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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

Gazette Column
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice John Forrest Dillon is looking down — perhaps from atop the pillar of his namesake fountain in Davenport — reading proposals by the Republican-controlled Legislature and smiling. Justice Dillon, for readers unaware, is credited with Dillon’s Rule: “Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control. ” Dillon served on the Iowa high court from 1864 to 1869; the rule named after him is derived from two 1868 opinions. In Iowa, Dillon’s Rule was shelved in 1968, when the state constitution was amended to grant cities home rule. Additional…
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Extreme measures rarely last

Extreme measures rarely last

Gazette Column
In politics, there’s at least one thing you can always count on: Power exists on a pendulum. Public sentiment is always shifting. For years this inconvenient fact kept most politicians, and especially the dominant political parties, tilting toward center. They’ve understood that whenever massive force is applied in one direction, the back swing is as equally severe. Iowa’s Republican Majority is brazenly testing fate. [caption id="attachment_411" align="alignleft" width="640"] Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, gives opening remarks Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, at the start of debate on Senate File 2. The bill ends a long-standing federal-state cooperative program for family planning, and creates a solely state-funded program. The new program, if approved, will exclude health providers that provide abortion services. The bill passed the Iowa Senate on a party-line vote and will…
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Vaccine bill risks health for freedom

Vaccine bill risks health for freedom

Featured, Gazette Column
A bill working its way through the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature casts public safety concerns aside, and relies on “freedom” as justification for putting children’s health at risk. On Thursday, a three-member House subcommittee approved a bill sponsored by Iowa Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Cedar Rapids. The bill inserts a “personal conviction” clause into state law regarding childhood vaccinations. If passed, no parent will be required to vaccinate children enrolled in care facilities or public schools. A news article in The Gazette noted “Republicans argued the immunization mandate violates Iowans’ religious liberties and personal freedoms.” Hogwash. Iowa Code 139A.8 addresses vaccination requirements for children enrolling in “any licensed child care center or elementary or secondary school.” It lists the various immunizations children are required to obtain before enrolling — diphtheria, whooping cough,…
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Is it OK to coddle, or not?

Is it OK to coddle, or not?

Gazette Column
Few things are as frustrating as legislative hypocrisy. Remember a few months ago, just after the presidential election, when Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, floated the possibility of a bill to strip funding from state universities that offered services like counseling or safe spaces to students? “I’ve seen four or five schools in other states that are establishing ‘cry zones’ where they’re staffed by state grief counselors and kids can come cry out their sensitivity to the election results,” Kaufmann explained. “I find this whole hysteria to be incredibly annoying. People have a right to be hysterical … on their own time.” “Suck it up, buttercup” would be the condescending name of the bill, Kaufmann said, and it would be a reactionary measure on behalf of those who believe students…
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Just about abortion? Not hardly

Just about abortion? Not hardly

Gazette Column
Has contraception use or pictures of babies on social media contributed more to Iowa’s declining abortion rate? Jennifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, thinks it’s baby pictures. When the Iowa Department of Public Health announced a dramatic drop in abortion rates alongside steady birthrates, KCCI asked Bowen about the trend. After a nod to baby pictures, she said contraception was not a factor because of its “huge failure rate.” The most popular methods of contraception, with the exception of male condoms, have a failure rate of less than 1 percent. Condoms have a five percent failure rate, which most would not refer to as “huge.” But Bowen isn’t really interested in failure rates, nor advocating for more effective birth control. Mainstream contraceptives are viewed by Iowa Right…
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