Weekend open thread: Hot-button issues edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Some news that caught my eye recently:

Tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin have protested against efforts by Republican Governor Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature to impose big benefit cuts on public employees and curtail their collective bargaining rights. The 14 Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate left the state to deny Republicans a quorum for passing the anti-union bill. I’ve been following the day to day news on the Uppity Wisconsin blog.

Joel Northup, a wrestler for Linn-Mar high school, qualified for the state tournament but defaulted when his bracket paired him with Cassy Herkelman, a girl from Cedar Falls. Herkelman and Megan Black of Ottumwa made history this year by becoming the first girls to qualify for the Iowa high school state wrestling tournament.

Johnson County supervisors voted 5-0 on Thursday to ban firearms and dangerous weapons from buildings, lands and vehicles owned by the county. Some Republicans in the Iowa legislature are pushing a bill that would bar local governments from restricting guns in that manner.

State Senator Mark Chelgren’s stupid comments about Iowa’s voluntary preschool program for four-year-olds prompted Mr. desmoinesdem to look up information about pre-primary education in the Communist bloc. Contrary to Chelgren’s assertion that the Soviets started indoctrinating children early, when “they’re so malleable,” the USSR provided essentially day care rather than formal education for children under age 7.

The Internal Revenue Service declared this month that breast pumps are a tax-deductible expense, reversing a determination made last fall. A quality pump can cost hundreds of dollars. Pumping has its detractors but can be invaluable for working women who want to continue breastfeeding, or for women whose babies are unable to breastfeed.

Zach Wahls, whose testimony against the marriage amendment at an Iowa House public hearing went viral on YouTube, appeared on the Ellen show this week.

Governor Terry Branstad’s double-dipping (continuing to draw his $50,000 state pension while receiving a $130,000 salary as governor) made news in Iowa a few days ago. Branstad’s communications director, Tim Albrecht, said the governor “made a significant personal sacrifice” by resigning as president of Des Moines University. In that job he had received more than $350,000 per year.

One low-profile story that should be getting more attention is the wide-ranging spending cut bill under consideration in the House of Representatives. H.R. 1 would decimate funding for too many good programs to list in this post. For example, Iowa would lose $12 million in K-12 funding for various programs, $116 million in Pell grant funds, $1.4 million for vocational and adult education, $6.9 million for job training, $1 million for mental health and substance abuse treatment grants, $4.3 million for various low-income housing programs, $28 million in clean water-related funds, $28 million for Community Development Block Grants, and $1.3 million for justice assistance grants. Key transportation programs nationwide would also lose funding, including public transit and high-speed rail.

This is an open thread.

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