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Stalking law changes need to go further

Stalking law changes need to go further

Gazette Column
Iowa Senate members took a significant step last week to improve Iowa’s lackluster stalking definition, but more should be done to align the law with technological realities. Senate File 468 passed unanimously (49-0) on March 21, and is now before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill updates the definition of criminal stalking by loosening a requirement that victims must personally fear bodily injury or death. If the bill is approved, the definition would include what would cause “what would cause a reasonable person” to feel frightened or terrorized for herself or immediate family members. In addition, electronic surveillance is explicitly noted within the statute as an action that can constitute stalking. Sen. Kevin Kinney, an Oxford Democrat and retired deputy sheriff with a wealth of experience combating human trafficking and…
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Lawmakers need a reality check

Lawmakers need a reality check

Gazette Column
Before lawmakers set blazes with their torches or run women out of the state with their pitchforks, they need to consider why late-term abortion exists. I had a late-term abortion. A routine ultrasound midway through the pregnancy showed significant and multiple neural tube defects. The worst was anencephaly, which is an absence of brain, skull and scalp. It happens in about 1,300 pregnancies each year in the U.S., and is always a death sentence. I won’t rehash my personal story here, since I’ve written and spoken extensively about it in the past. What I most want to convey, what I want readers and lawmakers to truly understand, is that because late-term abortion was an option, our family was given an opportunity to have other, healthy children. A piece of legislation…
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Lawmakers are wrong to rely on bubble

Lawmakers are wrong to rely on bubble

Gazette Column
Raise your hand if you’ve been blocked on social media by an elected official. If my feed is any indication, quite a few Iowa hands just flew into the air. “My friend, so I thought, Rep. (Name Removed), deleted me as a friend on Facebook last night. I was having an open and civil discussion about the collective bargaining bill and he began deleting comments from myself and other state employees,” wrote one poster. Another note read, “Rep. (Name Removed) is blocking anyone that tags him on Twitter.” The representative’s Twitter account was deleted shortly afterward. Several other examples exist — 45 at my last count — but these two suffice. [caption id="attachment_488" align="alignleft" width="300"] (Social Media Photo Illustration by Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)[/caption] Maybe some of this deleting and blocking…
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GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

Gazette Column
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice John Forrest Dillon is looking down — perhaps from atop the pillar of his namesake fountain in Davenport — reading proposals by the Republican-controlled Legislature and smiling. Justice Dillon, for readers unaware, is credited with Dillon’s Rule: “Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control. ” Dillon served on the Iowa high court from 1864 to 1869; the rule named after him is derived from two 1868 opinions. In Iowa, Dillon’s Rule was shelved in 1968, when the state constitution was amended to grant cities home rule. Additional…
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Extreme measures rarely last

Extreme measures rarely last

Gazette Column
In politics, there’s at least one thing you can always count on: Power exists on a pendulum. Public sentiment is always shifting. For years this inconvenient fact kept most politicians, and especially the dominant political parties, tilting toward center. They’ve understood that whenever massive force is applied in one direction, the back swing is as equally severe. Iowa’s Republican Majority is brazenly testing fate. [caption id="attachment_411" align="alignleft" width="640"] Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, gives opening remarks Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, at the start of debate on Senate File 2. The bill ends a long-standing federal-state cooperative program for family planning, and creates a solely state-funded program. The new program, if approved, will exclude health providers that provide abortion services. The bill passed the Iowa Senate on a party-line vote and will…
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