Iowa Republicans blinded by abortion

Iowa Republicans blinded by abortion

Gazette Column
However shortsighted, expensive and harmful the resulting policies may be, Iowa Republicans remain obsessed with abortion. Last legislative session, they chose to scrap the Iowa Family Planning Network waiver, primarily funded by the federal government, and replace it with a new program funded solely by the state. That initiative, now known as the Family Planning Program, took effect July 1. Both programs provide men and women of childbearing age who do not qualify for Medicaid a cost-effective way of accessing reproductive health services including contraception, exams, screenings and testing. The Iowa switch wasn’t proposed because the original program was riddled with fraud or otherwise ineffective. In May 2016, the University of Iowa Public Policy Center concluded that more than 80,000 women had used the Iowa Family Planning Network waiver since…
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Sexual harassment report urges action

Sexual harassment report urges action

Gazette Blog
Nearly five years after complaint 'there is nothing that has changed' On Friday, the Iowa Republicans shared a four-page report by Mary Kramer, which included specific recommendations “for achieving the goal of creating and maintaining a safe, respectful and professional workplace in the Iowa Senate.” Kramer, a former Republican lawmaker, U.S. ambassador and human resource professional, was asked by GOP leadership to prepare the report after a wrongful termination lawsuit was successfully brought against the state, placing taxpayers on the hook for $1.75 million. Although Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, has yet to acknowledge or express remorse for it, a court ruled GOP leadership retaliated against a female employee by terminating her employment hours after she had submitted a formal complaint of sexual harassment. Court documents, as well…
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Reynolds’ address offered renewed optimism

Reynolds’ address offered renewed optimism

Gazette Column
This week was for the doubters and the naysayers. This week was for those who continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it makes no difference when women lead. With her first Condition of the State address, Gov. Kim Reynolds proved to all Iowans why well-rounded states value and embrace the strengths and experiences of all residents. Her remarks were generally inclusionary and conciliatory. They stood in stark contrast to last year’s contentious legislative session, and in defiance of the bungled Statehouse sexual harassment scandal. “All of us in public office must ensure not only a safe workplace but serve as a model for the public and private sector,” she said. “What we do here matters. Iowans are watching. We can’t change behavior everywhere, but we have…
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Triage for mental illness makes sense

Triage for mental illness makes sense

Gazette Column
Iowans need jail alternatives County law enforcement officials are asking Iowa lawmakers to create regional triage centers for Iowans experiencing mental health episodes or an addiction crisis. It would be a much needed and smart move by lawmakers. The six triage centers proposed by the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association would assess individuals committed voluntarily or involuntarily so that those people can receive proven treatment that’s cost-effective. Currently, these people in crisis are being funneled into highest cost care, generally hospitals, jails and prisons. The flip side of the coin is why this is happening, and has been happening for several years. Iowa doesn’t have nearly enough treatment options for those with mental illnesses. This was true four years ago, when I wrote a two-part series about a Johnson County criminal case. It involved…
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Use #IamMedicaidIowa to share experiences

Use #IamMedicaidIowa to share experiences

Gazette Column
When Iowa lawmakers consider what should be done to improve Iowa Medicaid, Disability Rights Iowa hopes people will be their primary focus. To that end, the organization is encouraging Iowans to go online and share their stories in an #IamMedicaidIowa awareness campaign. Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, told Iowa Public Radio the idea was hatched following a forum last month that highlighted “turmoil” in the program. “Many people came up to me and said: ‘Politicians need to see our faces. They are just thinking about the numbers,’ ” Hudson says. “ … That’s why we’re doing this.” [caption id="attachment_1793" align="alignleft" width="500"] Disability Rights Iowa is encouraging Iowans to hold a #IamMedicaidIowa sign, take a photo and tell their story to lawmakers.[/caption] A special announcement on the Disability Rights Iowa website is more…
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A 2017 summary in four quotes

A 2017 summary in four quotes

Gazette Column
If anything, 2017 was a quotable year. Here are four that sum up a year’s worth of news in the Hawkeye State. SEXUAL HARASSMENT “Several of the staff members interviewed indicated they possess a fear of retaliation, which is why they did not feel comfortable reporting any instances of harassment.” — Senate GOP internal report on sexual harassment at the Statehouse. Although several quotes surrounding the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus sexual harassment scandal that put taxpayers on the hook for $1.75 million could be used — many of them absurdities uttered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix as he has repeatedly attempted to whitewash bad behavior — this statement from the GOP’s internal investigation is most troubling. To date, no one has been held accountable and Statehouse employees, which include teenage…
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Salmon is OK with doctors lying

Salmon is OK with doctors lying

Gazette Column
Janesville Republican Sandy Salmon wants to reverse a court ruling that requires doctors and other medical professionals to tell pregnant parents the truth. As a guest columnist on the Caffeinated Thoughts blog, state Rep. Salmon said she plans to introduce a bill that will prohibit “wrongful birth” lawsuits in the Hawkeye State, effectively clearing the way for health care professionals to withhold vital fetal health information from pregnant women and their partners. “Wrongful birth” cases, as I’ve written before, involve pregnancies in which physicians or other medical professionals have access to test results, not disclosed to parents, indicating the child will face severe disabilities. In the case decided by the Iowa Supreme Court, for instance, abnormalities discovered during an ultrasound were not discussed. The parents were instead led to believe “everything was fine”…
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Sexual harassment makes Iowa Capitol no place for teens

Sexual harassment makes Iowa Capitol no place for teens

Featured, Gazette Column
Legislative page program should be paused until Statehouse culture changes Each year the Iowa Senate, House and Legislative Services Agency employ high school juniors and seniors as pages. Unless persistent and significant workplace culture questions are answered, 2018 should be an exception. It’s been nearly five months since an Iowa court found that Kirsten Anderson, a former Iowa Senate Republican caucus staff member, was wrongfully terminated hours after she reported sexual harassment. It’s been more than a month since the state settled the case without an appeal, agreeing to pay Anderson and her attorneys $1.75 million from the state’s coffers. To date, no one has been held accountable. [caption id="attachment_1419" align="alignleft" width="500"] A portion of the Iowa Senate GOP's internal investigation report atop a picture of the Iowa Statehouse.[/caption] Perhaps…
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Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Gazette Column
It is clear why Iowa Senate Republican leaders wanted to keep an internal investigation of sexual harassment claims secret. The rosy picture they attempted to paint of a better workplace environment is shattered. Amid public outcry and at the urging of Gov. Kim Reynolds, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix performed another 180-degree turn in this harassment saga, which began when Kirsten Anderson, the Republican Caucus communication director, won a wrongful termination lawsuit. The case was settled in September for $1.75 million — taxpayer dollars from Iowa’s general fund. The acknowledgment of guilt is all the more troublesome when paired with internal investigation findings, begrudgingly released by Dix today in the middle of the extended holiday. We now know Dix’s assertions — that the Senate is no longer is plagued by sexual harassment, and that workers do not fear reporting…
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Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Gazette Column
Any hope that Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix is either prepared or willing to resolve ongoing sexual harassment issues at the Statehouse ended Tuesday. Dix, a Shell Rock Republican, sat down with reporters and did not directly answer questions relating to a wrongful termination lawsuit that has cost taxpayers more than $1.7 million, his own communications with the Senate Republican Caucus, findings from an ill-conceived internal investigation, reasons why a determination to hire a human resources director was nixed, or the single employment termination that came weeks after a court determined allegations of sexual harassment were true. Within a span of minutes, Dix once again repeated his court-dismissed claim that the firing of Caucus Communications Director Kirsten Anderson mere hours after she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint was…
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