On COVID-19, governor is a day late and a dollar short—again

Jan Flora is Professor Emeritus at Iowa State University.

On January 9, new cases of COVID-19 reached an all-time high in Iowa. Governor Kim Reynolds may have known that when she gave her Condition of the State address two days later. By barely mentioning the pandemic, she attempted to relegate it to the past.

With the Omicron variant now dominant, COVID-19 cases were modeled to peak on January 15. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are now near 1,000, the highest point since early December 2020. Iowa faces a grave hospitalization crisis that may not ease before March.

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Understanding "left-center-right" typologies

Steve Corbin is a freelance writer and emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa.

Few people would argue with the nonpartisan Pew Research Center’s October 2020 finding that “political polarization is more intense now than at any point in modern history.” Resolving the strife starts with truly knowing your political beliefs, understanding other political values, listening (vs. preaching) to others, expanding (vs. restricting) political news sources, compromising (vs. convincing) and accepting intellectual humility.

When registering to vote, citizens must declare whether they are Democrat, Republican, or affiliated with no party (independent). However, there are several gradations of belief within each political stance. Three sources can assist individuals better realize their – and others — political viewpoints.

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Will Jake Chapman's big swing at teachers play in a swing district?

Opening day speeches at the Iowa legislature are often filled with boring platitudes. But Senate President Jake Chapman dispensed with cliches about bipartisan work for the common good in his welcoming remarks on January 10.

Instead, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican called on colleagues to “take a stand” against what he described as a “sinister agenda” by the media and teachers, “who wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children.”

Chapman’s broadside made headlines across the state and quickly inspired a new RAYGUN t-shirt: “Just another SINISTER TEACHER who’s passionate about education.”

Many conservatives have applauded Chapman for his crusade to remove books he considers “obscene” from public schools and create a felony offense for teachers and librarians who disseminate such material. But Iowa’s new political map put the Senate president in a swing district for the first time. He hinted last month that he will seek re-election there, rather than moving to a solid Republican district nearby.

Conspiracy theories that play well in some GOP circles could drive suburban moderates toward Democratic State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, who is already running in Senate district 14.

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Governor resumes public events; no word on follow-up test (updated)

Governor Kim Reynolds returned to the capitol on January 18, after canceling her public events on January 13 and 14. Announcing those cancellations, staff said in a statement that the governor “is not feeling well, but has tested negative for COVID-19.” Her spokesperson Alex Murphy did not respond to subsequent messages seeking to clarify whether Reynolds was tested again over the holiday weekend.

At least five individuals associated with the Iowa House or Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, including Democratic State Senators Zach Wahls and Nate Boulton. (The legislature does not require lawmakers or staff to report coronavirus infections.) Reynolds, Wahls, and Boulton are all vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19.

The governor spent considerable time with her face uncovered around other unmasked people last week: at a crowded Iowa GOP breakfast on January 10, while delivering her Condition of the State address in the House chamber the following day, and while attending the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice’s report to lawmakers on January 12.

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Des Moines leaders abandoned houseless residents

Natalie Harwood: Most of the Des Moines City Council left our most vulnerable open to frostbite and death in the elements.

This week in Des Moines, temperatures are anticipated to plummet into the negatives. Despite this fact, and even in light of the freezing death of a Des Moines citizen last year outside of a closed warming center, the Des Moines City Council is refusing to act on opening a 24-hour emergency warming center. In doing this, they are condemning the most vulnerable people in our community to suffer in the frigid temperatures, or worse, and are in direct opposition to their own campaign promises.

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A must-watch MLK, Jr. clip for Iowans

“Share this clip of my father,” tweeted Bernice King, the CEO of the King Center on January 17, the holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “We must study him beyond the end of ‘I Have a Dream.’ (and that’s taken out of context, too)”

I don’t recall seeing this video before today. It’s from a speech in 1968, but I haven’t determined the location. Dr. King spoke about the massive government assistance for mostly-white farmers over more than a century, helping “the very people [now] telling the Black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

The civil rights leader delivered a similar message in other venues, for instance while visiting Ohio Northern University in January 1968, and during a March 1968 appearance at Grosse Point High School in Michigan.

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An open letter to Chuck Grassley about Donald Trump

Herb Strentz follows up on his previous post for Bleeding Heartland in the form of a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley.

Dear Senator Grassley:

Thank you for your reassurance that Iowans and the nation have nothing to worry about regarding former President Donald Trump’s activities and what seems like his death grip on the Republican Party. Some even say the GOP is now a “Trump Cult.”

Your letter/email of January 10 thanked me for writing to express concerns about Trump, but pointed out my concern isn’t too relevant because “President Trump has been out of office for about a year.”

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Iowa is being led off a cliff

Bruce Lear: What once were fringe ideas have become mainstream in the GOP echo chamber.

When I was at Central College in Pella during the mid-1970s, the Lemming Race was born in honor of the furry little rodent that strangely follows its leader right off a cliff.  

Here’s how the race works. A group of costumed racers gather at the library, run to the pond in the center of campus, and jump in. If onlookers get too close to the edge, they’re pulled in too. The race is led by a Grand Lemming, nominated and elected in some mysterious way. It was fun, harmless, and now a Homecoming event going strong for over 40 years.

I was again reminded of that Central tradition when I watched a self-satisfied Governor Kim Reynolds deliver her Condition of the State speech to a chamber packed with legislative lemmings willing to take Iowa off that cliff.

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Koch-backed group taking sides in Iowa House GOP primaries

Americans for Prosperity — Iowa announced its first two endorsements for Republican legislative primaries on January 13. In both Iowa House districts, the candidates backed by the influential conservative lobby group will face more experienced GOP lawmakers in the June 7 primary.

Drew Klein, state director of the Koch-funded network‘s Iowa chapter, declined to comment for the record about the reasons underlying AFP — Iowa’s 2022 primary endorsements. AFP lobbies for or against dozens of bills Iowa lawmakers consider every year. The group’s priorities include tax cuts, undermining public sector unions, reducing occupational licensing requirements, and various measures to redirect public funds away from public schools.

AFP is backing Zach Dieken in the new House district 5, where State Representative Dennis Bush is seeking re-election, and first-term State Representative Steven Bradley in the new House district 66, where six-term State Representative Lee Hein is also running. The group is already publicizing its endorsements in Facebook ads.

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Voting rights: bipartisan no more

Jim Chrisinger: Today, as in 1965 and in every Voting Rights Act reauthorization vote, Republican senators have to choose.

For more than five decades, voting rights in America enjoyed strong, bipartisan support. Now Republicans have turned their backs.  

The Voting Rights Act originally passed in 1965, led by President Lyndon Johnson, who had built his political career as a get-along go-along ally of Southern segregationists.  

The final vote in the House was 328–74 (Democrats 217–54, Republicans 111–20). The Senate passed it 79–18 (Democrats 49–17, Republicans 30–1). Much of the opposition came from Southern Democrats.  

Bipartisan majorities in Congress reauthorized the act five times, most recently in 2006. The votes were not close. Even Senator Strom Thurmond, famous segregationist and 1948 Dixiecrat presidential candidate, came to support the Voting Rights Act.  

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Governor's vision for Iowa is out of focus

Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans President Mike McCarthy (retired AFSCME), Vice President Kay Pence (retired CWA), Secretary Jan Corderman (retired AFSCME), and Treasurer Ken Sagar (retired IBEW and Iowa AFL-CIO President Emeritus) co-authored this commentary.

The Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans is alarmed by Governor Kim Reynolds’ vision for Iowa. Iowa seniors value a strong economy where our families can live and thrive. From tax cuts to undermining our schools and our future ability to fund public needs, her vision is out of focus.

A strong economy needs a strong infrastructure, but under six years of Republican leadership, Iowa has earned the dubious distinction as either worst or second-worst in the nation for deficient bridges, depending on if you are talking about number or percentage

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Kim Reynolds gave up trying to fight COVID-19

This week, Iowa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reached levels not seen for more than a year. Even with 100 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists helping to manage the workload, the state’s major medical centers are being crushed. Hospital leaders, health care workers, and public health officials in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and central Iowa have been begging for weeks: “We are overwhelmed.” “We’re exhausted.” “We need your help.”

Against this backdrop, Governor Kim Reynolds has not made even a token effort to encourage Iowans to slow the spread of a virus that has killed more than 8,200 of her constituents, claiming more than 100 lives each week in recent months.

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Iowa extends nurses' contract as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge

As COVID-19 hospitalizations reach levels not seen in Iowa for more than a year, the state has extended a contract for 100 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists to alleviate staff shortages at major medical centers.

Iowa Department of Public Health spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand confirmed to Bleeding Heartland via email that the state has twice extended the six-week contract signed with Kansas company Favorite Healthcare Staffing in early December—first to run through January 28, and more recently to run through February 11.

Ekstrand added that the state recently accepted bids “to establish a statewide hospital bed transfer line. The goal is to establish a call center to help relieve pressure on hospital staff in order for them to be able to spend more time caring for ill patients.”

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2022

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2022 session on January 10 with 32 Republicans and eighteen Democrats. Twelve senators are women (seven Democrats and five Republicans), up from eleven women in the chamber prior to the 2020 election and double the six women senators who served prior to the 2018 election.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. The biggest change: Republican Dave Rowley was elected in December to succeed Republican Zach Whiting, who resigned to take a job in Texas.

All current state senators are white. The only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths, a Democrat and a Republican, and two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs and two men each named Zach, Craig, Mark, Dan, Jim, and Tim.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2022

The Iowa House opened its 2022 session on January 10 with 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats, a one-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year, thanks to a special election last fall.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women in 2020.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session. The most significant: Republican Mike Bousselot won a September special election following the death of Republican John Landon, and Republican Jon Dunwell won an October special election after Democrat Wes Breckenridge left the legislature for another job.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House has two members with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican). As for popular first names, there are six Davids (three go by Dave), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Tom or Thomas, three named Steve or Steven, three named Charles (a Chuck and two Charlies), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), three Jons and two Johns, and two men each named Gary, Dennis, and Ross. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), two Shannons, an Ann and an Anne, and two women named Mary (down from four in 2020).

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My effort to allow religious use of marijuana extracts in Iowa

Carl Olsen is the founder of Iowans for Medical Marijuana.

In October, I asked the Polk County District Court to declare religious use as a qualifying condition for participation in the state’s marijuana extract program, Iowa Code Chapter 124E.

On November 23, 2021, the state filed a Motion to Dismiss my Petition for Declaratory Judgment. The state said it had sovereign immunity and cannot be sued.

On November 24, 2021, I filed an application with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) for access to the program.

The state made three other arguments in its motion to dismiss:

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Faith leaders support Deidre DeJear for governor

Cynthia Sebian-Lander is Deidre DeJear’s 2022 campaign manager. Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for Democratic candidates for local, state, or federal offices.

Dear Friends,

Wishing you and yours all of the blessings during this new year. As we begin 2022, we are looking forward to a renewed hope in our political discourse and trajectory. And with that in mind, we are honored and delighted to support Deidre DeJear at the head of the ticket in 2022. She is the best moral choice for the future of Iowa.

Here’s why:

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Iowa House district 58 to be open; Todd Prichard retiring

State Representative Todd Prichard announced on Facebook January 11 that he will not seek another term in the Iowa House. The Democrat from Charles City won his first legislative race in a 2013 special election and has been re-elected four times. He served as House minority leader from November 2018 until June 2021.

Prichard was the Iowa House member with the most crossover appeal in 2020, based on results from the presidential and legislative races in all districts. His decision to retire at the end of this year opens up the new House district 58, where recent voting trends favor Republicans.

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Iowans don’t want carbon pipelines - here’s why

This post was co-authored by Emma Schmit, Food & Water Watch; Jess Mazour, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter; Caitlin Golle, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement; Mahmud Fitil, Great Plains Action Society; and Angie Carter, Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

Virtually unknown two months ago, proposed hazardous liquid carbon pipelines are the latest environmental disaster to hit Iowa’s newspaper headlines. Threatening everything from peoples’ lives to their land and our climate, it’s no surprise these pipelines have garnered mass opposition from the get-go, uniting Iowans of all stripes.

On behalf of the 73,000 Iowans we represent, with members in every county, we oppose carbon capture pipelines. Carbon pipelines are a danger to Iowans and our land, a false climate solution, and a distraction from the real work of reforming our agricultural and energy sectors to combat the looming climate emergency. They are an affront to our shared vision for Iowa’s future — where communities work together to protect our water, land and climate for future generations and those who live downstream.

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