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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Think LOST stinks? Hold your nose, blame lawmakers.

Think LOST stinks? Hold your nose, blame lawmakers.

Gazette Column
No one wants to pay more taxes, but sometimes it really is the best of the bad options. When Johnson County voters flip their ballots this November, they’ll be asked if they are willing to increase sales tax by a penny for each dollar spent. If your gut instinct is similar to mine, the pencil will immediately gravitate toward the “no” oval. Sales taxes are among the most regressive rate options for revenue generation. Because they are levied at a flat rate, and because spending as a share of income falls as income rises, sales taxes inevitably take a larger share of income from low- and middle-income families than they take from those in higher income brackets. In other words, all saved income is exempt, while all spent income is…
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Public K-12 is a solid investment

Public K-12 is a solid investment

Gazette Column
Education funding shortfalls could get worse “It won’t hurt to look.” That was the advice of the school registration worker as she smiled and extended a paper with state income eligibility guidelines toward me. She had asked if our family qualified for free or reduced-priced lunches and I had mumbled something to the effect of, “I doubt it.” So, I took the paper and looked, my finger sliding down to our family size, then across to the yearly totals. It wasn’t even close. As I shrugged and handed the paper back to the worker, her smile widened and turned conspiratorial. “You didn’t know you were rich, did you?” HITTING HOME Every so often, when a writer is truly fortunate, personal and professional collide, allowing for the dissemination of information that…
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Bertrand defamation case changes nothing

Bertrand defamation case changes nothing

Gazette Column
Transparency makes attack ads palatable In September 1895, Woodrow Wilson was more than two decades away from his move into the White House and spent a great deal of time studying government via the lens of history. It was at this time, well before history and political science were distinct disciplines, the scholarly Wilson wrote a magazine essay establishing his thoughts on how historians should present their work, summarizing why it is often difficult to see into the past as well as into the future. “The truth of history is a very complex and very occult matter. It consists of things which are invisible as well of things which are visible. It is full of secret motives, and of a chance interplay of trivial and yet determining circumstances; it is…
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