When Iowa's Republicans overturned rule on gun checks for mentally ill

After yet another mass murder involving an assault weapon made national news, Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters on February 15, “we have not done a very good job of making sure that people that have mental reasons for not being able to handle a gun getting their name into the FBI files and we need to concentrate on that.” Similarly, Senator Joni Ernst said today that the U.S. needs more “focus” on mental illness, not gun control. (Not that she has any ideas on how to address that problem.)

The talking point is bogus, because people with mental illness aren’t more likely than others to commit violent crimes, and mental illness isn’t any more prevalent in the U.S. than in other countries that experience far fewer mass shootings.

But let’s leave that aside for the moment. A year ago, all of Iowa’s Republicans in Congress voted with their GOP colleagues to overturn “a sensible Obama administration rule designed to stop people with severe mental problems from buying guns.”

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Who benefits from expanding options on teacher retirement plans?

Randy Richardson, retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, shares the backstory on regulations Iowa Republicans weakened during this year’s legislative session. -promoted by desmoinesdem

On December 8, Bleeding Heartland shared a post entitled “Iowa Republicans Found Yet Another Way to Hurt Teachers This Year.” The post outlines the passage of House File 569, a bill that allowed 30 additional vendors to offer 403(b) products to teachers starting this year. GOP State Senator Tim Kraayenbrink, who is also a financial adviser, dismissed Democrats’ claims that the array of investments would be too confusing and allow companies to charge exorbitant fees on teachers’ savings. But is that accurate?

As someone who was very involved in the transition to the Retired Investors Club that is administered by the Department of Administrative Services, I thought it might be a good time to revisit why this all took place.

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How Iowa could have lost three Supreme Court justices in 2016

Remember how awful you felt on November 9, 2016, as you started to grasp what we were up against following the most devastating Iowa election in decades?

Would you believe the results could have been even worse?

Imagine Governor Terry Branstad appointing three right-wingers to the Iowa Supreme Court. It could have happened if conservative groups had targeted Chief Justice Mark Cady, Justice Brent Appel, and Justice Daryl Hecht with the resources and fervor they had applied against three justices in 2010.

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Throwback Thursday: Celebrating Julia Addington

Many thanks to Kurt Meyer for sharing his prepared remarks from an October 22 event dedicating a sign in Stacyville (Mitchell County). Meyer encouraged me to give credit to Cheryl Mullenbach, who “more than any other person, brought Julia Addington’s story out of obscurity and into the light of public recognition.” Mullenbach’s article, first published in Iowa Heritage Illustrated in 2007, is on the Stacyville town website and well worth reading. -promoted by desmoinesdem

My name is Kurt Meyer. I am a proud member of the Mitchell County Historic Preservation Association. Today, we gather to honor Julia Addington, one of our remarkable local contributions to the rich, unending flow of history.

Perhaps because history is always in motion, it’s challenging to time-travel back… back to 1869, 148 years ago this month, to October 12, when Julia Addington was elected. Julia Addington – a woman! Bear in mind, women in the U.S. could not vote until the 19th amendment was ratified… something that didn’t happen for another 51 years.

Now, I know I should have told you this as you entered the room today, but this isn’t really the Stacyville Public Library. It’s a space capsule – also known as the “Wayback Machine” – and you and I together are about to time-travel. Hold on to your hats, buckle your seat belts, and ignore the calendar on your cellphone.

Woosh! I have news: It’s no longer 2017. We’re back in 1869.

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Throwback Thursday: When Greg Forristall fought against putting commerce ahead of education

Republican State Representative Greg Forristall passed away yesterday at the age of 67. First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, he was most recently vice chair of the Education Committee and also served on the Human Resources, Labor, and Ways and Means committees. He had been battling cancer for some time and was too ill to participate in the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session.

In a written statement, Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann described Forristall as a “friend to conservatives across our state” and a “happy warrior” in the Ronald Reagan tradition. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Forristall “was a dedicated public servant to the people he represented and an advocate for the arts and education, two issues that he was incredibly passionate for.”

I never met Forristall, but one episode stands out for me as I think about his legislative career. The first two years after Republicans regained their Iowa House majority, Forristall chaired the Education Committee. House leaders reassigned him to lead the Labor Committee in 2013, a position he retained through the 2016 legislative session.

Why did then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer take the Education Committee away from Forristall, knowing how much he cared about that issue? I never saw any public confirmation, but the Iowa political rumor mill pointed to Forristall’s stance on one controversial bill.

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