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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
GOP lawmakers create Saturday conflict

GOP lawmakers create Saturday conflict

Gazette Blog
Some Eastern Iowans hoping to hear from both of their state legislators this Saturday will need to figure out how to be in two places at once. For decades the nonpartisan Linn County League of Women Voters has set aside one Saturday morning each month while the General Assembly is in session for a legislative forum. All area lawmakers are invited to come together, provide individual updates and answer questions from the public. That tradition will be broken this Saturday. Linn County’s Republican lawmakers — Rep. Ken Rizer, Rep. Ashley Hinson, Rep. Louis Zumbach and Sen. Dan Zumbach — have partnered with Farm Bureau to schedule a separate forum at the same date and time as the long-standing — and I cannot stress this enough — nonpartisan League forum. [caption…
Read More
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…
Read More
Gun reforms show how close lawmakers can get to no rules

Gun reforms show how close lawmakers can get to no rules

Gazette Column
Let’s say that during the course of your day you are approached by two people. One has a pipe with marijuana residue, the other is carrying a firearm without a permit. Which do you perceive as a greater threat to public safety? Lawmakers, according to House Study Bill 133, believe that while both people committed the same level of offense — a simple misdemeanor — the person with drug paraphernalia should face stiffer penalties. The pipe nets its holder up to 30 days in jail and monetary fines of up to roughly $700, which is the typical sentence for such a misdemeanor. But an in-depth reading of HSB 133 shows that lawmakers hope to establish new sentencing guidelines for these misdemeanors when a firearm without a permit is involved. Under…
Read More
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…
Read More
Last-minute public schedules benefit no one

Last-minute public schedules benefit no one

Gazette Column
Are we witnessing the final throes of the “full Grassley” era? Some readers may remember the Congressional recess in the summer of 2009. As a reporter, I covered then Congressman Bruce Braley’s town hall forums, which were overrun with concerns about the Affordable Care Act. The reports I and other journalists filed about those meetings were peppered with words like “feisty,” “lively” and “contentious,” but still fell short of conveying the level of combativeness on display. Constituents got in each other’s faces as well as those of their representatives. A few cried. Some brandished signs. Others yelled. Nearly everyone arrived with an agenda, and a willingness to fight. That was the summer when U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, speaking at a forum in Winterset, made his infamous “pull the plug on…
Read More