Iowa families need more than platitudes, campaign rhetoric

Iowa families need more than platitudes, campaign rhetoric

Gazette Column
Some Iowa lawmakers and elected officials gathered on the steps of the Capital this week to be disingenuous. [caption id="attachment_156" align="alignright" width="640"] The State Capitol Building in Des Moines. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)[/caption] It’s difficult to find good news in this election cycle, but this past week offered an exception. Both Democratic and Republican presidential nominees have rolled out their proposals for paid family medical leave. I’ll leave it to readers to research the ins-and-outs of the proposals by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The big news is the conversation about family medical leave is in the headlines again, and that’s due in large part to the number of women who have advocated on behalf of this issue. It’s good that we are talking, because this is an issue that’s been…
Read More
SCOTUS told us what we already knew

SCOTUS told us what we already knew

Gazette Blog
Abortion restrictions imposed by the Texas Legislature in the name of women’s health should have never made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. No matter what side of the abortion debate you are on, the dirty little not-so-secret behind regulations thinly wrapped inside a facade of improving women’s health was clear from the beginning. Unable to outright ban abortion, those opposed concentrated on what some openly referred to as “the next best thing,” erecting barriers to access. Years ago, and sometimes still today, those barriers were literal, amounting to lines of demonstrators who aimed to keep women out of health care facilities that provided abortions. They’ve also been psychological, like the published lists of home addresses and telephone numbers or photographs of clinic workers and doctors who perform abortions. Perhaps…
Read More
Grassley’s gamble isn’t paying off

Grassley’s gamble isn’t paying off

Gazette Column
Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator is holding firm on his promise to not vet any Supreme Court nominee offered by the White House, but the gambit isn’t producing political returns. News on Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court split on a critical immigration case wasn’t welcomed by the Obama administration. The tie effectively continues a lower court’s decision to halt President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA), which, in the interest of preserving families, prohibited deportation of the undocumented parents of legal resident children. It was a legal defeat, although a much lesser one than was expected before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. And, it is quite possible that it wouldn’t have been a defeat at all if Obama’s replacement choice, Merrick…
Read More
Another step toward justice

Another step toward justice

Gazette Column
Iowa Supreme Court says juveniles can't sentenced to life without possibility of parole As more fallacies of the nation’s “tough on crime” era are exposed, juvenile justice must continue to evolve. On May 27, the Iowa Supreme Court once again stood on the right side of history. But this case, unlike same-sex marriage, produced only minor ripples within the public consciousness. Perhaps this was because the opinion arrived before a three-day weekend. Or maybe it was because the ruling concerned people we’ve been told are lost causes. Regardless, I spent most of the day reading and digesting the split ruling and its companion dissents and concurring opinions. It took time to absorb that no Iowa juvenile offender will ever again be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Our…
Read More
HUD ex-offender housing rule a smart move

HUD ex-offender housing rule a smart move

Gazette Column
America should be a country of second chances. This should be a nation in which each individual is judged on his or her own actions and merits. We don’t need to blindly trust, but we must step away from stereotypes that keep certain segments of the population from reaching their full potential, or bouncing back from past mistakes. This week the nation took a significant step toward that a goal when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released new guidelines for housing providers. Instead of universally and automatically banning anyone with a criminal record from renting or purchasing a property, landlords must now consider each individual’s specific circumstance. Landlords of federally-subsidized housing or in the private rental market who use blanket bans of potential clients with criminal records…
Read More
SCOTUS short one justice shortchanges Iowans

SCOTUS short one justice shortchanges Iowans

Gazette Column
It’s been said that leaving the U.S. Supreme Court with only eight members isn’t a big deal, that it won’t really affect Iowans. But it already has. The most discussed SCOTUS deadlock thus far came Tuesday, when an evenly divided court couldn’t find consensus in Friedrichs v. California. The case was expected to end or significantly alter the ability of public-sector unions to collect fees from unaffiliated workers — a process well known by Iowans as “fair share” — but the eight-member court instead handed a victory to organized labor. The case was part of a multiyear initiative by several conservative groups hoping to weaken the unions that represent teachers, law enforcement officers and other public-sector workers. And, based on oral arguments in January, it should have been a conservative…
Read More
Justice reform? Don’t forget public defenders

Justice reform? Don’t forget public defenders

Gazette Column
Lost in U.S. Supreme Court finger-pointing debacles this week was a legal anniversary that reminds us justice is a process. On March 18, 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court declared the right to counsel fundamental to fairness. That decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, led to the establishment of public defense systems across the nation. The case involved a homeless Florida man, Clarence Gideon. He’d been accused of breaking into a pool hall, and insisted he couldn’t afford an attorney. Florida law at the time required court-appointed representation only for the indigent who faced capital charges. It was Gideon’s post-conviction appeal that made it’s way before the Supreme Court and ultimately broadened 14th Amendment Due Process to include state felony defendants unable to pay for legal assistance. After the decision, Gideon was provided…
Read More
Keeping the ‘Faith In Iowa’

Keeping the ‘Faith In Iowa’

Gazette Column
Witosky, Hansen book offers clear view of marriage equality struggles and influence Civil rights vanguards aren’t immediately appreciated and are rarely comfortable. Iowans know this from experiences dating to the early 1800s, well before statehood. The first ruling of the Iowa Territory Supreme Court in 1838 said a slave could not be forced to return to a slave state after residing on our soil. At a time when women were considered legal property by most Americans, married and unmarried Iowa women legally owned property. And, a century before interracial marriages were nationally recognized, they were taking place in Iowa. The list goes on. From a ban on segregated schools 90 years before a similar national decision to a 1953 legislative refusal to take up a McCarthy-era demand for public employee…
Read More
Eminent domain bill deserves fair hearing

Eminent domain bill deserves fair hearing

Gazette Column
A decade has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court decided private property could be legally seized by the government and handed to a different private property owner under the guise of “economic development.” Kelo vs. New London was met with widespread distaste, earning the public ire of Republicans and Democrats alike. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spelled out the dangers: “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.” As public sentiment toward the decision soured, backlash within the states began. In 2006, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill to restrict the use of eminent domain for economic development. Although the bill was…
Read More
Indiana is just the beginning

Indiana is just the beginning

Gazette Column
When the U.S. Supreme Court returned its decision in the Hobby Lobby contraception coverage case, I argued the set stage would be of little benefit to women or religion. I’m saddened to see that in Indiana, my predictions, largely drawn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, have come to fruition. “Religious organizations exist,” she wrote, “to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith.” In contrast, businesses and corporations exist to create profits, and do not draw the workers or customers who sustain them from any singular religious community. I wrote that if the “ruling could somehow be limited only to medications or contraception, it would be bad enough, but there are much broader implications at stake.” Humans pray. Humans gather with like-minded others to express their faith.…
Read More