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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State funding too tight for unnecessary Voter ID

State funding too tight for unnecessary Voter ID

Gazette Column
Secretary of State Paul Pate says a slate of expensive proposals will clinch the future integrity of Iowa elections. Now he needs to prove it. As telegraphed by key GOP lawmakers last month, a key component of Pate’s upgrades is Voter ID. This piece requires voters to produce approved forms of identification before casting ballots. Pate suggests Iowa-issued driver’s licenses, military-issued identification cards and passports. [caption id="attachment_358" align="alignleft" width="300"] The Iowa State Capitol building is seen after short snow storm the day after the caucuses in Des Moines on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)[/caption] As I wrote in a column three weeks ago, this is a solution in search of a problem. The voter fraud witch hunt conducted by Pate’s Republican predecessor scrutinized 1.6 million Iowa votes and…
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Iowa lawmakers’ top priority is moot point

Iowa lawmakers’ top priority is moot point

Gazette Column
Instead of tackling a host of thorny issues before the state, lawmakers are poised to offer a solution to a non-existent problem when they convene in January. Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, and House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, told the Des Moines-based Westside Conservative Club this week that when they convene the 2017 session on Jan. 9 lawmakers will push through unnecessary laws that will require Iowans to present state-issued identification in order to cast their ballots. And while I understand that Voter ID has been a GOP goal for some time, I’ve yet to understand why. Voting is a fundamental right, not a privilege. As such, it is protected by more constitutional amendments than any other right Americans enjoy. It is especially a mystery to…
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Long road ahead for Iowa political equity advocates

Long road ahead for Iowa political equity advocates

Featured, Gazette Column
The 2016 election will go down in Iowa history as a time when a record number of women sought office. It won’t, however, be remembered as one where women saw gains. While women nationally continue to absorb the loss of the presidency, Iowa women have added concerns. None of the Iowa women seeking federal office were elected — Patty Judge, Kim Weaver and Monica Vernon, all Democrats. A massive influx of Republicans to the Iowa Statehouse also took its toll on prospects for gender equity in Des Moines. [caption id="attachment_258" align="alignright" width="640"] Only six women will serve in the Iowa Senate when it convenes in January. It's a decrease of one from the current General Assembly. (Blank map source: Legislative Services Agency)[/caption] Eleven women sought election to nine seats in…
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Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past five years, Iowa law has required citizens wanting a weapons permit to pay for a “safety” class that has no minimum standards. And, based on conversations with the crop of this year’s legislative candidates, no changes are on the horizon. In 2011, when Iowa became a “shall issue” state, removing nearly all discretion in weapons permitting from local law enforcement, the law required most applicants to attend safety classes. The Legislature, however, did not specify the content or curriculum of those classes or give such authority to the Iowa Department of Public Safety. [caption id="attachment_147" align="alignright" width="300"] A display of 7-round .45 caliber handguns are seen at Coliseum Gun Traders Ltd. in Uniondale, New York January 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)[/caption] The result is a patchwork — a…
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