Iowa lawmakers ban schools, day cares from requiring COVID-19 vaccines

Iowa Republican lawmakers gave anti-vaccine forces a parting gift on what may be the final day of the 2022 legislative session. On a party-line vote of 29 to 16, the Senate approved a ban on COVID-19 vaccination requirements for young children in day care or students at any level of education.

House members approved House File 2298 in February, and the bill made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee in time for the legislature’s second “funnel” deadline. It had languished on the “unfinished business” calendar for two months as House and Senate leaders negotiated behind the scenes on various unresolved issues.

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Iowa legislature finally agrees on new bottle bill

Iowa lawmakers have amended the state’s recycling law for the first time since its passage in 1978. Senate File 2378 changes what is commonly known as the “bottle bill” in ways that will please beverage distributors, retailers, and redemption centers.

In a mostly party-line vote on May 23, the Iowa Senate concurred with the version of the bill House members approved last month. Governor Kim Reynolds has not publicly commented on the proposal but is expected to sign it into law.

Legislators who voted against the bill warned that it would harm consumers and reduce recycling.

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Chuck Grassley absent from Russia's expanded sanctions list

The Russian Federation’s Foreign Ministry announced on May 21 that it was expanding the list of U.S. citizens who are permanently banned from entering Russia.

In addition to President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and other Biden administration officials, Russia has sanctioned hundreds of members of Congress. All four Iowans who serve in the U.S. House were on the initial sanctions list, which Russia released last month. The expanded “stop list” also includes U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, who welcomed the news.

Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley is absent from Russia’s updated list. His communications staff did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry about the matter.

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Our public schools need a fighter like Shannon Henson

Randy Richardson: Shannon Henson’s background and experience make her most ready to lead among the six Democrats running in Iowa House district 36.

For more than a decade, Republican lawmakers in Iowa have consistently underfunded our public schools and chipped away at the rights of our educators. Teachers and support staff have lost most of their collective bargaining rights, and teachers are now under attack for their so-called “sinister agenda.”

Public schools are the great equalizer. Ideally, they allow children—regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status, the foundation they need for their future. In Iowa, 485,000 children attend our public schools.

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Smith outraising Fitzgerald in treasurer's race. Will it matter?

State Senator Roby Smith is on track to outspend State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, if the latest reports filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board are any guide.

A news release from the Republican’s campaign boasted that its donations, totaling $213,391.15 so far this election cycle, “have set an all-time record” for a candidate for Iowa state treasurer. Smith raised substantially more than Fitzgerald during the latest reporting period and had nearly three times as much cash on hand.

But it would be premature to conclude, as Smith’s news release asserted, “Our historic fundraising number and Fitzgerald’s lack of support shows Iowans are clearly ready for change.”

Each candidate takes advantages into what could be Iowa’s most competitive state treasurer’s race in four decades.

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Austin Baeth for Iowa House district 36

Gary Dickey: Austin Baeth is uniquely positioned to diagnose our state’s problems and build consensus to provide solutions. 

It is a cliché in politics to exclaim that “this election is the most important in our lifetime.” The reality is that every election is the most important until the next. 

But it is hard to remember a time in which the most basic notions of what it means to be an Iowan have hung so precariously in the balance. 

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Vote early in Iowa—but not by mail, if possible

Early voting for Iowa’s June 7 primary began on May 18. Voting before election day has many advantages. You don’t have to worry about illness, work obligations, or a family emergency keeping you from casting a ballot. Once officials have recorded that you voted, you should stop receiving unsolicited phone calls and knocks at the door.

However, I now discourage Iowans from voting by mail unless there is no alternative. Recent changes to state law have greatly increased the risk of a mailed ballot never being counted.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: The Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest

Join Lora Conrad for a walk through the Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest to photograph and identify plants growing in this “premier woodland wildflower location.”

“Shimek State Forest is located in Lee and Van Buren counties in southeast Iowa. The forest served as a base for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s and 1940s, where they planted thousands of acres of hardwoods and conifers for demonstration purposes. Named after early Iowa conservationist Dr. Bohumil Shimek, the forest offers bountiful outdoor recreation opportunities… ”

So goes the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ understated introduction to Shimek State Forest which is 9,448 acres spread across five forest units.

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Cindy Axne should withdraw her racist police bill

Jaylen Cavil and Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz co-authored this commentary. Cavil is a Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 36. Murguia-Ortiz is an independent candidate in Iowa Senate district 17.

Dog whistles have been a feature of U.S. politics for decades. President Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens,” President Bill Clinton’s “law and order” campaign, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Barack Obama a “food stamps president” are all examples of racist talking points. Politicians use coded language when trying to garner support by triggering racial anxiety. 

Today’s version of the “war on crime”—a reaction to nationwide calls to defund the police and fund communities instead—is no different from the racist wars on drugs and poverty that have led to the incarceration and deaths of millions.

With the introduction of the Invest to Protect Act, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (D, IA-03) and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley have joined forces to re-employ this dog whistle strategy.

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Book review: The Land Remains

Larry Stone reviews Neil Hamilton’s new book The Land Remains: A Midwestern Perspective on our Past and Future.

Many of us baby boomer farm kids recall growing up in the 1950s and 60s walkin’ beans, baling hay, quail in the fencerows, and “the back 40.” But you don’t need a time machine to recapture that era, or to ponder the future of Iowa agriculture. Just read The Land Remains, by Neil D. Hamilton.

Raised on an Adams County farm, Hamilton earned forestry and law degrees before becoming director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University in Des Moines. He recently retired after 36 years. His memoir traces his growing awareness of how our agricultural policies have shaped not only the land but also the very fabric of our society.

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On an Australian travelogue and Iowa travesties

Herb Strentz contrasts charming Australia molehills with troubling American mountains.

While spending a month in Australia, I found some charming molehills. Sadly, though, the “molehills” did not provide needed diversion from the troubling mountains of discord and lies in Iowa public life.

Way back in 1989, in a PBS program, “The Truth About Lies,” Bill Moyers asked, “…can a nation die of too many lies?” A reprise of that program today might straightforwardly declare, “Our nation is dying of too many lies.”

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More about Jim White’s judges

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

We Alexander Clark storytellers work hard at learning our facts and keeping them straight.

We can’t tell Muscatine’s best Underground Railroad story without Judge Hastings, but I’m afraid I got a fact or two wrong in the last column. And I ran into a shocker.

This much is true: “A writ of habeas corpus was obtained from Hon. S.C. Hastings, then acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of this state, who released him.”

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Introducing the Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws

Bradley Knott: The Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws is giving a Iowans a voice and showing elected officials that voters support reforming Iowa’s cannabis laws.

Cannabis reform is sweeping the country. From ruby red South Dakota and Montana to perpetually blue New York and New Jersey, majorities from across the political spectrum are voting for reform. In some states it’s a stronger medical program. In other states voters have gone all in for both medical and recreational cannabis.

In Iowa, we don’t have a choice. We don’t even have a voice.   

When Democratic State Senators Joe Bolkcom, Janet Petersen, and Sarah Trone Garriott introduced a bill to give Iowans a voice, GOP leadership told them it was D-O-A – dead on arrival. 

Sound familiar?

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Mike Franken for Senate

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

American democracy is on the ballot. Electing people who support and will defend our democracy tops my priorities.  

I voted for Senator Chuck Grassley, multiple times. Unfortunately, Grassley no long supports democracy.  He condones Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election, supports voter suppression, opposes the renewal of the Voting Rights Act (which he previously voted for), voted twice to acquit Trump, and opposed a bipartisan January 6 commission. When Grassley chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2016, he refused to give U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing.  

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Who the Iowa Democratic primary voters are

Early voting for Iowa’s June 7 primary begins on May 18. Democrats have one contested race for a federal office (Abby Finkenauer, Mike Franken, and Glenn Hurst are running for U.S. Senate) and one for a statewide office (Joel Miller and Eric Van Lancker are running for secretary of state). There are also many competitive primaries for Iowa House or Senate seats.

Turnout for this year’s primary will likely be much lower this year than in 2020, when Secretary of State Paul Pate sent every active registered voter an absentee ballot request form. In addition, a law Republicans enacted last year shortened Iowa’s early voting window from 29 days to 20 days and made it harder to return a completed ballot in time to have the vote counted.

Even so, more than 100,000 Democrats will likely participate in the June 7 election. I analyzed statistics and results from the last three cycles for clues on who Iowa Democratic primary voters are and where most of them live.

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How one Iowa school district rebuffed attempted book ban

Marie Gleason of Bettendorf is a John Deere retiree and a former candidate for the Iowa legislature. She is passionate about women’s issues, civil rights, and public education.

A parent in the Pleasant Valley School District (Scott County) requested to have All Boys Aren’t Blue, a multiple award-winning book by George M. Johnson, removed from the high school’s library. 

It had been seventeen years since anyone asked this school district to ban a book.

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