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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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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