New Iowa law flouts U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

Where does your primary loyalty lie: as a citizen of America, or as a citizen of Iowa?

Probably seems like a meaningless question. But around the nation, more and more states these days are enacting laws in opposition to those of the federal government, placing the loyalty question front and center. And a growing number of U.S. residents are declaring a preference to honor their state laws above those of the United States.


In terms of settled law, there’s no real dispute: federal law outranks state law. The U.S. Constitution leaves no doubt. Article VI, Clause 2 (the “Supremacy Clause”), reads as follows:

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Christian Nationalism poses a grave threat to America

Rev. Cathy F. Young of Waterloo is a retired pastor in the Presbyterian Church. The following is an abbreviated version of a sermon about Christian Nationalism.

My father, who served as a Naval officer in the South Pacific, shared fascinating World War II stories with me. With ensuing history classes I became troubled by America’s slow response to Hitler’s atrocities in Europe and incredulous that Christians in Germany blindly followed their deranged dictator.

While pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, I took a course titled Christianity and the Holocaust. I learned that Hitler’s strategy to build loyalty and support within German churches was masterful. He encouraged kids in his German youth organizations to get their families to attend Sunday worship with them. Church attendance skyrocketed; pastors were thrilled. Eventually, Germany’s government rule and religion became one.

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Trapped in the Political Upside Down

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at  

Starting in 2016, Netflix streamed Stranger Things, a horror, science fiction series set in a small Indiana town with tweens and teens as main characters. In its four seasons, the audience travels to the “Upside Down,” an alternate universe where bizarre replaces normal.

It’s fun fiction.

But in real life, we have veered into the “Political Upside Down.”

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Live-streaming government meetings should be the norm

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at

You don’t often hear anyone extol the benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic. But I did a few weeks ago—when I stood before the Storm Lake Kiwanis club and talked about government transparency in Iowa.

I did not wade into the debate over masks, social distancing or vaccinations. It was a polite audience, but I was not silly enough to needlessly venture onto that thin ice.

What I said about the pandemic was this: State and local governments embraced, even if grudgingly, the benefits of live-streaming their board meetings during the pandemic so the public could watch from wherever they were.

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Iowa Senate Majority leader being treated for brain tumor

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver is undergoing radiation therapy for a brain tumor, he announced in a May 17 news release. He said his condition was diagnosed after the Iowa legislature adjourned for the year in April, adding that he is “responding well to the initial treatments.”

Whitver said he will continue to serve in the legislature and as majority leader. Senate GOP staff did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s questions about where Whitver is receiving medical care, or the expected time frame of the treatment plan.

Many elected officials from both parties—including Governor Kim Reynolds, Attorney General Brenna Bird, State Auditor Rob Sand, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Pam Jochum, and House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst—expressed prayers and well wishes for Whitver’s health in statements sent to news organizations or posted on social media.

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Holocaust education in Iowa schools should paint the full picture

Henry Jay Karp is the Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanuel in Davenport, Iowa, which he served from 1985 to 2017. He is the co-founder and co-convener of One Human Family QCA, a social justice organization.

Governor Kim Reynolds came to Beit Shalom, the home of the Quad Cities Jewish community, on May 15 to sign House File 2545, a bill containing controversial new social studies curriculum requirements.

Why Beit Shalom? Because the bill requires Iowa schools to teach Holocaust education, following the model of Illinois, which has required it for several years.

Though members of the Quad Cities Jewish community are divided about the policies of the governor and the Republican-controlled legislature, we do stand united on the issue of Holocaust education in our schools. According to FBI statistics for the past several years, more than 50 percent of religion-based acts of hate in the U.S. targeted the Jewish community, more than all the other faith groups put together. Since the atrocities of the Hamas attack on Israeli communities on October 7, 2023, the number of antisemitic attacks in the U.S. has more than tripled.

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Brenna Bird and RAGA are masters of projection

“What I saw in that courtroom today is a travesty,” Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird told reporters in New York City on May 13. She was speaking outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump is being tried for allegedly “falsifying business records to conceal hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.”

The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) organized the trip and paid for Bird’s travel to Manhattan, a spokesperson for Bird’s campaign told reporters after the attorney general declined to answer that question directly.

Ed Tibbetts highlighted Bird’s disrespect for the legal system when she declared the case “a scam and a sham.” Dave Busiek ridiculed Bird’s hypocrisy after she denounced the prosecution’s witness Michael Cohen (“a perjurer, disbarred, convicted of lying”) “without any apparent sense of irony that she’s appearing on behalf of Donald Trump, who lies as easily and frequently as the rest of us breathe.”

It’s also worth noting that Trump loyalists like Bird and RAGA have no room to point fingers about political prosecutions or “election interference.”

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Spring at Margo Frankel Woods

Spring wildflowers are exploding, Iowa’s longest drought in decades is abating, and Bleeding Heartland’s wildflowers series returns today for its thirteenth year.

As grateful as I am for the rain, the warm, wet spring weather is boosting some invasive plants as well as native ones. I’ve pulled up enough garlic mustard over the past couple of weeks to fill several garbage bags, but I’ve hardly made a dent in the wooded area closest to our Windsor Heights home. Something blooming out there is triggering my spring allergies as well.

Emily Bredthauer gave me permission to publish a selection of photos she took in April and May at Margo Frankel Woods State Park in Polk County. I’m always excited to share images of a plant I’ve never seen before, and Emily was fortunate to find some naked broomrape (Orobanche uniflora), an unusual parasitic plant shown above, and in a few pictures below.

Please let me know if you would like to write a guest post for this series, either featuring one kind of plant or a selection of wildflowers seen in one location. This Iowa wildflower Wednesday archive is alphabetized by common name of the plant. Last year I compiled links to previous posts featuring many plants encountered during visits to parks, prairies, natural areas, or trails.

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What links Trump and Putin? Revenge

Ed Wasserman is a 52-year resident of Iowa and a professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at The University of Iowa. The views expressed in his piece are his own and do not in any way reflect those of his employer.

Observers often puzzle over the chummy connection between former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. What links these two leaders to one another? Largely ignored among several possibilities is their common political philosophy.

In a column for the New York Times in February, Carlos Lozada sharply criticized Donald Trump’s ostensible lack of political philosophy: “The difficulty with Trumpism is Trump himself, who renders any coherent ism impossible.” His assessment echoes the widespread belief that Trump is utterly unschooled in geopolitical history or philosophy. Although few would disagree with Trump’s scholarly naïveté, I fear his political acumen may have been seriously underestimated.

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Iowa school vouchers prompted tuition hikes, researchers find

A comprehensive academic study found “causal evidence” that Governor Kim Reynolds’ Education Savings Accounts policy (commonly known as school vouchers) “led Iowa private schools to increase tuition” during its first year.

Princeton University doctoral student Jason Fontana and Princeton sociology Professor Jennifer L. Jennings published their working paper, “The Effect of Taxpayer-Funded Education Savings Accounts on Private School Tuition: Evidence from Iowa,” at Brown University’s Annenberg Institute in April.

Fontana and Jennings collected tuition data from 70 percent of Iowa’s private schools, focusing their analysis on 51 percent of schools (educating 62 percent of Iowa students attending private schools) for which they had multiple years of tuition data as well as grade-level enrollment numbers.

The researchers compared private school tuition in Iowa and Nebraska. Both states enacted taxpayer-funded “school choice” policies in 2023, but Iowa implemented Education Savings Accounts for the 2023/2024 school year, while Nebraska delayed its start date until 2024/2025.

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Iowa should invest in family farms, not more big agribusiness

Tommy Hexter is running as a Democrat for Iowa House District 53, representing Poweshiek and most of Tama County. He is currently Rural Organizer and Educator with the Iowa Farmers Union, a commissioner of the Poweshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the director of a local food business called Grinnell FarmToTable that sources products from 35 local farmers.

Sour cream is just one of several tastes being left in Iowans’ mouths as Daisy Brand, a company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, plans to build a new plant with state and local support in Boone County. 

Recent announcements from the City of Boone, Iowa Economic Development Authority, Governor Kim Reynolds’ office, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig all emphasize the positive economic impact associated with the start-up of a new Daisy dairy processing plant in Boone.

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It was Indian land, and now it's not

John Clayton grew up on a farm in Poweshiek County, which he now farms. During his childhood, going to Meskwaki Pow-Wows in neighboring Tama County was the highlight of each summer. He is a 2024 candidate for Poweshiek County supervisor.

Minnesota officially adopted a new state flag on May 11, replacing the previous design, which had long been criticized for its depiction of a Native American on horseback with a spear and a white pioneer farming with a gun. The flag’s imagery was viewed by many as a symbol of Indigenous defeat and displacement, which was considered offensive by the state’s Dakota and Ojibwe tribes.

Poweshiek County in Iowa uses a caricature of a Native American as its icon. The Poweshiek County Board of Supervisors acknowledged in a public open meeting held on May 6 that the county’s icon caricature isn’t of Chief Poweshiek. 

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Trump has morphed from anti-hero to wannabe dictator

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at  

A segment of America has always been intrigued by anti-hero characters, fictional and real. Think Tony Soprano, Dirty Harry, Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Billy the Kid. We might not want them as neighbors, but there’s a secret fascination with their antics. They give a wink, a smirk, and a middle finger to society while being outrageous and often breaking the law.

Enter Donald J. Trump.

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Cutting sales tax would help all Iowans

Sami Scheetz represents Iowa House district 78, covering part of Cedar Rapids.

As a State Representative, my job is to serve the needs of all Iowans and to ensure that our state’s tax policies benefit everyone—not just the wealthy. That’s why I’ve proposed legislation with my fellow Democrats to reduce the state sales tax by one cent.

Higher sales taxes largely impact lower-income families and Iowans on fixed incomes. When there’s less money to go around, tough decisions have to be made: do you purchase school supplies for your kids or personal hygiene care for yourself? That kind of pressure on Iowa families is unsustainable, and it’s wrong. Unfortunately, in Governor Kim Reynolds’ Iowa, it’s by design.

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Federal budget includes $82 million in earmarks to Iowa

The appropriations bill President Joe Biden signed into law on March 9 includes $74.36 million in federal funding for designated projects in Iowa, Bleeding Heartland’s analysis of a 605-page earmarks list reveals. Another $8 million earmark for Dubuque Flood Mitigation Gates and Pumps was part of the Homeland Security bill Biden signed on March 23, completing work on funding the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30.

All four Republicans who represent Iowa in the U.S. House—Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), Zach Nunn (IA-03), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04)—were among the 339 members who approved the “minibus” spending package on March 6. Miller-Meeks, Hinson, and Nunn voted for the second minibus on March 22; Feenstra voted against that package with no public explanation.

Hinson is the only Iowan now serving on the House Appropriations Committee. Her projects will receive a combined $27.54 million; she had requested $37.06 million. Projects submitted by Miller-Meeks will receive about $28.38 million in earmarked funding; she had requested $40.15 million. Earmarks for projects Nunn submitted will total $26.22 million; he had asked for $41.25 million.

The 36 counties in IA-04 will receive none of the earmarked funding, because for the third straight year, Feenstra declined to submit any earmark requests.

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Iowa closes "resounding gaps" in state law on crosswalks

Iowa drivers will be required to yield to bicyclists and others on wheels in crosswalks, under a new law Governor Kim Reynolds signed on May 3.

Before House File 2568, Iowa was one of just twelve states where drivers approaching a crosswalk were required to yield only to pedestrians, defined narrowly as “any person afoot.” The bill expands the definition of pedestrian to include those using a “pedestrian conveyance,” “including but not limited to a wheelchair, stroller, skateboard, scooter, or other similar device.” It also makes clear that drivers must yield to “a person riding a bicycle crossing the roadway” within marked or unmarked crosswalks at an intersection.

Groups representing bicyclists, people with disabilities, and older Iowans had lobbied for the bill. At a House subcommittee in February, Iowa Bicycle Coalition executive director Luke Hoffman told lawmakers the crosswalks bill was his group’s second highest legislative priority, following a “hands-free” bill for drivers using cell phones.

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Palo Alto County seeks answers on cancer rate 50% above national average

Keith Schneider, a former New York Times national correspondent, is senior editor for Circle of Blue. He has reported on the contest for energy, food, and water in the era of climate change from six continents. This report was first published by The New Lede and is part of an ongoing collaborative project between The New Lede and Circle of Blue that looks carefully at how agricultural policies are affecting human and environmental health.) 

EMMETSBURG, IOWA –Raised in rural Iowa, 71-year-old Maureen Reeves Horsley once considered her tiny hometown in the northwest part of the state to be a blessed space. She recalls a time when the streams here ran clean and the lake water was clear.

The family farm where Horsley grew up was one of more than 1,200 farms in Palo Alto County in 1970. In her memory, the county’s 13,000 residents enjoyed a thriving agricultural-based economy and close-knit neighbors. Cows grazed in verdant pastures. And seemingly endless acres of corn marched to the horizon.

“We had good crops, corn and soybeans,” Horsley said of her family’s farm along the West Fork of the Des Moines River. “You could make it on a small amount of farmland. You felt safe. It was a good life.”

Two generations later, Emmetsburg and Palo Alto County have been radically transformed into a place where many residents worry that the farms that have sustained their livelihoods are also the source of the health problems that have plagued so many families.

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Why am I so hung up on the democracy stuff?

Jim Chrisinger is a retired public servant living in Ankeny. He served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, in Iowa and elsewhere. 

Some of my social media friends wonder why I’m so focused and adamant in my advocacy for democracy and the rule of law. Why can’t you just post cute memes, memories, and family events like we do? I come by it honestly.

For three years my wife, Liz, and I lived in communist Czechoslovakia where I served as a U.S. diplomat. We experienced a country with no democracy and no rule of law. We saw the impact of communism on lives, society, and government. Then we witnessed the country’s liberation in the (thankfully bloodless) Velvet Revolution in the fall of 1989.

Liz likes to quote Václav Havel, the dissident playwright turned president of newly-democratic Czechoslovakia. He called communism the slow and insidious murder of the human spirit. He was right.

Republicans yell “communism” anytime a government does something they don’t like. Do they even know what communism is? FYI, “communism” is the Leninist political system overlaying the Marxist economic system of socialism during the Soviet era.

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Cool heads needed to navigate campus protests

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at

The events of the past six months in Israel and Gaza have me wishing it were possible to have just one more lunch with a friend who died four years ago.

My friend was Jewish. In today’s vocabulary, he would be called an ardent Zionist. He had little patience for people who disparaged Israel.

But he also was a proponent of dialogue and diplomacy. He never hesitated to call me for lunch after The Des Moines Register’s opinion pages published something he disliked. Our lunchtime conversations and debates were models of civility, even though our discussions often challenged each of us to defend and reconsider our views.

That is why I wish we could have one more lunch to talk about the massacre of 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals by Hamas terrorists last October 7. I long to discuss Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza, the home of those terrorists who were responsible for October’s bloody attacks.

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Health care leaders: We win with Melissa Vine!

Emily Webb, Kacey Davis, Kavi Chawla, and Shaimaa Aly, who are elected health care leaders in Polk County, co-signed this post.

As health care leaders within our community, we are endorsing Melissa Vine for U.S. Congress in Iowa’s third district. Melissa’s platform directly addresses critical issues affecting all Iowans, and time is of the essence in supporting her.

Melissa is committed to ensuring a livable income for all Iowans, and reforming systems that harm Iowa families. These changes are urgently needed to address the challenges faced by our most vulnerable populations.

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