Incentives speed Iowa bill to terminate parental rights of rapists

Incentives speed Iowa bill to terminate parental rights of rapists

Gazette Column
This is the most disgusting example possible of state lawmakers first ignoring and then profiting from a morally abhorrent problem. Back in 2012, when U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., waxed poetic about “legitimate rape,” the nation was yet again embroiled in a debate about abortion rights. Specifically, if abortion was illegal, should a woman’s health or sexual assault warrant exceptions. Akin was widely, and rightfully, chastised for suggesting that rape didn’t exist and, if it did, women couldn’t get pregnant as a result of it. Lost within the fanfare of ignorant comments uttered during an election year were the voices of women who had been raped, did become pregnant and made a choice. Too often those choices were made more difficult by laws that allow accused and convicted attackers to…
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Reasonable to require gun handling

Reasonable to require gun handling

Gazette Column
Some Iowa senators finally seem ready to require basic gun handling as part of the permitting process. Better late than never. Sen. Steve Sodders, a State Center Democrat, told Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell that if the Iowa Senate takes up a House-approved bill that would make permit renewal easier and keep permit holders’ information private, passage would likely be linked to a requirement that those applying for permits demonstrate basic weapon knowledge. “How to load it and unload it safely. You know, point it downrange, don’t point it at people. All those safety issues,” Sodders told IPR. In 2011, when Iowa became a “shall issue” state, removing nearly all discretion in weapon permitting from local law enforcement, the state mandated most permit applicants attend guns safety classes. The legislature,…
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Vilsack support of Branstad water quality proposal no surprise

Vilsack support of Branstad water quality proposal no surprise

Gazette Column
Tax exemptions should be on the table The urban and rural divide is alive and thriving. The response to an appearance this week by former Iowa governor and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at Gov. Terry Branstad’s news conference announcing a possible extension and expansion of a penny sales tax now funneled to school infrastructure proves it. Branstad’s proposal is to extend a one-cent sales tax earmarked for school infrastructure and set to expire in 2029. The plan would keep the tax in place for 20 additional years, through 2049. While schools would continue to earn proceeds from that tax to a certain cap point, about three-quarters of future growth would be funneled to conservation efforts that help reduce farm chemical runoff and, in turn, improve Iowa’s water quality. Some…
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Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Gazette Column
Rural education leaders outline STEM successes, challenges IOWA CITY — Two days of meetings this week highlighted the latest national standards that will change rural K-12 education in Iowa. The Next Generation Science Standards, rolled out in 2013 and adopted by Iowa leaders this past August, are the first broad recommendations for science instruction in 20 years. Developed by a consortium of 26 states (including Iowa) and several scientist and teaching groups, they primarily switch the focus from rote memorization to hands-on learning and critical thinking. Instruction will emphasize the scientific process — analyzing data, developing models and constructing logical arguments. Advocates have touted the standards as being able to accomplish what current science instruction cannot: make students care by connecting them and lessons to their communities in very practical…
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Regent ‘anger’ raises more questions

Regent ‘anger’ raises more questions

Gazette Column
While standing by the selection of a new University of Iowa president, one member of the Board of Regents has expressed his concern that the process was flawed. Speaking Thursday at the second of a two-day meeting on the University of Iowa campus, and less than 24 hours after demonstrators publicly asked regents to resign their posts, Subhash Sahai admitted he was “pissed” when he learned about previously-undisclosed meetings between a single candidate and five other regents and search committee members. “I want the people at the university to know that we had impassioned, intentioned and rigorous debate,” Sahai said of regent deliberations. But he also admitted that at the time the selection was being debated he was unaware that some members had met privately with only one of the…
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Branstad’s political cronyism experiment failed

Branstad’s political cronyism experiment failed

Gazette Column
Let’s be very clear: This isn’t about J. Bruce Harreld. It also isn’t about the University of Iowa. Once, while describing a public relations transgression by UI officials, I wrote, “What a slice of rancid baloney.” How could I have known that one day Gov. Terry Branstad would serve an entire loaf? Branstad, who continues to keep the Iowa Judicial Branch busy sorting out the legalities of his administration’s unilateral decisions to close state-run facilities, has suddenly decided he does, in fact, have limits. I know. Coulda knocked me over with a feather. And, as much as I’d like to view the admission as the start of some sparkly new bipartisan magical mystery tour, Branstad’s proclaimed limits don’t exist. At the end of September, UI faculty members called for the…
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An order to do what lawmakers will not

An order to do what lawmakers will not

Gazette Column
After three years of battling unwilling lawmakers, Gov. Terry Branstad took another executive order plunge Monday. The order — the 86th issued by Branstad — establishes the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention through the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention. Branstad was clear on why he acted alone. “We’re not waiting for the Legislature,” he said. He might as well have singled out House Republicans, who were responsible for stalling the latest proposal. Some lawmakers objected to schools not being required to notify a victim’s parents, if school leaders believed the circumstances also would place the victim at odds with parents, perhaps opening the door to more harm. The exception specifically was carved out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students but would not necessarily be limited to…
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Iowa Culture app needs our help

Iowa Culture app needs our help

Featured, Gazette Column
As a lover of historical markers and roadside oddities, I gleefully downloaded the new Iowa Culture app, but quickly learned what was and wasn’t included. The app itself is terrific and, at least for those of us with iPhones, it performs beautifully. Users can see a multitude of interesting sites around their current location, even placing those sites on a map and using GPS to route directly to a selection. There are options to filter results by type, many with photos and brief descriptions. Navigating the Iowa Culture app is easy and intuitive for anyone tacitly familiar with such things. No section of the state has been neglected. State officials boasted during official launch at the Iowa State Fair that more than 3,500 sites are a part of the database.…
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Branstad, GOP hopefuls differ on local control

Branstad, GOP hopefuls differ on local control

Gazette Column
Education shortfalls are a manufactured crisis Spend a little time with the 2016 GOP presidential candidates and you’ll hear their plans to loosen government’s reins and provide local leaders more flexibility. If such goals are successful, however, its doubtful Iowans existing under the Branstad administration will experience relief. Debates about local control are as regular as general elections, and equally effective. But that hasn’t stopped all levels of politicians from sounding an alarm. For instance, in March 1953, then-U.S. House Majority Leader Charlie Halleck, an Indiana Republican who died in 1986, spoke before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature on the risk of expansion beyond “the smallest unit of government capable of handling the job.” “With every transfer of responsibility from Des Moines or Indianapolis to Washington, there is…
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Pardon me for not rejoicing

Pardon me for not rejoicing

Gazette Column
Another day, another spitting match between Gov. Terry Branstad and a public employee union. The latest lawsuit was launched by AFSCME in response to Branstad’s shuttering of two of the state’s four mental health institutes. The union was joined in the Polk County filing by 20 state lawmakers. “Iowa law clearly states that the state of Iowa shall operate mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda,” said AFSCME President Danny Homan. “This was the law when the governor announced his decision to close these facilities. This was the law when the legislature passed, with bipartisan support, the funding to keep these facilities open. This was the law when he closed these two facilities. It still is the law today.” The entire situation could nearly be cut-and-pasted from the aftermath…
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