Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Gazette Column
News that health care advocates had been dreading came Thursday: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will shutter a third of it’s Iowa clinics. Locations in Bettendorf, Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk will close at the end of June. Only one of those locations offered abortion services, and it will continue to provide those procedures until the building is sold. Soon to be lost is what more than 70 percent of Iowans supported — access to family planning services like contraceptives, prenatal vitamins and cancer or other disease screenings. More than 14,000 Iowans utilized the clinics now slated for closure. Planned Parenthood clinics statewide serve nearly half of residents who use publicly-funded family planning services. Looking only at the four counties impacted by the closures, Planned Parenthood clinics served, at a…
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Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Gazette Column
The new National Health Security Preparedness Index is out, and Iowans continue to lag behind in plans for the state’s most vulnerable. Across most of the 139 measures used to compile the index, Iowans fare well with rankings at or slightly above the national average. Iowa gets an overall score of 7 out of 10 — the same score it’s had for the past three years. But while Iowa has stagnated, other states have improved. The 7 that placed Iowa above the pack in 2014, now puts it in the middle. Drilling further down, it’s apparent that there is one section in particular where Iowans are lagging behind. Index authors labeled it as “Community Planning and Engagement Coordination,” which includes actions taken to develop and maintain supportive relationships among government…
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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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An opportunity to care for Iowa’s kids

An opportunity to care for Iowa’s kids

Gazette Column
Before the General Assembly comes to a close lawmakers need take notice of new school lunch policies in the southwest. Legislators in Texas and California have filed bills to address “school lunch shaming.” New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed her state’s anti-shaming bill into law earlier this month, making it the first of its kind in the nation. “Study after study tells us that hungry students can’t keep up in school to meet their potential,” Martinez noted in her message to lawmakers. “I am pleased to sign Senate Bill 374, which ensures that our children will never go back to class hungry after lunch, even if their parents fail to pay outstanding bills for their meals.” The New Mexico effort, dubbed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act, was especially…
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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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Some more ‘woman’ law suggestions

Some more ‘woman’ law suggestions

Gazette Column
Since it appears Republicans in the Iowa Statehouse have run the gamut of nationally-promoted bills restricting the ability of women to be productive and healthy members of society, here are some suggestions for the remainder of the session. DIRTY WATER FOR ADULTERESSES The Bible, in the book of Numbers, details a process by which men can know if women have engaged in illicit affairs. The man should bring the woman to a member of the clergy, and that clergyman should have her consume “the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal.” Afterward, the clergyman creates a mixture holy water and dust from the floor, forces the woman to swear she has not cheated and then makes her drink. If the woman is lying, “her belly shall swell and her…
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Atheist, humanist invocations planned at Iowa Statehouse

Atheist, humanist invocations planned at Iowa Statehouse

Gazette Column
This month the Iowa Statehouse moves closer to its “people’s house” nickname when first an atheist, and then a humanist, offer invocations from the well of the House chamber. The General Assembly has a long-standing tradition of invocations, which are brief meditations or prayers. It’s become routine for lawmakers to invite people from around the state to offer these morning speeches, marking a solemn beginning to the legislative work day. Throughout the years, a variety of religious and community leaders have spoken. Christian denominations hold the lion’s share of these appearances, but legislators also have heard from Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, and one Wiccan priestess. And now two secularists will join their ranks. This Wednesday, Manchester native and atheist Justin Scott will lead the ceremony. Then on April 17, Roxanne…
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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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Iowa HIV plan could help rural areas

Iowa HIV plan could help rural areas

Gazette Column
Comprehensive planning and data stockpiling by state officials is now a national case study on how to effectively meet the needs of rural residents with HIV. The details are part of a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Improving Health Outcomes Through Data Utilization,” which highlights six regional initiatives under the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Work by the Iowa Department of Public Health, which receives a Part B grant through the Ryan White program, is Chapter One. The prominent placement is partly because Iowa is unusual in the world of HIV/AIDS outreach and care services. That is, about a third of state residents living with HIV/AIDS aren’t in urban areas. They’re scattered throughout the state, many in distinctly rural communities. These individuals often feel stigma regarding…
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Should we pay for bad renters?

Should we pay for bad renters?

Gazette Column
A proposed change to theft laws will further strap local governments, clog underfunded courts and may disproportionately impact low-income Iowans. The VCR player once part of your entertainment center was long ago discarded, but the state law it inspired plays on and may be expanded. Nearly two decades ago, video business owners had a problem: People were renting and not returning. Lawmakers’ solution was an expansion of theft laws. Video store owners could pursue civil penalties against deadbeat renters, as well as get police involved. Lawmakers are revisiting the VCR theft law to expand it again for all “equipment rental property” — giving rental store owners access to both civil relief and criminal prosecution. Under Senate File 403, the original retail price of the rental property (not fair-market value) is used…
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