Is it OK to coddle, or not?

Is it OK to coddle, or not?

Gazette Column
Few things are as frustrating as legislative hypocrisy. Remember a few months ago, just after the presidential election, when Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, floated the possibility of a bill to strip funding from state universities that offered services like counseling or safe spaces to students? “I’ve seen four or five schools in other states that are establishing ‘cry zones’ where they’re staffed by state grief counselors and kids can come cry out their sensitivity to the election results,” Kaufmann explained. “I find this whole hysteria to be incredibly annoying. People have a right to be hysterical … on their own time.” “Suck it up, buttercup” would be the condescending name of the bill, Kaufmann said, and it would be a reactionary measure on behalf of those who believe students…
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Long road ahead for Iowa political equity advocates

Long road ahead for Iowa political equity advocates

Featured, Gazette Column
The 2016 election will go down in Iowa history as a time when a record number of women sought office. It won’t, however, be remembered as one where women saw gains. While women nationally continue to absorb the loss of the presidency, Iowa women have added concerns. None of the Iowa women seeking federal office were elected — Patty Judge, Kim Weaver and Monica Vernon, all Democrats. A massive influx of Republicans to the Iowa Statehouse also took its toll on prospects for gender equity in Des Moines. [caption id="attachment_258" align="alignright" width="640"] Only six women will serve in the Iowa Senate when it convenes in January. It's a decrease of one from the current General Assembly. (Blank map source: Legislative Services Agency)[/caption] Eleven women sought election to nine seats in…
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Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past five years, Iowa law has required citizens wanting a weapons permit to pay for a “safety” class that has no minimum standards. And, based on conversations with the crop of this year’s legislative candidates, no changes are on the horizon. In 2011, when Iowa became a “shall issue” state, removing nearly all discretion in weapons permitting from local law enforcement, the law required most applicants to attend safety classes. The Legislature, however, did not specify the content or curriculum of those classes or give such authority to the Iowa Department of Public Safety. [caption id="attachment_147" align="alignright" width="300"] A display of 7-round .45 caliber handguns are seen at Coliseum Gun Traders Ltd. in Uniondale, New York January 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)[/caption] The result is a patchwork — a…
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2016 election: Where the girls aren’t

2016 election: Where the girls aren’t

Gazette Column
You have heard that Iowa has a bumper crop of female candidates on the 2016 ballot? It’s true. But whether or not you have the opportunity to color in an oval next to the name of a woman running for the statehouse will most likely depend on where you live. Statewide advocacy group 50-50 in 2020 has worked since the fall of 2010 in partnership with several other women’s organizations toward a goal of political equity in Iowa by the year 2020, which will be the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. So it was little wonder that this non-partisan group was the first to shout the news that 2016 was a historic year for women in politics. [caption id="attachment_378" align="alignleft" width="300"] This is how many seats women would hold following…
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Reasonable to require gun handling

Reasonable to require gun handling

Gazette Column
Some Iowa senators finally seem ready to require basic gun handling as part of the permitting process. Better late than never. Sen. Steve Sodders, a State Center Democrat, told Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell that if the Iowa Senate takes up a House-approved bill that would make permit renewal easier and keep permit holders’ information private, passage would likely be linked to a requirement that those applying for permits demonstrate basic weapon knowledge. “How to load it and unload it safely. You know, point it downrange, don’t point it at people. All those safety issues,” Sodders told IPR. In 2011, when Iowa became a “shall issue” state, removing nearly all discretion in weapon permitting from local law enforcement, the state mandated most permit applicants attend guns safety classes. The legislature,…
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Meanwhile, under the golden dome

Meanwhile, under the golden dome

Gazette Column
Welcome back to another year of Legislative Goodness. I’m joined by intrepid reporter Graph Stacker and political analyst Ima Payfordthiss. Anything unusual happen this week, or are lawmakers still deadlocked on school funding? Graph: There was actually movement in the K-12 funding dispute, Lynda. A Democrat-controlled Senate committee approved a 4 percent increase in state aid. As you know, the Republican-controlled House already voted to give schools an extra 2 percent in state aid. Ima: Yet splitting the difference doesn’t seem likely since the 3 percent average is above Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposed 2.45 percent increase. Graph: No one wants another appearance by the infamous veto pen. Is this another legislative session where school funding sucks up all the oxygen? Graph: Well, we’ll have to wait and see what lawmakers…
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Vilsack support of Branstad water quality proposal no surprise

Vilsack support of Branstad water quality proposal no surprise

Gazette Column
Tax exemptions should be on the table The urban and rural divide is alive and thriving. The response to an appearance this week by former Iowa governor and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at Gov. Terry Branstad’s news conference announcing a possible extension and expansion of a penny sales tax now funneled to school infrastructure proves it. Branstad’s proposal is to extend a one-cent sales tax earmarked for school infrastructure and set to expire in 2029. The plan would keep the tax in place for 20 additional years, through 2049. While schools would continue to earn proceeds from that tax to a certain cap point, about three-quarters of future growth would be funneled to conservation efforts that help reduce farm chemical runoff and, in turn, improve Iowa’s water quality. Some…
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More GOP cronyism staining UI

More GOP cronyism staining UI

Gazette Column
Some of us have friends. Some of us have friends who use their professional positions to funnel us money. Guess which kind former Republican Party of Iowa chairman Matt Strawn has. A records request to the University of Iowa by the Associated Press found $321,900 in no-bid contracts awarded to Strawn’s consulting company. Strawn, in turn, subcontracted firms led by others with GOP ties to perform at least part of the work. The contracts were managed by UI Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes, a former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus staff director who served alongside Strawn. Strawn’s company was, for instance, hired in the spring of 2013 to conduct online and grass roots advocacy. That contract totaled $24,900 — just a hundred dollars below a threshold triggering quotes from…
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