# Children



Governor's summer meal grants amount to "crumbs for Iowa kids"

Free summer meal provided by the Cedar Rapids Community School District in June 2023. Photo originally published on the school district’s Facebook page.

Governor Kim Reynolds asked state legislators this year to “join me in making literacy a top priority in every Iowa classroom.”

Judging by her approach to feeding hungry kids, the governor appears to lack basic numeracy skills.

On April 10, the governor’s office and Iowa Department of Education announced “$900,000 in competitive grants to help more Iowa children and teens access nutritious meals and snacks during the summer months.” Those federal funds, which Reynolds is drawing from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, may help a few thousand more kids receive food while school is out.

But in December, Reynolds turned down $29 million in federal funding—more than 30 times the value of the new grants. Those funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program would have provided food assistance worth $120 to each of an estimated 240,000 Iowa children who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

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Iowa House GOP's "big wins" won't avert big problems for AEAs

Representative Skyler Wheeler floor manages the AEA bill on March 21 (photo by Laura Belin)

Iowa House leaders attempted to wrap up work last week on the thorniest issue of the 2024 session: overhauling the Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to comply with Governor Kim Reynolds’ demand for “transformational change.” Less than three hours after a 49-page amendment appeared on the legislature’s website on March 21, the majority party cut off debate and approved a new version of House File 2612 by 51 votes to 43.

State Representative Skyler Wheeler hailed many provisions of the revised AEA bill as “wins” for House Republicans during the floor debate. House Speaker Pat Grassley likewise celebrated “big wins in this legislation” in the March 22 edition of his email newsletter.

Nine Republicans—Eddie Andrews, Mark Cisneros, Zach Dieken, Martin Graber, Tom Jeneary, Brian Lohse, Gary Mohr, Ray Sorensen, and Charley Thomson—didn’t buy into the official narrative and voted with Democrats against the bill.

I doubt any of them will regret that choice. If House File 2612 becomes law, it could irreparably harm the AEAs’ ability to provide a full range of services to children, families, educators, and schools.

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A mother's perspective: How AEA reform will hurt Iowa's children

Heather Sievers is the founder of Advocates for Iowa’s Children and an Altoona mother of a child of rare disabilities. Photo of Heather with her daughter Rowan was provided by the author and published with permission.

I am speaking out to educate our communities and give voice to thousands of families across the state who are begging our Iowa legislators to stop the Area Education Agency (AEA) education reform bill from being passed into law during the 2024 legislative session.

Having spent years building my professional experience in effective health care transformation, performance and process improvement in large systems, I know we are not doing this the right way. We are not taking time to perform a credible and thorough study to determine what reform is needed before enacting a bill. A change of this magnitude cannot be rushed, or it will inevitably fail. The risk is too high to gamble on our children’s well-being and their futures. 

Any harm to our children as a result of the decisions made this legislative session will never be forgiven, nor forgotten. Our integrated AEA system works and is a national treasure. Many states aspire to implement a system like we have, and my personal story demonstrates that our system works. 

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The word “groomer” has become a slur

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

Want to be called a “groomer”? Try reading a library book like Teach Her a Lesson, a new thriller by attorney Kate Flora. Flora “peels back the horror of a teacher being falsely accused by a student of initiating a long-standing sexual relationship.” So says reviewer Frank O Smith. It would seem a book only for teachers and parents, but it’s not. It could easily and appropriately find its way into a school library (excerpt). I hope it does.

Or try recommending The Passing Playbook on a public Facebook page. It’s a new young adult novel by Isaac Fitzsimmons (excerpt). Book reviewer Alaina Leary says Fitzsimmons explores privilege, identity, the complicated relationships we create through family and friends, and discovering the potential our voices have with charm and passion. 

“Teens everywhere will love this one,” says one review. Meaning Moms for Liberty would likely hate it. Says Leary, “It’s about fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris, a proud nerd, an awesome big brother, and a David Beckham (British soccer champion) in training. He’s also transgender.”

Hands down, the term “groomer” has become a slur, as foul as the “N” word or “f*g.” Its frequent use, as an insult, is often meant to imply teachers are potential sex offenders. Ironically, House File 2056 would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work unsupervised in child care centers while caring for children under age 5.

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Iowa hospitals must stop unlawful drug testing after births

Rachel Bruns is a volunteer advocate for quality maternal health care in Iowa. This article originally appeared on the Des Moines Register’s website.

The Des Moines Register article “What Patients Should Know About Hospital Drug Testing” missed some key information that may help families disrupt the illegal maternal and newborn drug screening practices taking place at Iowa hospitals and clinics.

The U.S. Supreme Court made clear in 2001 (Ferguson v. Charleston) that prenatal drug testing without specific informed consent is unlawful. Nevertheless, some Iowa clinics and hospitals continue to conduct such tests, when urine is gathered for testing of urinary tract infections or to check urine glucose or protein levels. Such practices are not only unlawful, but also create mistrust of the medical system—putting the lives of moms and babies at risk. 

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Was childhood obesity a real concern or pretext for Iowa's governor?  

Bernie Scolaro is a retired school counselor, a past president of the Sioux City Education Association, and former Sioux City school board member.

My mother used to make our lunches and send us off to school. Our packed lunch consisted of something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and for dessert, something like a Hostess Ho Ho or Ding Dong. I would come home and have a snack, usually a couple of chocolate chip cookies. At dinner, my parents always wanted to make sure my siblings and I ate everything on our plate—after all, people were “starving to death in Biafra.”  

I was never heavy, but I do remember my mother calling me “pleasantly plump” a few times. I guess that phrase made it more “pleasant” to carry a little more weight. My mother never looked to Governor Nelson D. Rockefeller to tell me when or how much to eat. That was personal and a family matter, certainly not political.

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Iowa’s vision of the future: Down the barrel of a gun

Gun violence doesn’t originate at the schoolhouse door, and it won’t be solved there. Our policy making and political rhetoric urgently need to reflect this reality.

Nick Covington is an Iowa parent who taught high school social studies for ten years. He is also the co-founder of the Human Restoration Project, an Iowa educational non-profit promoting systems-based thinking and grassroots organizing in education.

Around 7:45 on the morning of January 4, I was headed home after dropping my daughter off at her elementary school when I thought nothing of pulling over for an Iowa Highway Patrol car, lights and sirens blaring, headed west. Hours later, as reports came in, I saw state troopers were among the first on the scene at Perry High School, at the edge of a small Iowa town about 30 minutes due west of my own. A 17-year old student had inaugurated another year of gun violence in American schools, killing a 6th grader and injuring five other students and two staff before taking his own life.

Those dopplered sirens were an unsettling connection between my ordinary morning drop-off routine and the nightmare that had visited families of a nearby community; another sign of the persistent and unique exposure to gun violence that only the United States allows. 

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A losing candidate tells her side of the story

Photo of Joan Marttila provided by the author and published with permission.

Joan Martila is a retired Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency audiologist. She is a former president of the Iowa Speech Language Hearing Association as well as a former president of the Iowa Speech Language Hearing Foundation. 

Another election year is upon us. I can guess what you’re thinking, because I have heard others say it: Why do Iowa Democrats have so many losers running of office? 

I am one of those losers. Let me tell you my side of the story.

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Is our governor dismantling Iowa?

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

Marilynne Robinson has been called “America’s greatest living writer.” When she calls out Iowa’s governor over our state’s new education policies, we need to pay heed.

Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson, Ph.D., is professor emeritus in the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop (1991-2016). She continues to live in Iowa City where she writes, plans her lectures, and attends to worship at the Congregational United Church of Christ

She is the author of the Pulitzer-winning novel Gilead (2004) and four other novels, all my favorites, plus hundreds of essays, lectures, and collections. Her four novels in the Gilead series were selected as a set for Oprah’s Book Club in 2021.

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What Republicans get wrong about health care for transgender minors

Gordie Felger is a volunteer member of two LGBTQ+ organizations (CR Pride and Free Mom Hugs) and a One Iowa volunteer activist. He is a friend of many LGBTQ+ folks and an ally to the community. He also writes about the state of Iowa politics at “WFT Iowa?”

Far-right Republican lawmakers across the nation renewed their crusade against transgender people. Instead of solving critical issues like food insecurity, housing, and affordable health care, Iowa Republicans prioritize trampling the human rights and dignity of Iowans.

But why? Politicians make public statements about “protecting children,” but statements can hide true motives. The following examples show that lawmakers’ understanding of transgender people does not align with the reality of transgender lives.

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Laws that ban books run contrary to Iowa's history, legacy

Banned Book Week runs from October 1 to October 7, 2023. The following letter, released on September 14, was co-signed by The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Board of Directors, Mayor Bruce Teague on behalf of the City of Iowa City, The Iowa City Public Library Trustees, The Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation, The Coralville Public Library, The North Liberty Library, Think Iowa City, Iowa Small Library Association executive board, Prairie Lights, One Iowa, The Tuesday Agency, Iowa City Poetry, the Iowa Library Association, and Corridor Community Action Network.

An open letter to Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa legislature:

Iowa is home to one of the most literary cities on earth. It is here where the Iowa Writers’ Workshop produced some of the greatest voices in American Literature: Frank Conroy, John Irving, Wallace Stegner, Raymond Carver, Jane Smiley, Rita Dove, Ayana Mathis, Flannery O’Connor, Ann Patchett, and so many others. Iowa is also home to contemporary writers producing works of fiction and non-fiction that are both bold in truth-telling and revolutionary in voice.

It’s because of this legacy and the dedication of Iowans to producing great writing, that Iowa City was declared a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008. Often called the “Athens of the Midwest,” Iowa City has a unique set of influential literary institutions, which explore new ways to teach and  support writers. At the same time, it has long been, quite simply, a place for writers and for readers: a haven, a destination, a proving ground, and a nursery. Iowa has a history and an identity in which its citizens take enormous pride, prizing a role in celebrating and honoring writers and good writing.

On May 26, Iowa’s governor signed into law legislation that runs counter to that legacy. Senate File 496 prohibits books with written and visual depictions of sex acts from school libraries. The legislation also bans written materials and instruction on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” This law was passed under the pretense of protecting children, and yet what this law amounts to is a book ban that limits children’s freedom of expression and access to knowledge about the world around them.

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Federal court rulings suggest new Iowa law is unconstitutional

Iowa’s Republican leaders have few checks remaining on their power. But one law approved during the 2023 legislative session appears unlikely ever to go into effect.

Federal judges in four states have blocked the government from enforcing bans on gender-affirming care for minors.

U.S. District Court Judge James Moody issued the most comprehensive ruling on the matter on June 20, when he permanently enjoined an Arkansas law enacted in 2021. Moody found the law violated the Fourteenth and First Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Three other judges, including two appointed by President Donald Trump, have issued preliminary injunctions on similar laws in Indiana, Alabama, and Florida while litigation proceeds.

Although Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said she will appeal the ruling in Brandt v Rutledge, Judge Moody’s extensive findings of fact could influence the outcome on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a challenge to Iowa’s ban on gender-affirming care may eventually be heard.

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Thoughts on Iowa Senate Democrats electing new leader Pam Jochum

A British prime minister once said that a week is a long time in politics. Iowa Senate Democrats proved the adage true on June 7, when they elected State Senator Pam Jochum as minority leader, replacing State Senator Zach Wahls.

Wahls was first elected to the legislature in 2018 and had led the caucus since November 2020. Jochum was first elected to the Iowa House in 1992 and to the Senate in 2008 from districts covering Dubuque. When Democrats last controlled the chamber, she held the second-ranking position of Senate president from 2013 through 2016. More recently, she has served as one of four assistant minority leaders.

A week ago, a Senate Democratic leadership election was not on anyone’s radar. Wahls was the guest on the latest edition of the Iowa PBS program “Iowa Press.”

The June 7 caucus meeting was scheduled to address an uproar that unfolded over the weekend.

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Brenna Bird's free PR via a child ID program and two utility companies

Ian Miller is the author of The Scything Handbook (New Society Publishers, 2016). His writing has appeared in Mother Earth News, the apparently-now-defunct Permaculture Magazine and Seed Savers Exchange publications. He is a former semi-professional musician, having recorded and toured with numerous bands. Originally from Dubuque, he has lived in San Francisco and Austria and now resides in Decorah with his wife and two children.

On Thursday, May 18, I received an email from the Decorah Community School District’s superintendent. He wrote:

He included what appeared to be copy from a press release provided by Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird’s office:

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Six ways the GOP budget shortchanged Iowans with disabilities

The biggest stories of the Iowa legislature’s 2023 session are well known. Before adjourning for the year on May 4, historically large Republican majorities in the Iowa House and Senate gave Governor Kim Reynolds almost everything on her wish list. They reshaped K-12 public schools; passed several bills targeting LGBTQ Iowans; enacted new hurdles for Iowans on public assistance; cut property taxes; reorganized state government to increase the power of the governor and “her” attorney general; and undermined the state auditor’s ability to conduct independent audits.

Many other newsworthy stories received little attention during what will be remembered as one of the Iowa legislature’s most influential sessions. This post is the first in a series highlighting lesser-known bills or policies that made it through both chambers in 2023, or failed to reach the governor’s desk.


As the Iowa House and Senate debated one appropriations bill after another last week, Democrats repeatedly objected to plans that imposed status quo budgets or small increases (well below the rate of inflation) on services for disadvantaged Iowans.

Iowans with disabilities or special needs were not a priority in the education and health and human services budgets that top Republican lawmakers negotiated behind closed doors.

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Republicans shatter another Iowa Senate norm

Iowa Senate debate on a proposal to relax child labor regulations stalled late in the evening of April 17, after the Republican floor manager Adrian Dickey and Majority Leader Jack Whitver refused to answer a Democratic senator’s questions about an amendment published earlier in the day.

After hours of delay, the Senate resumed its work and approved the child labor bill (Senate File 542) shortly before 5:00 am on April 18, with Republicans Charlie McClintock and Jeff Taylor joining all Democrats in opposition.

The snag in last night’s proceedings is not limited to one controversial issue.

According to Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, Whitver told him Senate Republicans would no longer answer questions during floor debate, in light of a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision. That ruling (known as LS Power) has also made Iowa House Republicans more cautious about answering questions in public, a debate on a firearms bill revealed last week.

The majority party’s new approach could leave Iowa lawmakers less informed as they vote on complex legislation. Floor debate may be the only time Democrats can clarify their understanding of certain provisions, since managers’ amendments containing big changes sometime appear just hours before a vote on final passage. Over the next few weeks, Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their spending plans for fiscal year 2024 right before lengthy budget bills are bought to the chamber floor.

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Isn't it ironic?

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.

Way back in 1996, Alanis Morrissette asked, “Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?” She might have been thinking about a “black fly in your Chardonnay,” but today her question is relevant for Iowa Republican legislators.

Here’s a good definition of the term: “Irony occurs in literature and in life whenever a person says or does something that departs from what we expect them to say or do.”

Ronald Reagan hasn’t roamed the Oval Office for 34 years, yet even now, you’ll hear GOP candidates quote the Gipper: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” 

They love to quote it. They just don’t love to do it.

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Democrats must offer a vision for children and families

Charles Bruner served in the Iowa legislature from 1978 to 1990 and was founding director of the Child and Family Policy Center from 1989 through 2016. For the last six years, he headed a Health Equity and Young Children initiative focusing on primary child health care for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Democrats prioritize investing in children but don’t stress the importance of parents in raising the next generation. Republicans do the opposite.

The electorate wants both.

Until we make children’s issues part of our political dialogue, we will not do either.

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We need serious people to solve serious problems

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.

Lately I’ve been thinking about why Iowa GOP politicians seem committed to shouting at the rain instead of solving real problems.

I think the answer might be in a quote from the 1995 movie The American President. Fictional President Andrew Shepard says, “We’re a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.”

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Iowa ban on gender-affirming care would face uphill battle in court

UPDATE: The governor signed this bill on March 22. Original post follows.

Moving with unusual speed last week, Iowa Republican lawmakers approved Senate File 538, which broadly prohibits gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgery, for Iowans under age 18.

Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill soon, having used several opportunities over the past year to position herself against transgender youth.

The new law would certainly be challenged in court, as similar bans prompted lawsuits in Arkansas and Alabama.

During hours-long debates in the Iowa Senate and House, lawmakers raised points that would be central to litigation over whether banning gender-affirming care violates the constitutional rights of transgender children, their parents, and medical professionals.

For this post, I’ve pulled video clips to illustrate some of the core legal questions surrounding the bill. But there is much more of value in the passionate speeches delivered about Republicans’ latest attempt to target LGTBQ Iowans. You can watch the full Senate debate here (starting around 7:32:30) and the House debate here (starting around 1:40:45).

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Iowa governor sides with anti-vaxxers, not cancer experts

LATE UPDATE: Republican lawmakers kept this provision in the final version of Senate File 496, which Governor Reynolds signed in May. Original post follows.

Iowa’s leading cancer researchers released sobering numbers last week. Data from the Iowa Cancer Registry indicates that Iowa has “the second-highest overall cancer incidence of all U.S. states” and is “the only state with a significant increase in cancer incidence from 2015 to 2019.”

In addition, Iowa ranks first for “rates of new cases of oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer,” often known as head and neck or mouth and throat cancers. Iowa also has the country’s second-highest rate for leukemia and ranks fifth and sixth for melanoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, respectively.

Meanwhile, Governor Kim Reynolds is forging ahead with efforts to stop requiring Iowa schools to teach junior high and high school students that a vaccine is available to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV). That virus can cause cancer in several areas of the body, including the mouth and throat.

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Iowa Republicans didn't always push anti-LGBTQ bills. What changed?

As the Iowa legislature’s first “funnel” deadline approaches, Republicans have introduced more than 30 bills targeting the LGBTQ community, roughly double the previous record. More than a dozen of those bills have either advanced from a subcommittee or have cleared a standing committee and are therefore eligible for debate in the Iowa House or Senate.

Until recently, the vast majority of bills threatening LGBTQ Iowans never received a subcommittee hearing. During the 2021 legislative session, none of the fifteen bills in that category made it through the first funnel (requiring approval by a House or Senate committee), and only a handful were even assigned to a subcommittee. Bills consigned to the scrap heap included proposed bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth and so-called “bathroom bills,” which require transgender people to use school restrooms or locker rooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate, rather than the facilities that match their gender identity.

In contrast, this week House and Senate subcommittees rushed to pass bathroom bills and measures prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors less than 24 hours after the bills appeared on the Iowa legislature’s website.

How did these policies become a priority for Republican lawmakers in such a short time?

Three factors seem most important.

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Unchecking the box

Deb VanderGaast is a registered nurse and child care advocate seeking to advance state and national child care and disability policy, inclusive child care practices and improve access to quality, affordable child care for working parents. She was the 2022 Democratic nominee in Iowa Senate district 41.

The LGBTQ+ community in Iowa is under attack, and so are our schools. Many people think the acceptance of queer people in our culture is causing an increase in transgender and queer kids. They think exposure to transgender and queer people in education, books, movies, music, and the community is “grooming” kids to question their gender and sexual identity.

They are completely wrong.

Adolescence is a time when kids form their identities and “try on” various roles as they explore who they are and who they want to be. Our society now allows many more options as acceptable choices for youth to consider, but this increased acceptance has not changed who kids are becoming. Rather, it has allowed adolescents to safely express who they already are. They are no longer constrained by social biases against gay and transgender people.

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Iowa leaders, don't ruin kids' lives

Aime Wichtendahl is a member of the Hiawatha City Council and first openly trans woman elected to government in Iowa.

When Iowa Republicans gained a trifecta in 2017, I told our city manager, “I don’t know what their economic agenda is, but I bet it has something to do with gay marriage and abortion.”

Fast forward six years and little has changed—except the legislature devotes extra time attacking transgender youth to feed their lives into the never-ending culture war dumpster fire.

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Holidays: an opportunity to help others in need

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding, or endorsement from any for-profit business, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or political party.      

Thankfully we are nearly six weeks past the 2022 midterm election. I can hear many voters exuding a sigh of relief and shouting, after $17 billion was spent on disinformation, misinformation, and the occasional truthful political ad, “yes, finally, the election is over.”

Normal life is back, and we’ve jumped right into the holiday season. Let’s ponder how to make this year’s holiday season better than we’ve experienced heretofore.

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Miller-Meeks misinforms about COVID-19, again

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks has built her political brand by highlighting her expertise as a doctor and former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Her official communications and campaign advertising routinely play up her medical background.

So it’s disheartening to see Miller-Meeks join the ranks of Republican politicians who spread falsehoods about COVID-19.

She just did it again in Davenport.

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Democrats, start talking about families

Charles Bruner served in the Iowa legislature from 1978 to 1990 and was founding director of the Child and Family Policy Center from 1989 through 2016. For the last six years, he headed a Health Equity and Young Children initiative focusing on primary child health care for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He is working with other child policy advocacy leaders and experts in the field to raise these issues in Congressional midterm election campaigns. Find more information about their fund: www.votekids2022.com.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus adopted a resolution that calls for Democrats and the state party to “reclaim” the label “pro-family.”

That resolution (enclosed in full below) is in direct response to Governor Kim Reynolds’ rhetoric implying that only the Republican Party believes “parents matter” and that Republicans are leading a “pro-family” agenda.

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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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Abby Finkenauer can build a winning coalition

Mary Jo Riesberg chairs the Lee County Democratic Party.

Abby Finkenauer is the Democrat who can defeat U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. Many factors make her candidacy not only stronger than the other Senate candidates, but one that can offer a boost to those down ballot.

She will represent Iowans as we sit at our kitchen tables discussing the struggles we face in our day-to-day lives. She will be the senator we need to help Iowa and the United States adjust to the “new normal” after the COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare for the many changes needed for the future.

No matter how much people say they are ready to have Grassley out of office, it will still require a coalition of voters to defeat him.

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Why we must elect people who understand the literacy crisis

Shelley Skuster: We can interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by supporting Kimberly Graham for Polk County Attorney.

The largest school district in the state is in the middle of a full-blown literacy crisis, and every candidate running for an elected office should be talking about it.

In Des Moines Public Schools, less than half of all students in grades K-3 know how to read. When it comes to Black children, the statistics are even more alarming. In fact, only 36 percent of Black boys enrolled in Des Moines Public Schools know how to read at a third-grade level.

If we don’t interrupt this literacy crisis right now, you might as well polish off a set of handcuffs because there’s a clear correlation between one’s ability to read and the likelihood they’ll end up in jail.

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Build back something

Charles Bruner: Taxes, inflation, and essential services … there’s an obvious solution for Democrats.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have done much to support essential workers and provide economic help to working and retired Americans during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of those actions were designed to become permanent: improvements to the child tax credit, investments in child care, and expansion of home and community based services and the direct care workforce.

Established in the American Rescue Plan Act through a process known as reconciliation (which requires only a simple majority vote and therefore could be enacted without Republican support), these policies have proved both popular and effective.

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Iowans facing big cuts to food assistance

Approximately 290,000 Iowans living in some 141,000 households will receive less food assistance beginning in April, due to Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to declare the COVID-19 state of emergency over.

Leaders of area food pantries are expecting a surge in demand, as Iowans’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will drop by at least $95 per household, and in some cases by more than 90 percent.

According to the Iowa Hunger Coalition, “The average SNAP benefit for individuals will drop from $2.65 per meal to an estimated $1.52 per meal. Total SNAP benefits issued in the state of Iowa will decrease by an estimated $29.5 million,” a 42.6 percent reduction.

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COVID-19 divisions undermine support for other vaccinations

Governor Kim Reynolds and top Republican lawmakers have repeatedly bragged about protecting Iowans’ freedom not to get vaccinated for COVID-19, saying that getting a shot should be a matter of personal choice and not government mandate.

Now the latest Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co indicates that support for other required childhood vaccinations has dropped sharply since the last time Iowans were surveyed on the issue.

Republican respondents in particular are now less likely to support mandatory vaccinations against diseases like polio and the measles—a finding that suggests the misinformation campaign some have waged against COVID-19 vaccines has affected how many conservatives view all immunizations. When Selzer asked Iowans a similar question in 2015, there was no significant difference in views based on political affiliation.

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Cheerful cruelty belies governor's concern over kids' mental health

Self-awareness has never been Governor Kim Reynolds’ strong suit.

So it was that just this week, Reynolds asserted in an interview with the Des Moines Register that mental health “has been so important to me.” The governor lamented the pressures kids have faced over the past two years, “the depression, the anxiety,” adding, “We’ve seen suicide rates among young girls up over 50 percent” during the COVID-19 pandemic. She bragged about “working on mental health for five years” and “standing up a children’s mental health system.”

You’d never guess she just signed a bill that is guaranteed to increase depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among some of Iowa’s most vulnerable youth.

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What the bipartisan infrastructure bill will spend in Iowa

The state of Iowa will receive approximately $5 billion from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill headed to President Joe Biden’s desk, according to calculations published by U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03). Axne, the lone Democrat in Iowa’s Congressional delegation, was among the 215 Democrats and thirteen Republicans who approved the bill late in the evening on November 5. (Procedural matters earlier in the day led to the two longest votes in U.S. House history.)

Iowa’s three Republicans in the chamber—Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04)—opposed the infrastructure legislation.

When the Senate approved the same bill in August, Iowa’s Republicans landed on opposite sides, with Senator Chuck Grassley supporting the infrastructure package and Senator Joni Ernst voting against it.

HOW FUNDS WILL BE SPENT IN IOWA

The bill involves about $550 billion in spending not previously approved by Congress. Axne’s news release estimated Iowa’s share of several large pieces. Our state stands to receive:

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Governor blocks Iowa schools from opening "safely and responsibly"

Governor Kim Reynolds loves to boast that Iowa “led the way” in bringing kids back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, “and we did it safely and responsibly.” The talking point was debatable last year, since Iowa’s new cases and hospitalizations began surging several weeks after schools reopened.

It’s laughable now, as Iowa schools prepare to welcome kids back this week. While the Delta variant has caused spikes in pediatric cases and hospitalizations where schools are already in session, Reynolds and leaders of Iowa’s education and public health departments have blocked nearly every practice that helped reduce COVID-19 spread in schools last year.

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Mask mandate bans put Iowa parents in untenable position

Tara Lanning: During a Delta variant surge, all former safeguards in Iowa schools are gone. -promoted by Laura Belin

I live in Waukee with my husband and our two kids. Someone in our family is immunocompromised, and my mom has fought cancer twice, so when COVID-19 struck, we played it safe. We signed up for a grocery delivery service; we cooked more than we ever have before; we declined all social opportunities; we skipped celebrating the holidays with our family. We adjusted, and we sacrificed.

Last August, we made the difficult decision to pull our 7- and 10-year-old kids from their elementary school to be independently homeschooled. While Waukee did offer virtual instruction, I knew it wouldn’t be a good fit for my kids, who both have unique learning differences.

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Where are the community leaders who will protect our kids?

Tanya Keith: Who will step up for my child who is too young to be vaccinated?

Since I wrote last week asking if Governor Reynolds would be willing to put kids’ well-being ahead of politics, I have seen a shift in the order of the universe. So many parents offered words of support, a group of women began organizing a “Safe at School Sit In” for next week, and I started the Facebook group “Iowans for Universal Masks In Schools.”

Iowans did such a great job reaching out to elected leaders that one called me today to ask if they could pass along my contact information to parents who have inundated their office with requests to end the ban on mask mandates. More than 650 people have joined the Facebook group In a little more than 24 hours.

That’s a good start for week 1, but yesterday my son reported that only about 20 percent of the kids at his high school orientation were wearing masks. I recently learned of COVID-19 outbreaks at two Metro Kids Des Moines Public Schools daycare facilities. These things are already happening and school doesn’t start for almost another three weeks.

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Can Governor Reynolds put Iowa kids' well-being ahead of politics?

Concerned parent Tanya Keith reached out to Governor Kim Reynolds’ staff and interviewed infectious disease Dr. Megan Srinivas. -promoted by Laura Belin

Less than a month before school starts, Governor Kim Reynolds is putting politics ahead of my daughter’s life and well-being. I am one of the thousands of Iowa parents bearing the burden of having a child under 12, who is too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Anyone following pandemic science updates has been fed a daily diet of rising concern. First, the World Health Organization recommended that all individuals mask inside, even if they are vaccinated. Then the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all K-12 students be masked, regardless of vaccination status. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control just echoed that guidance.

As an Iowa parent, I know that it is currently against the law for masks to be required at school. If you’re reading this from another state, that may sound bizarre, but I assure you it’s true. In May, Reynolds signed a bill in the middle of the night to ban mask mandates, so schools were left scrambling to come up with new policy days from the finish line of a grueling academic year.

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Iowa Public Health abandons COVID-19 safety in schools

Governor Kim Reynolds told Iowans this week to “lean further into normal,” since “There’s no reason for us to continue to fear COVID-19 any longer.”

Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia obliged with new guidance urging schools and child care providers to “approach COVID-19 like other child illnesses.”

To justify abandoning precautions like mandatory face coverings and quarantines for children exposed to coronavirus, Garcia misrepresented the latest advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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Governor endorses plan targeting Iowans on public assistance

A longstanding effort by Iowa Senate Republicans to reduce the number of Iowans receiving various forms of public assistance got a quiet boost last week from Governor Kim Reynolds.

For the first time, the governor’s draft human services budget included provisions that would create asset tests for federal food assistance and require the Iowa Department of Human Services to establish a new “eligibility verification system” for Medicaid and several other public assistance programs.

State Senator Jason Schultz has pushed similar legislation for several years running. Each session, Senate Republicans have approved the bills, which died in the House Human Resources Committee (see here and here).

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What the Iowa Democratic Party needs to do ASAP

Amber Gustafson is a progressive activist and was the 2018 Democratic candidate in Iowa Senate district 19. -promoted by Laura Belin

Dear Fellow Iowa Democrats,

It’s a new year and with that comes new perspectives and new outlooks.

In November of 2020, I put my name forward to run for Iowa Democratic Party chair and with it I shared a plan to help our party regain our footing in our state. It was with determination and optimism that I stepped forward to offer my services to our party. But since my initial announcement, my family’s circumstances have come to bear on my plans for 2021.

It is with great regret that I have chosen to withdraw my name for consideration as chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

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Relational campaigning and our roles as influencers

Charles Bruner is a longtime advocate for policies that support children and strengthen families. -promoted by Laura Belin

Relational campaigning is back. Out of necessity, campaigns have had to adapt to the strictures of social distancing. 2020 has not been a year for mass gatherings, nor for packed party headquarters of volunteers to disperse leaflets door-to-door or operate phone banks. Instead, much of the volunteer work has relied upon people in their own homes and with their computers and cell phones doing what they can.

The plus side of this has been an increased emphasis upon “relational campaigning,” asking volunteers to reach out to the people they know best about issues that matter to them.

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Keep the lights on for our kids

Katie Rock is the Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Iowa. Beyond Coal is a national campaign led by the Sierra Club to retire the U.S. coal fleet by 2030. You can find her on Twitter @KatieRockIA. -promoted by Laura Belin

Our current unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Now is the time when we need to think and act boldly as a community so we can all get through this together. We need our state, and our service and utility providers to step up for families. We need to ensure no one faces eviction or loses their essential services during this time.

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Child poverty and the country's future

Charles Bruner is a longtime advocate for policies that support children and strengthen families. -promoted by Laura Belin

Possibly the most important five minutes of the eight Democratic presidential debates happened when candidates answered the last question–on child poverty–in the recent New Hampshire debate.

It was not that the candidates differed in their approaches, but they all saw this as a critical issue and provided important reflections on what is at the heart of a fundamental challenge to American prosperity — the future of our diverse next generation.

First Focus has done a valuable service by putting the clip on You Tube.

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Coming of age: Children's issues and the 2020 election

Charles Bruner has been involved with the Children’s Policy Coalition over the last three decades and led in the design of both the 2015 and 2019 Iowa Voter Survey conducted by Selzer & Co. -promoted by Laura Belin

For the first time in our country’s history, children face the prospect of growing up less healthy, living shorter lives, and being less prepared to compete and lead in a world economy.

This is not a matter of a few children. One-fifth of America’s kids are struggling and already face sober futures; another one-third definitely are not doing as well as they could to prepare themselves to be adults. These statistics hold even if we are able to address global climate change and its adverse impacts.

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Iowa House approves bill to let kids hunt with handguns

Children supervised by a responsible adult would be able to hunt deer with a “pistol or revolver” under a bill the Iowa House approved on March 20, mostly along party lines.

House members rejected a Democratic effort to restore language that had gained bipartisan support in committee and would have required minors to complete a hunter education course before using such weapons for hunting.

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Five Senate bills target Iowans on public assistance

Matt Chapman has attended Iowa House and Senate subcommittee meetings nearly every day. These bills were among the most significant he has tracked lately. -promoted by Laura Belin

Over the past week, Iowa Senate subcommittees considered five bills drafted to address fraud in Iowa public assistance programs. Each bill would direct revenue generated by Iowa taxpayers to private vendors, who are charged with finding fraudulent claims. If investigation supports the claims of fraud, those funds could be recovered, and criminal charges filed.

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Ban prehistoric practice of conversion therapy

The staff of Iowa Safe Schools submitted this post, authored by members of the Student Leadership Council: Noah Mathis, Alena Gamble, and Rachel Overla. The Student Leadership Council represents queer and allied high school students in Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

Students today endure pressures from every angle. From grades to jobs, from relationships to college plans, there are so many things that students have on their minds and in their lives.

For LGBTQ youth, living their truth is another pressure that is often compounded by fear of rejection from friends, family, and community.

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Urgent: Deaf/Hard of hearing language acquisition bill

Dirk Hillard, Carly Armour, Robert Vizzini, and Vania Kassouf advocate for legislation designed to help Deaf and hard of hearing children be better prepared for kindergarten. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Did you know there are 28 million Americans and approximately 430,000 individuals in the state of Iowa who are Deaf or hard of hearing? Did you know that Iowa’s Deaf and hard of hearing children ages 0-5 are not showing up as kindergarten ready due to lack of language acquisition?

The Language Equality & Acquisition for Deaf Kids to be kindergarten ready (LEAD-K) bill is needed because a majority of Deaf and hard of hearing children are academically very far behind when compared with their peers. This is a serious national education concern, which some states are beginning to address. Iowa’s children are no exception, but the State Department of Education has a long way to go to make changes.

Senator Rob Hogg introduced Senate File 2076, and State Representative Art Staed introduced the companion bill, House File 2140. We are writing to correct some misperceptions about this bill, which have been brought to our attention.

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John Norris for a better future

Scott County activist Emilene Leone joined the statewide steering committee for John Norris last month. Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for candidates in competitive Democratic primaries. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I am strongly endorsing John Norris for Iowa governor, and I encourage all concerned parents here in Iowa to do the same. John Norris is the best choice to protect Iowa’s future for our children.

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Yet another Iowa Republican budget atrocity

The hits just keep on coming from the health and human services budget Iowa Republicans enacted this year.

As if big spending cuts to public health programs, child care assistance, social worker field services, the closure of four Planned Parenthood clinics, and ending on-site ombudsmen visits to nursing homes didn’t do enough to harm vulnerable people, that budget bill also called for short-changing Iowans who sign up for Medicaid.

The Reynolds administration is moving forward with the plan to end decades-long practice on covering health care for new Medicaid recipients.

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"We can do better": Deidre DeJear's case for secretary of state

Iowa Democrats are set to have their first competitive primary for secretary of state since 1998. Deidre DeJear launched her campaign last month on the 52nd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, to symbolize her commitment to increasing voter participation.

DeJear spoke to Bleeding Heartland at length about her candidacy, and I’ve posted highlights from that interview after the jump, along with the audio and full transcript of her remarks to a Democratic audience in Grinnell. You can follow her campaign on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

DeJear’s approach to the race is markedly different from that of Jim Mowrer, the other Democrat in the field. Mowrer came out swinging against Secretary of State Paul Pate, vowing “to say no to making it harder and more expensive to vote” and highlighting the failure to count nearly 6,000 votes in Dallas County last November. In contrast, DeJear says little about Pate in her campaign materials and stump speech. She didn’t bring up the Dallas County debacle in our interview either.

Pate is very unpopular among Democratic activists since pushing for new restrictions on voting that will create barriers for certain populations. Nor is the secretary of state well-liked by county auditors, some of whom have already endorsed Mowrer. I suspect many 2018 primary voters will be drawn to a candidate willing to take the fight to Pate, relentlessly.

On the other hand, DeJear’s more aspirational, positive message should resonate with Democrats who prefer candidates to talk about what they are for, not what they’re against. I look forward to following this race.

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Jerry Foxhoven charged with fixing the mess at Iowa DHS

The rumors were true: Drake University Law Professor Jerry Foxhoven will be the new Iowa Department of Human Services director, effective tomorrow.

The May 31 press release announcing Chuck Palmer’s retirement linked to a job listing for the DHS director position, to close on June 11. I would be surprised if Governor Kim Reynolds interviewed or seriously considered anyone else for this job, given the rapid turnaround. I never heard a rumor about any candidate other than Foxhoven.

I enclose below the full text of today’s announcement, including background on the new director. Foxhoven has a lot of relevant experience for the job, and I wish him the best of luck as he attempts to lead a department where big mid-year spending cuts will give way to even lower funding levels for the next fiscal year. Morale is reportedly poor among DHS workers, in part because of too-large caseloads. Medicaid privatization has proved disastrous for many vulnerable Iowans and service providers.

Speaking of which, Disability Rights Iowa filed suit yesterday against Reynolds and former DHS Director Palmer, seeking “to halt discriminatory cuts in services to 15,000 Iowans with serious disabilities,” Tony Leys and Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register. Roxanne Conlin is helping the plaintiffs, who will seek certification for a class action.

UPDATE: Lee Rood and Tony Leys interviewed Foxhoven for the Des Moines Register. I posted excerpts below, but you should click through to read the whole thing.

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Will Kim Reynolds change DHS policy, or just directors?

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer is retiring effective June 16, Governor Kim Reynolds announced today. Critics including Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy have called on Palmer to resign for months, charging that inadequate staffing at DHS facilitated more suffering and premature deaths among abused children. The department’s handling of Medicaid privatization has also drawn criticism. Despite Palmer’s promises to hold the line, the DHS agreed to pay private insurance companies more for managing Medicaid. In addition, DHS officials have downplayed numerous, ongoing reports of those companies cutting back on health care services and failing to reimburse providers promptly or adequately.

In keeping with Governor Terry Branstad’s playbook when Teresa Wahlert ended her disastrous tenure at Iowa Workforce Development, Reynolds didn’t acknowledge any problems with Palmer’s management of the DHS today. On the contrary, she and acting Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg praised Palmer’s work in the official press release, enclosed in full below.

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Will Governor Branstad's legacy be yours as well?

Matt Chapman shares comments he delivered at today’s Iowa House public hearing on Republican budget proposals. -promoted by desmoinesdem

So here we are again in public comments for the seventh time this year, discussing laws that are disproportionately pro-wealthy and anti-worker. These laws are also mostly split along party lines. And I have to hand it to your strategist, as the most damaging laws against workers, many who voted Republican in 2016, were gotten out of the way earlier in the session. And at the end of the session, we have the most divisive legislation brought to the fore in an attempt to appease the very voters you enraged with the destruction of Chapter 20, the union-busting bill.

This will be the governor’s legacy. Will it be yours as well? Let’s compare him to Governor Robert Ray.

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Iowa Republicans slash funds for sexual violence and domestic abuse survivors

Times won’t be equally tough all over when Republican cuts take effect in the justice systems budget.

The Attorney General’s Office receives only about 3 percent of state funding in this area (totaling some $559 million for the next fiscal year) but will absorb about 84 percent of the $2.9 million in cuts Republican lawmakers agreed on behind closed doors. The Department of Corrections, which consumes about three-quarters of justice systems spending, will face a net reduction only $1.6 million, and the Department of Public Safety, which costs six times more to run than the Attorney General’s Office, will see a small increase despite the bleak revenue forecast for the state as a whole.

Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Gary Worthan commented on April 12, “We would have liked to have done better with a lot of areas, but we’re forced to work with the realities of the budget.”

Fiscal constraints didn’t force anyone to inflict the deepest cuts on Iowans who have already experienced some of this world’s harshest realities. Republicans who put together this bill chose to spend 25 percent less next year on grants supporting survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

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Defunding Planned Parenthood will deal another blow to human services budget

The multimillion-dollar cost of excluding Planned Parenthood as a provider in Iowa’s new family planning program will come directly out of the health and human services budget, Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Charles Schneider has confirmed to Bleeding Heartland. Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad have committed to creating a fully state-run program because federal rules do not allow states to disqualify Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver. Under that waiver, federal funds have covered 90 percent of the Iowa Family Planning Network’s costs for many years.

In contrast, the state will be on the hook for every dollar spent on the new family planning services program. According to a fiscal note prepared by non-partisan legislative staff, that program is estimated to “increase General Fund expenditures by $2.1 million in FY 2018 and $3.1 million when implemented for a full year in FY 2019.”

The governor proposed using part of Iowa’s federal Social Services Block Grant funding to cover that cost, which is consistent with spending bills House Republicans approved during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions.

Instead, “a general fund appropriation in the health and human services budget” will pay for the new family planning program, Schneider said during an interview following the April 8 legislative forum in Waukee. After reviewing the proposal from the governor’s office, he explained, he chose to file “our own [bill] that didn’t take the money from the Social Services Block Grant.”

It’s understandable that Republican appropriators rejected Branstad’s idea. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, the Social Services Block Grant is not a reliable funding stream. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee leader has called for eliminating the grant, and House Republicans voted to do so last year.

But Republican plans to give up millions of federal family planning dollars look even more foolish now than they did a few months ago, when one considers Iowa’s worsening state revenue picture and the huge spending cuts already inflicted on human services.

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What you need to know about the bill that will get more Iowans killed

Voting mostly along party lines, the Iowa House approved on March 7 a bill containing many items on the gun lobby’s wish list. House File 517 would make it easier for Iowans to acquire, carry, and use firearms, relaxing permitting rules, expanding where people can bring concealed weapons, and enacting “Stand Your Ground” language. The bill is certain to pass the Republican-controlled state Senate, due to the heavy involvement of pro-gun groups in defeating several Democratic incumbents last year. Governor Terry Branstad has never seen a gun bill he didn’t like, so will surely sign House File 517 when it reaches his desk.

The most important likely result will be more shootings of unarmed people by Iowans newly entitled to use deadly force, without having to demonstrate that any person was in danger, or that the shooter had valid reason to feel threatened. Other states that adopted “Stand Your Ground” legislation have experienced a documented increase in homicides, with no evidence of deterrence effects. After Florida enacted a law similar to what the Iowa House just passed, “there was an abrupt and sustained increase in the monthly homicide rate of 24.4% […] and in the rate of homicide by firearm of 31.6% […].”

As State Representative Ras Smith underscored by putting on a hoodie during the Iowa House debate, African-Americans will be at particular risk, since research indicates “Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings.”

More tragedies may also occur in Iowa municipal offices, thanks to provisions making it harder for cities and counties to ban weapons from government buildings.

I enclose below some highlights from yesterday’s debate and details on House File 517. Because gun advocates continue to spread misinformation in order to build a case for “Stand Your Ground,” I also included relevant language from current state law and an Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

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New Iowa Senate Republican gun bill is unconstitutional as well as unwise

Pro-gun advocates spent a lot of money to help Republicans gain control of the Iowa Senate in last year’s elections. The GOP majority will likely move several of the gun lobby’s legislative priorities soon, including so-called “Stand Your Ground,” an amendment to Iowa’s constitution establishing the right to keep and bear arms, and relaxed rules on concealed carry permits and youth firing of handguns.

If they are smart, Republicans who venerate the Second Amendment will steer clear of State Senator Jake Chapman’s new bill, which would trample on the First Amendment and prevent potentially life-saving conversations.

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Defunding Planned Parenthood will cost much more than Iowa Republicans let on

Governor Terry Branstad and Republican leaders in the Iowa House and Senate are finally poised to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s state funding, a cherished goal Democrats had repeatedly blocked in recent years.

Branstad said during his Condition of the State address on Tuesday that his budget “redirects family planning money to organizations that focus on providing health care for women and eliminates taxpayer funding for organizations that perform abortions.” House and Senate leaders likewise depict their plan as a simple change to reimburse different health care providers, creating “better options for more women.”

What Iowa Republicans don’t broadcast: they are setting the state up to spend ten times more on family planning services, without a reliable funding stream.

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A year's worth of guest posts, plus tips for guest authors

One of my blogging new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to publish more work by other authors, and I’m grateful to the many talented writers who helped me meet that goal. After the jump I’ve linked to all 140 guest posts published here last year.

I encourage readers to consider writing for this site in 2017. Guest authors can write about any political issue of local, state, or national importance. As you can see from the stories enclosed below, a wide range of topics and perspectives are welcome here.

Pieces can be short or long, funny or sad. You can write in a detached voice or let your emotions show.

Posts can analyze what happened or advocate for what should happen, either in terms of public policy or a political strategy for Democrats. Authors can share first-person accounts of campaign events or more personal reflections about public figures.

Guest authors do not need to e-mail a draft to me or ask permission to pursue a story idea. Just register for an account (using the “sign up” link near the upper right), log in, write a post, edit as needed, and hit “submit for review” when you are ready to publish. The piece will be “pending” until I approve it for publication, to prevent spammers from using the site to sell their wares. You can write under your own name or choose any pseudonym not already claimed by another Bleeding Heartland user. I do not reveal authors’ identity without their permission.

I also want to thank everyone who comments on posts here. If you’ve never participated that way, feel free to register for a user account and share your views. If you used to comment occasionally but have not done so lately, you may need to reset your password. Let me know if you have any problems registering for an account, logging in, or changing a password. My address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

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My Hillary Clinton Retrospective

Tanya Keith has volunteered for many Democratic campaigns in Des Moines and was a precinct captain for Barack Obama before the 2008 Iowa caucuses. -promoted by desmoinesdem

We’re into the last two days of this campaign and as Hillary released her “Story of the Campaign” video, I began to think about my journey through this campaign. The lead up to the Iowa Caucus was a turning point in my life. My third and likely final child, a daughter, was born in April of 2015, just as my oldest was becoming a teenager. I realized that this was the last Presidential election that my oldest will not vote in, and I decided to push myself to show her how to engage in politics, even through the fog of early motherhood. My first venture on this mission was a trip to Newton, Iowa when the baby was 12 weeks old.

When my first was born, I was starting my own company, and with my second my company was going strong and I barely took any time off. My third born gave me the opportunity to indulge in staying home with her without the immediate pressure of working. Reaching 12 weeks, when American families who qualify for FMLA must return to work after unpaid leave was taking an emotional toll on me. My daughter was still so small, and I felt a personal responsibility to take advantage of the Iowa Caucus stage to shine a light on the absurdity of United States being the only industrialized nation to not offer paid family leave.

As Clinton wrapped up her speech and began taking questions, I stood up with my baby girl in my arms.

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Five reasons Chris Hagenow is worried about winning Iowa House district 43

The Republican Party has spent more than $400,000 defending Iowa House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow’s seat in the Des Moines suburbs, which he held by only 23 votes in the last presidential election cycle. Most of the money has bought television commercials, beginning six weeks ago and continuing in heavy rotation to the end.

Hagenow led with a ludicrous spot portraying himself as some kind of champion for education funding and the preschool program he voted to eliminate. He moved to a deceptive hit piece against Democratic challenger Jennifer Konfrst, followed by an ad touting his role in making EpiPens more widely available for kids. A second negative spot was a narrowly-focused attack on a tax lien Konfrst resolved many years ago–the height of hypocrisy, since Republican leaders were simultaneously funding the campaign of a House candidate with a much larger, still unpaid federal tax liability. In the last few days, local television stations have been running Hagenow’s initial positive ad, which misrepresents his record on education funding.

Hagenow is running scared, for good reason.

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Weekend open thread: Depressing news, inspiring news

What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: Some exceptionally sad news caught my eye recently:

A new investigation by the Associated Press and the USA Today network found that in the first six months of 2016, children aged 17 or younger “died from accidental shootings — at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults — at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate.” Alaska and Louisiana had the highest rates of accidental child shooting. A separate feature in the series focused on three incidents that killed two teenage girls and seriously injured another in Tama County, Iowa.

Government research on accidental gun deaths is nearly non-existent, because more than two decades ago, the National Rifle Association persuaded Congress to defund gun research by the Centers for Disease Control.

Meanwhile, the AP’s Scott McFetridge reported last week on the growing hunger problem in Storm Lake. The problem isn’t lack of jobs–the local unemployment rate is quite low–but a lack of livable wages. Iowa-born economist Austin Frerick mentioned Storm Lake and other towns dominated by meatpacking plants in his guest post here a few months ago: Big Meat, Small Towns: The Free Market Rationale for Raising Iowa’s Minimum Wage.

I enclose below excerpts from all of those stories, along with some good news from the past week:

The African-American Hall of Fame announced four new inductees, who have done incredible work in higher education, criminal justice, community organizing, and the practice of law.

Planned Parenthood marked the 100th anniversary of the first birth control clinic opening in the country on October 16. Click here for a timeline of significant events in the organization’s history.

Drake University Biology Professor Thomas Rosburg will receive this year’s Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Rosburg is a legend among Iowans who care about native plants, wetlands, and prairie restoration.

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Failing Iowa’s Children: The shortcomings of welfare reform and the path forward

Austin Frerick, an Iowa native and economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service, examines state assistance to poor children 20 years after federal welfare reform. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Nine-year-old Kaylie moved into a cheap motel after her mother got evicted. They have no refrigerator. Kaylie retrieves ice from the ice machine and fills the sink with it to keep the milk cold. When they have milk. Kaylie is just one of the approximately 110,000 Iowa children living in poverty, up 44 percent since 2000. Frontline profiled Kaylie and several other poor Iowa children in the acclaimed episode “Poor Kids.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of President Clinton’s Welfare Reform. Prior to the reform, any poor mother and child in this country received a monthly subsistence check. This law changed that. It destroyed that safety net. It removed this promise and left states free to almost eliminate welfare. Politicians promised innovation by devolving power to states on the premise that they would come up with new ways address poverty but that never happened (Iowa’s last innovation meeting occurred in 1996). They promised it would get poor mothers back to work, but the programs proved ineffective (Iowa allocates less than 6% of funding to job assistance).

Most welfare dollars don’t even go directly to poor children anymore. Most states, including Iowa, use this money to supplement funding elsewhere. Twenty years later, there are now more poor kids receiving less support. We have let the bottom fall even further for our most vulnerable.

Iowa should abandon its current failed welfare system and instead enact a Social Security program for all of its children. This idea builds on the simple notion that parents know what is best for their children, and it would remove layers of ineffective bureaucracy.

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An Iowa mom's perfect care package for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch

Outrage has been building for several days over news that the Mylan corporation jacked up wholesale prices for EpiPens from $56.64 to $317.82 between 2007 and 2015. Mylan is the sole suppler of devices patients can use to inject epinephrine in case of life-threatening allergic reactions. Manufacturing costs for EpiPens have not increased, and the active ingredient is a “generic drug that has been in use for decades.” Adding to the scandal, the annual total compensation for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch has increased from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068 since 2007. The company exploited a loophole called “inversion” two years ago to reduce its tax bill.

Yesterday Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called on Mylan to reduce the price of EpiPens. Members of Congress including Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley have asked the company to explain the pricing changes and asked the Food and Drug Administration “to answer questions about its approval process and other steps for alternatives to the EpiPen.” Michael Hiltzik reported for the Los Angeles Times that another device used to self-inject epinephrine “was taken off the market last year because of manufacturing defects,” and a similar product from a generics company “hasn’t yet won approval from the Food and Drug Administration.” Another generic product is available at a lower cost but works differently, “in ways that can lead to critical errors if users aren’t properly trained,” and it “can’t be substituted when filling a prescription” for an EpiPen.

Mylan promised today to offer more assistance for people who need to buy EpiPens. But as Andrew Pollack reported for the New York Times, the extra discounts are “not lowering the list price of EpiPen, just making it easier for consumers to pay for it. So insurance companies, federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and school districts that stock the products could still pay the same price.” Bresch sounded shameless this morning during a CNBC interview, justifying the price increase because of higher marketing and distribution costs and other improvements to the product. “No one is more frustrated than I am,” she claimed.

My friend Colleen Kinney, a Des Moines mother of a child with severe food allergy, is mailing Bresch a care package today. She gave me permission to publish this photo of the cookies she baked and will send along with a note: “Heather Bresch, Please provide explanation for epipen price hike. Enjoy these treats. If my son ate these, he would die without Mylan’s epi-pen.”

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Republican platform proposal demeans non-biological families, belies "family values"

Commentaries on either party’s platform are welcome here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

As an adult, I accept that not everyone is going to share my views on all things. Part of living in a democracy means that we come together to discuss our individual perspectives and try to find means of compromise that allow us to move forward together.

But I have my limits.

Behold, an amendment to the Republican national platform, addressing—of all things—no-fault divorce:

“We believe children have a natural right to be raised in an intact biological family. While brokenness can befall children in a myriad ways [sic], we acknowledge that children are made to be loved by both natural parents united in marriage.”

As an adoptee, I find this language viscerally offensive, bordering on the obscene.

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Trump mocking reporter with disability is focus of pro-Clinton super-PAC ad in Iowa

“When I saw Donald Trump mock somebody with a disability, it showed me his soul. It showed me his heart. And I didn’t like what I saw.” The father of a child with spina bifida delivers that devastating closing line in a new tv ad by Priorities USA Action. The super-PAC that supports Hillary Clinton for president is running the 60-second spot in seven swing states, including Iowa. I enclose below the video and transcript.

Although this commercial probably won’t change the minds of anyone inclined to support Trump for president, it should reinforce his historically low favorability ratings, especially among women with children.

Most early electoral vote projections show Iowa as a tossup state, though I have seen a few putting our state in the “lean D” category. Democratic candidates have won Iowa’s electoral votes in six of the last seven presidential elections.

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IA-Sen: Grassley's debut tv ad stresses bipartisan Judiciary Committee work

A few days after former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge became the first U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa to run television commercials this year, six-term Senator Chuck Grassley’s campaign placed a small buy for ads in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Despite facing no competition for the Republican nomination, Grassley has run tv ads in May during previous re-election races, most recently in 2010.

The senator’s debut spot this year carries over the “Grassley Works” slogan from past campaigns. But whereas the opening pitch from 2010 emphasized the incumbent’s personal qualities and commitment to visiting every Iowa county every year, the new spot appears designed to rebut criticism over Grassley’s refusal to hold hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

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Iowa families get promises but no guarantee on autism insurance coverage

Iowa families hoping for guaranteed insurance coverage of autism services will have to wait at least one more year. Despite Democratic efforts to add an autism coverage mandate to the health and human services budget for fiscal year 2017, the compromise approved on the final day of this year’s legislative session excluded such language. Instead, lawmakers increased state funding for various autism-related grants and programs.

According to the lead Republican negotiator on the human services budget, families affected by autism will have insurance coverage by January 2017 without a mandate, thanks to Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s decision to sell policies through Iowa’s public insurance exchange. But those policies will not be available to Iowans living in dozens of counties, nor will they cover applied behavior analysis (ABA) interventions, which are effective but prohibitively expensive for many people with spectrum disorders.

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Iowa Democrats trying to add autism insurance coverage to budget bill

Earlier this month, Claire Celsi informed Bleeding Heartland readers about the demise of an autism insurance bill after State Representative Peter Cownie refused to bring the measure up for a vote in the Iowa House Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

As both Autism Awareness Month and the 2016 legislative session wind down, Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate have been working to add the same requirements to a must-pass budget bill. Follow me after the jump for background and where things stand in this fight.

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Peter Cownie Kills Autism Insurance Bill

Claire Celsi is the Democratic challenger to Peter Cownie in Iowa House district 42. -promoted by desmoinesdem

April is Autism month. I wish I had better news for all the parents out there who are trying to provide the best care for their children.

State Representative Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines), Chair of the Iowa House Commerce Committee, single-handedly killed the bill that autism advocates in Iowa had worked all year to bring to a vote in the House Commerce Committee. Cownie had challenged the bill’s advocates to “find him seven Republican votes” so he could bring the bill up and pass it out of his committee for consideration by the entire House. The autism advocates (mostly parents of children who have autism) found the committee votes – both Democrat and Republican. On March 8, the Commerce Committee met, but the bill was never brought up for a vote. Cownie apparently decided that insurance companies were more important than kids. I have heard stories from some of the parents who worked very hard to convince legislators to vote for the bill and they are adamant that the bill would have passed if Cownie would have allowed it to come up for a vote in his committee.

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Weekend open thread: Threats to public health edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

On April 1, three months later than originally planned, Iowa officially switched to a managed-care model for the Medicaid program. Erin Murphy explained here how privatization will affect almost all of our state’s roughly 560,000 Medicaid recipients.

Many Iowans on Medicaid are learning that their current health care providers are now out of network, a particular concern for those who have special medical needs. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota has not signed contracts with any of the three insurance companies selected to be managed-care providers in Iowa. KCRG’s Katie Wiedemannn reported on March 31 about a 9-year-old cancer patient whose scheduled treatment at Mayo has been delayed because of the new policy. I am aware of other families whose children on Medicaid have relied on out-of-state medical specialists to treat their children’s rare genetic or chronic conditions.

Iowa House Republican leaders have refused to act on an extensive Medicaid oversight bill that cleared the Senate with bipartisan support. However, they promise to unveil their own Medicaid oversight proposal soon. Senate Democrats will seek to add many oversight provisions to the human services budget, which is often one of the last bills to be resolved before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

One major red flag: Iowa hired only “two ombudsmen to investigate and work as advocates for the 560,000 poor or disabled people” on Medicaid. As Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register in January, a working group that studied the issue recommended hiring 134 more ombudsmen at a possible cost of $17 million annually.

Rhonda Shouse has been among the most vocal opponents of Medicaid privatization. She shared with Bleeding Heartland some resources for recipients who run into problems with their new managed-care providers. I enclose those below.

Some good public health news: state lawmakers recently approved a bill that would allow “First responders, emergency medical service providers, police, firefighters and licensed health care professionals” to maintain a supply of the drug Naloxone (also known as Narcan). The medication can prevent death after an overdose of heroin or prescription opioid pain-killers, both of which have become more prevalent in Iowa, as in many other states. Senate File 2218 passed the upper chamber the Senate unanimously and cleared the House by 93 votes to 2 (the dissenters were Republicans Stan Gustafson and Mike Sexton). Several groups representing law enforcement or medical professionals lobbied for this bill. At this writing, Governor Terry Branstad has not yet signed it.

UPDATE: Branstad signed the bill about the overdose drug on April 6.

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Medicaid Privatization Hurts Vulnerable Iowans

Maridith Morris is a nurse and the Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 39. -promoted by desmoinesdem

This picture is my nephew Fin. He is an adorable, happy little guy and I love him to pieces. Fin has autism spectrum disorder. Fin is just one vulnerable Iowan who is going to be hurt by Medicaid privatization.

At Fin’s age, early intervention therapy is crucial for his positive outcomes. Therapy can mean the difference between him becoming a high functioning adult, one who is able to live independently, work, and pay taxes and a disabled adult needing tax payer support. Despite the crucial nature of Fin’s therapy, the rush to privatize Iowa’s Medicaid puts those services in jeopardy. To receive therapy, Fin’s parents will have to transport him from Indianola to appointments at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines because services are no longer in network in Indianola.

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Three Republicans join Iowa Senate Democrats in vote to terminate Medicaid privatization

This morning the Iowa Senate passed Senate File 2125, which would terminate contracts the state has signed with insurance companies picked to manage care for Iowans on Medicaid. Governor Terry Branstad announced his administration’s “modernization” plans early last year and selected four managed care providers in August, with a view to fully privatizing Medicaid by January 1, 2016. The state later terminated a contract with one of those four companies, and the federal government refused to grant the necessary waivers, saying Iowa would not be ready to shift to managed care until March 1 at the earliest.

Iowa Senate leaders made clear on day one of this year’s legislative session that Medicaid privatization would be a pressing concern. Senate President Pam Jochum has been sounding the alarm since last year, worried about how privatization would affect her developmentally disabled adult daughter and other Iowans with special needs. Jochum gave the opening and closing remarks in support of Senate File 2125 today. She repeatedly warned that the Branstad administration has tried to do too much, too fast, without input from state lawmakers or other stakeholders with expertise in the area. Fellow Democrats Chris Brase, Liz Mathis, Mary Jo Wilhelm, Rich Taylor, and Amanda Ragan echoed many of those concerns in their speeches.

During the floor debate, Republican State Senator David Johnson explained why he would vote for the bill. He read e-mails from numerous constituents expressing concern about access to health services for their loved ones on Medicaid. He pointed out that Minnesota took 20 years to transition to managed care, while Iowa is trying to implement the same changes over just one year. “It’s moving too fast. That’s the issue here. We need to put a dagger in this.”

Last week Johnson became the first GOP lawmaker to come out in favor of terminating the privatization program; I enclose below excerpts from Jason Clayworth’s report for the Des Moines Register. Johnson’s fears about “children at risk of losing services” stem from the failure of the managed care companies to sign contracts with thousands of providers who have been treating Iowans on Medicaid, including children on HAWK-I (Iowa’s version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program). Scroll to the end of this post for more details on that access problem, based on data from the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Republicans who spoke against the bill today included Senators Jason Schultz and Mark Chelgren. Schultz claimed Democrats took “ownership” of managed care by putting assumptions about Medicaid savings into the health and human services budget for the current fiscal year. During her concluding remarks, Jochum pushed back hard against the idea that a vote for last year’s health and human services budget was a vote for managed care. Rarely do I ever agree with Schultz, but I think Senate Democrats walked into a trap there. The Branstad administration’s estimates on reduced Medicaid costs after privatization were never grounded in reality, but Democrats accepted those assumptions in the budget they passed–not because they supported the Branstad effort, but likely because doing so gave them an extra $51 million to spend on other health-related priorities.

Chelgren argued that lawmakers should keep their word after voting for a budget that assumed Medicaid would shift to managed care. He likened the situation to Congressional Republicans voting to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act without having a plan ready to replace “Obamacare.” The analogy fails because terminating Medicaid privatization that hasn’t been fully implemented would not be like repealing Obamacare after several years of operation. The status quo is an available and less disruptive alternative to serving the 560,000 Iowans on Medicaid. Chelgren claimed that halting Medicaid privatization and starting the process over would “betray” those who signed up as providers under the new system. That argument made no sense; public comments from Iowans on Medicaid and health care stakeholders have overwhelmingly opposed the Branstad policy.

During her concluding remarks, Jochum refuted claims that 39 other states have put Medicaid in managed care. In reality, only four states have fully privatized the system, as the governor is doing.

Shortly after the floor debate, senators voted 29 to 19 to approve SF 2125. Republicans Jake Chapman and Tom Shipley joined Johnson and all 26 Senate Democrats. Notably, those three Republicans all represent strongly GOP districts, not marginal seats.

The bill now goes to the Iowa House, where Speaker Linda Upmeyer has indicated she does not plan to bring the measure up for debate. For a nurse practitioner by training, Upmeyer is remarkably insensitive to ordinary people’s health care needs–not only those on Medicaid, but also chronically ill Iowans who could benefit from medical cannabis. A post in progress will catch up on the state of play for medical marijuana in the Iowa legislature.

UPDATE: Added more links and comments on the Medicaid debate below. According to Erin Murphy, Upmeyer confirmed today that the House will not take up SF 2125, because the governor would certainly veto it. Given how unpopular Medicaid privatization is, the public would likely support a legislative override of that veto. But at least five more Republican senators would have to change their stands to override a veto in the upper chamber. In the House, at least 24 GOP state representatives would need to support an override, assuming all 43 House Democrats voted in favor.

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Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice describes reforms to reduce racial disparity, improve juries

Last year, racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system were a major theme of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady’s annual Condition of the Judiciary report to state legislators. Today Cady followed up by telling Iowa House and Senate members how the judicial branch is addressing the problem through training judges and staff, pilot programs aimed at reducing school referrals to juvenile court, early steps to change the rules on pretrial release of those charged with crimes, and better jury selection procedures. I’ve posted the relevant sections of his 2016 Condition of the Judiciary speech (as prepared) below. The full text is available here. Click through to read sections focusing on what Cady has described as the justice system’s six priorities:

• Protect Iowa’s children
• Provide full-time access to justice
• Operate an efficient full-service court system
• Provide faster and less costly resolution of legal disputes
• Operate in an open and transparent way
• Provide fair and impartial justice for all

Near the end of his speech, Cady discussed the largely unknown problem of human trafficking, which “exists as a dark underworld in many communities across Iowa and is associated with some of Iowa’s most iconic places and events.” I enclose those remarks at the end of this post. For more background on what trafficking looks like in Iowa, listen to this Iowa Public Radio program from 2012 or read Annie Easker’s investigative report for Iowa Watch. Bridget Garrity’s feature on a documentary film about trafficking is another good read. After advocates for trafficking victims raised awareness of Iowa’s poor legal framework for fighting such crimes, state legislators passed and Governor Terry Branstad signed major bills on trafficking during the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Chief Justice Cady is a contender for all-time best appointee during Branstad’s oh-so-long tenure as governor. Who else is in his league?

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Criminal justice reform is major theme of Branstad's Condition of the State address

Governor Terry Branstad delivered his annual Condition of the State address to members of the Iowa House and Senate and the Iowa Supreme Court justices yesterday. If you missed the speech, the full prepared text is here. Iowa Public Television posted the video and transcript here. The early part of the 30-minute address included one false or misleading assertion after another.

· “Sound budgeting practices and fiscal discipline now have us ranked as the 3rd best managed state in the nation.” Contrary to the idea that Branstad markedly improved Iowa’s operation, a major investors group also ranked Iowa the third best-managed state in 2010 under Governor Chet Culver, recognizing Iowa’s good fiscal position, high credit ratings from leading agencies, and low debt per capita compared to most other states.

· “The Iowa Economy has created 214,000 new jobs; surpassing our 2010 goal.” Sorry, no. That’s a fake statistic no economist would accept. It’s a shame the governor has instructed Iowa Workforce Development to keep cooking the books on employment.

· “If the state fails to implement managed care, the growth of Medicaid spending will consume virtually all of our revenue growth.” The Branstad administration has not been able to demonstrate that managed care will save the state money. Florida’s Medicaid privatization turned out to be more costly without improving patient care.

I was also disappointed not to hear more specifics about how Branstad envisions spending funds he would like to divert from school infrastructure to water programs. What kind of water quality programs would be prioritized, and who would administer them? Then again, details about this plan may be irrelevant, because Iowa House and Senate leaders don’t sound open to the idea.

For now, I want to focus on a much more promising part of Branstad’s address. To my surprise, the governor devoted a major section–roughly eight minutes of speaking time–to advocating for criminal justice reforms proposed by a working group he appointed in August. The group was charged with developing ideas to increase fairness and reduce racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system. Click here to read the full recommendations released in November. Bleeding Heartland will discuss some of the proposals in more detail in future posts. Advocates for defendants’ rights and racial justice have generally welcomed the proposals.

Although some policies do not go far enough, and other important reforms are missing from the document, I’m encouraged to see the governor apply some political capital toward reducing systemic racism and inequities in the justice system. I enclose below the relevant portion of Branstad’s speech, with some annotations.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot to mention one thing Branstad could do immediately to address a massive racial disparity in Iowa. His executive order making it extremely difficult for felons to regain their voting rights disenfranchises Iowans of all ethnic backgrounds but disproportionately affects racial minorities.

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Budget looms large, social issues largely absent on the Iowa legislature's opening day in 2016

Governor Terry Branstad wore a pink tie and many colleagues remarked on history made yesterday at the Capitol, as Linda Upmeyer became the first woman to preside over the Iowa House as speaker, as well as the first child of an Iowa legislative leader to rise to the same position. Erin Murphy’s take on the milestone is worth a read.

As in recent years, social issues were almost entirely absent from the leaders’ opening remarks to their Iowa House and Senate colleagues. State budget priorities dominated the comments relating to public policy, with Republicans emphasizing the importance of not spending too much and Democrats emphasizing the need to spend enough on education and other vital services. No one mentioned Branstad’s call to extend the penny sales tax for school infrastructure and divert part of the revenue stream to water programs.

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An Open Letter to Joni Ernst Regarding Iowa's Cannabis Oil Bill

Abram photo 7948060_orig_zpsq51yhx2g.jpg

Note from desmoinesdem: Cross-posted from the Abram Mayhem blog. The Iowa legislature adopted and Governor Terry Branstad signed into law a measure to legalize cannabis oil for some seizure disorders in 2014.

Dear US Senator Joni Ernst,
I was in the Drake Diner in Des Moines, Iowa the day you came to celebrate your win for the US Senate. I was sitting in the booth right by the front door. I had my small son who was two at the time and you had a large group in the back who cheered loudly and clapped for you as you came in.

You didn’t notice that when your group of supporters began screaming for you, that my son slammed his head twice on the edge of table. The noise your group suddenly made (without regard to any of the other patrons) both terrified and overwhelmed him. The metal edging on those old vintage-style tables there really did a number on my son’s forehead and he had a lump and a bruise for over a week. Two of your supporters noticed my son in hysterics as they walked by. Instead of smiling or offering some form of apology for the uproar, they sneered at us as I was trying to calm him down. I’m sure they saw the huge welt on his forehead and thought of me as a terrible mother. They were both still smoking outside when we left.

You didn’t acknowledge my son that day in the Diner and you aren’t acknowledging him now. So, it didn’t surprise me when you accidentally sent me the response to “crude oil” instead of “cannabis oil” to my e-mail. It’s those little attention-to-details things one has to do when someone truly cares about their people. I was pleased to see that I received an additional e-mail today with your response to “cannabis oil” instead of “crude oil” today.

The bare-boned truth here is you didn’t take the time to actually hear what my real concerns were at all. My name was just pasted into a bulk e-mail (just like the “crude oil” response) and sent on out, without any real regard to what is happening to people in the Unites States of America, let alone your home state, Iowa. You yourself claimed in your campaign that you are a “normal, everyday” Iowan. If that were true, you would listen to the concerns of the mothers and families in this state who are reaching out to you for help in Iowa and in Congress.

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Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum endorsing Hillary Clinton is a big deal

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum endorsed Hillary Clinton for president today in a guest column for the Des Moines Register. This afternoon, she will elaborate on her reasons at a Women for Hillary event in Dubuque.

Jochum joins the list of prominent Iowa supporters of Barack Obama before the 2008 caucuses who are now backing Clinton. An Iowa House Democrat at that time, Jochum headed Obama’s leadership team in Dubuque County. Obama easily won a plurality of delegates in Dubuque and carried all of the neighboring counties too.

More important, Jochum is a hero to many on what you might call “the Democratic wing of the Iowa Democratic Party.” I’m thinking of the 26 percent who voted for Ed Fallon in the 2006 gubernatorial primary, as well as people who have long advocated for campaign finance reform at the state level. Although I think highly of Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, he’s not the progressive champion Jochum is–not by a long shot. She has helped fight some very tough fights, where powerful interest groups were lined up on the other side. I can’t think of an Iowa state legislator in my lifetime who has reached such a senior leadership position while being as consistently progressive as Jochum.

My impression is that many on the “Democratic wing” of the party have already committed to caucus for Bernie Sanders. Others feel conflicted as I do, drawn to Sanders for his passion and his uncompromising policy agenda, while recognizing Clinton’s strengths as a candidate and what it would mean for this country to elect a woman president. That Jochum is on board with Clinton could carry a lot of weight with undecided Democrats like me.

Before today, eight Democratic state senators and nine state representatives had already endorsed Clinton for the 2016 caucuses. I’ve enclosed the full list after the jump, along with excerpts from Jochum’s Des Moines Register op-ed.

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Twelve resources for Iowans to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month (updated)

A new Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline started taking calls today, MacKenzie Elmer reported for the Des Moines Register.

Survivors from any corner of the state can call the free and confidential number, 800-770-1650, to reach one of fifteen staff members who are trained to handle everything from crisis situations to counseling. […]

Before the hotline, survivors called either law enforcement or their local advocacy program. Though most programs have someone ready to answer the local crisis line 24/7, some survivors’ calls may have gone unanswered.

Local programs and advocates can now forward those calls to the hotline, where an expert can direct that survivor to the services he or she needs. […]

The statewide hotline should also provide a greater level of anonymity for survivors, [Iowa Attorney General’s Office crime victim assistance division director Janelle] Melohn said, since those living in rural areas may be hesitant to call their local program for fear that the person on the other line will recognize them.

The helpline’s launch coincides with the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which grew out of efforts during the 1980s to “connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children.” In that spirit, I enclose below twelve links to resources for people who have been or are currently threatened by domestic violence, or care about someone in an abusive relationship.

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No comment from most Iowans in Congress as EPA expands farm worker pesticide protections

On Monday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the final version of “stronger protections for the nation’s two million agricultural workers and their families working on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. These revisions to the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard will afford farmworkers similar health protections that are already afforded to workers in other industries.” Under the old rules, exposure to chemicals incurred “an estimated $10 million to $15 million in annual health costs” among farm workers The new rules do not cover “persons working with livestock” and exempt “farm owners and their immediate family with an expanded definition of family.” I’ve enclosed after the jump a fact sheet summarizing key changes, a short summary of the public health case for the rule, and a graphic that shows the old and new rules side by side. Click here for the EPA’s press release on the changes and here for a more detailed five-page chart.

Fruit and vegetable farming isn’t a huge industry in Iowa like it is in states with longer growing seasons, such as California or Florida. Still, Iowa farms have been producing more of what some call “specialty crops” as more consumers here seek out local food. Moreover, expanding fruit and vegetable production in Iowa has potential to create jobs and increase local incomes, according to this 2010 paper by Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson. So I sought comment from the Iowans in Congress on the new regulations. At this writing, I have not heard back from the offices of House Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), David Young (IA-03), or Steve King (IA-04). I also haven’t received a comment from Senator Chuck Grassley. Senator Joni Ernst’s communications director sent the following:

Senator Ernst believes that once again the Obama Administration is overstepping its bounds, expanding onerous regulations that fail to consider the full impact on stakeholders, like Iowa’s agriculture industry. The EPA is continuing to act as an unchecked federal agency, adding burdensome new rules and costs. In addition, the EPA completely ignores the safety progress that has already been made under existing guidelines for our youth.

Iowa politicians tend to be hostile to any new regulation affecting farms or other agricultural facilities. Most of Iowa’s federal representatives opposed the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts in 2011 to update protections for children on working farms. Every Iowan in Congress except for Senator Tom Harkin welcomed the department’s decision to withdraw that rule in April 2012.

A spokesperson for Governor Terry Branstad said they don’t have a reaction to the new farm worker safety rule yet but will evaluate it “in its entirety.” I can’t think of a time Branstad supported any regulation of farming practices, so I assume he will not be favorably disposed toward the new EPA rule. But if he’s serious about making Iowa the “healthiest state,” reducing unnecessary exposure to pesticides would be a worthy goal to embrace.

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Where are they now? Anesa Kajtazovic edition

Another Throwback Thursday post is coming later today, but I’ve been meaning to catch Bleeding Heartland readers up on Anesa Kajtazovic. She served two terms in the Iowa House, having stepped in following legal troubles for the previous Democratic incumbent in a Waterloo-based district. Kajtazovic did not seek re-election to the state legislature in 2014. Instead, she ran for Congress in Iowa’s first district, finishing fourth in the Democratic primary.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported in June that Kajtazovic had become executive director of the Family & Children’s Council of Black Hawk County, a non-profit “focused on child and sex abuse prevention, parenting education and other programming.” At this writing, the council’s website is down, but this note on the organization’s Facebook page summarizes various parenting classes, children’s programs, and family services offered in the Cedar Valley area. A few weeks ago, Holly Hudson reported for the Courier on Kajtazovic’s work for the Family & Children’s Council. I’ve posted excerpts after the jump, but I encourage you to click through to read the whole piece.

Our culture tends to glamorize success in the business world, rather than the non-profit sector. But I can hardly think of a more valuable way for Kajtazovic to dedicate her time and energy. The Family & Children’s Council is working on many of the most pressing issues related to children’s physical safety and long-term health. Vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death and serious injury; the council helps provide car seats to needy families and runs training sessions on how to use them properly. The council’s staff “visit well over 600 families [of newborns] a year in the hospitals,” according to Kajtazovic. That kind of outreach to parents of newborns has been shown to reduce child abuse. Social workers may also spot early risk factors for postpartum depression, helping women find resources if needed. Other staff or volunteers reach thousands of children in area schools with programs like “Take Charge of Your Body,” a curriculum aimed at preventing sexual abuse. Ideally, parents would teach their children about good touch/bad touch and similar rules. But since those conversations are not happening in many households, what a child learns at school about saying no, getting away, and telling an adult could be life-changing.

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Fallout from state's selection of companies to manage Medicaid for half a million Iowans

On Monday, the Iowa Department of Human Services announced the four private insurance companies selected to manage care for almost all of the 560,000 Iowans on Medicaid. Pending successful contract negotiations, Amerigroup Iowa, AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa, UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, and WellCare of Iowa will start managing care for Iowans on January 1, 2016. It’s too early to say how the change will affect medical services. Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan expressed concern “that people will fall through the cracks” and said she hopes Iowans will contact state lawmakers “if problems develop” under the new system.

Some losers have emerged from the process already: namely, two companies now managing care for some Iowans on Medicaid, which were not selected to continue in that role next year. Follow me after the jump for background on the Medicaid privatization plan and the fallout from the Iowa DHS not choosing Magellan Health Inc and Meridian Health Plan as managed care organizations for 2016.  

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Mother, family are themes of Hillary Clinton's first tv ads in Iowa

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign started running two 60-second television commercials today in Iowa and New Hampshire. An August 2 press release noted,

These ads are part of an initial five-week, approximately $1 million ad buy in each state plus additional digital advertising. In New Hampshire, the ads will run statewide – in the Boston/Manchester market and in the Burlington market. In Iowa, the ads will air in the state’s two largest media markets – Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. As of today, Republican candidates and their SuperPACS have spent or reserved $34 million in air time in the four early primary states.

I enclose below the videos for “Dorothy” and “Family Strong,” with my annotated transcripts.

The commercials are strong, but I have to say: if you can afford to spend $2 million on tv ads in August (and Clinton can, having raised $47,549,799.64 for her campaign between April 1 and June 30), then you should have paid your full-time summer interns–sorry, “fellows.”

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Just when I was starting to think Mike Huckabee was smart

Blogger’s lament: let’s say you have a post in progress about a Republican carving out a promising niche in a crowded presidential field. He’s talking about highly salient issues for non-wealthy Americans, in a way that will distinguish him from most of his rivals. Not only do those policies relate to the well-being of many voters, they also allow the candidate to position himself against “elite” GOP strategists and other establishment figures hated by the party’s conservative base.

Then the guy does the stupidest thing you could imagine.

With one Facebook status update on Friday, Mike Huckabee may have wiped out any chance of broadening his appeal through the smart decision to focus his early campaign rhetoric on Social Security and trade.

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Memorial Day weekend open thread

What’s on your mind this holiday weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. For Memorial Day-related links, click here or here.

My social media feeds have been blowing up with comments about the Josh Duggar molestation allegations. The story has evoked strong emotions in many women, whether or not they’ve ever watched Duggar-themed reality tv. Sad to say, my friends who grew up in conservative Christian patriarchal households were not surprised by what Duggar allegedly did as a teenager. Some have shared appalling accounts of how girls and women are socialized to tolerate abuse or blame themselves later. After the jump I’ve enclosed a horrific document on “Counseling Sexual Abuse,” produced by the Institute in Basic Life Principles and used for many years by the Advanced Training Institute. The Recovering Grace website analyzes the document’s “victim-blaming” and “callous dismissal of abuse survivors’ pain” point by point. I am heartbroken for any woman who received that message in so-called “counseling.”

Former Arkansas Governor and current presidential candidate Mike Huckabee posted on Facebook an unbelievable defense of the Duggar family’s conduct. Bleeding Heartland will have more to say on that in a future post. For now, I want to call attention to Huckabee’s assertion that “He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities.” Based on what we know now, the Duggar parents neither reported the alleged abuse promptly nor got professional therapy for their son or daughters. Local authorities destroyed the old police records of the case, so we may never know the whole story.

Final note, since Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer: it’s worth re-reading Mario Vittone’s reminder that “drowning doesn’t look like drowning.”

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Dowling Catholic High School considering request for gay-straight alliance

Administrators at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines are considering students’ request to form “a non-religious LGBT support club.” The school made national news recently for withdrawing a contract offered to a teacher after administrators learned he was openly gay. After at least 150 students walked out of class to protest the hiring decision, a junior at the school who is gay started a petition seeking to form a club where all students “can feel supported and loved.” Initially school officials said they would discuss the request, and at this writing, they have not announced a decision. Gay-straight alliances exist in scores of Iowa public high schools, but to my knowledge, the only Catholic school in the state with such a club is Regina High School in Iowa City.

After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Liam Jameson’s petition at Change.org and the full text of an e-mail Dowling Catholic President Jerry Deegan sent to parents on April 16. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

On a related note, although I could not be more strongly pro-choice, I believe students at Hampton-Dumont High School in Franklin County, Iowa should be allowed to form a “Students for Life” club, as long as staff don’t promote the club and students are not required to attend.

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Grassley, Ernst vote for Medicare reimbursement deal

Changes to entitlement programs rarely attract strong bipartisan support, but on Tuesday the U.S. Senate approved a bill to change how Medicare sets reimbursement rates for doctors by 92 votes to 8 (roll call). All of the no votes came from Republicans, but Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported the bill. Follow me after the jump for background and details.

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Study shows distractions cause 6 in 10 crashes involving teen drivers

After analyzing video data from roughly 1,700 crashes, University of Iowa researchers determined that “distracted driving contributes to nearly 60 percent of car crashes involving teen drivers” between the ages of 16 and 19. That’s a far higher figure than previous studies have indicated. The findings are significant because although teenagers drive less than most other age groups, “their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high.”

The full report, “Using Naturalistic Driving Data to Assess the Prevalence of Environmental Factors and Driver Behaviors in Teen Driver Crashes,” is available here (pdf). Some highlights are here and after the jump, along with more details about the methodology.

Interacting with passengers in the car and talking or texting on a cell phone were among the most common distractions preceding teen driver crashes. Proposed legislation to ban most cell phone use while driving did not make it through the Iowa legislature’s “funnel” this year, so it’s up to parents to help address the problem by voluntarily not texting or carrying on phone conversations while they drive.

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Moderatepachy Goes to Des Moines: Vol. I

(Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest diaries, and during the busy legislative session, it's particularly helpful to get a close look at bills proposed in the Iowa House or Senate. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

When I am not a moderatepachy, I am a lawyer.  The majority of my practice is as defense counsel in civil litigation.  Sometimes, the job is rewarding, especially when you win in lawsuits initiated by lawyers who advertise like this (disclosure: I have never opposed them, but I hope to one day, and win).  Other times, the job causes headaches, because my job is to to be a skeptic.

Recently, I went to the Iowa State Senate to talk about this proposed legislation.  SF107 extends the Statute of Limitations for filing civil (and criminal) actions relating to sex abuse of a child.  You can read an 80% accurate depiction of the Senate Subcommitte hearing here.  Believe this moderatepachy, the testimony from the survivors was passionate.  Petrovsky omitted that another survivor of abuse, John, gave compelling testimony.

What Petroski also missed is that the bill would allow suits within 25 years of the “discovery” of abuse by the alleged victim.   In other words, the 60+ year old senior partner at my firm could “discover” tomorrow that he had been abused as a child, and he would have 25 years to file suit… imagine a lawsuit filed in 2039 for something that allegedly occurred during the LBJ administration.   (No doubt Hillary Clinton's granddaughter and Ted Cruz's son will yell at one another about the lawsuit one day on Fox News' “Hannity & Son”).

The sensitive and difficult nature about these types of suits is touched on here by the Iowa Catholic Conference; the Catholic church has a dog in this fight for obvious reasons I need not explain.

Besides those, the reality is that most abusers do not have any money; but insurance policyholders do.   The gimmick, then, is that one sues the abuser… but also wherever the abuser taught, worked, and preached, under a theory that supervisors are liable for whatever their subordinates do.  Imagine the changes that occur in 4 years (the Statute of Limitations right now) in a business, school, or church.  Records, witnesses, memories… gone.  Just like plaintiffs, defendants have a right to a fair trial.  How can one defend against an alleged wrong that occured 30, 50, or 70 years ago?

After the victims testified, it was clear that Senator Petersen (D, SD-18) urgently wanted to move the bill forward.  The defense bar hopes that cooler heads might prevail in the House.  Last year, similar legislation died in a Senate subcommittee.  To oppose this bill is tricky; to be seen as “against” abuse victims is to be seen as tacitly “supporting” abusers.    

What is interesting is that the lobbyist declarations have not been very active; certainly there are other things that keep our legislators busy, and in same cases, motivate our legislative leaders to cave to Farm Bureau pull members of their own caucus off of committees to get things done.

I urge any other Bleeding Heartland readers, if you hear about legislation you might not like, figure out a way to find it, found out who supports it, and share your view with your legislators.    

This moderatepachy may have further updates and hopes to give readers more insights in the legislative sausage being made.  Moderatepachy would also like to salute the work of desmoinesdem, for creating an incredible local resource on Iowa politics.  It smarts that the analysis and writing in this blog and another (D)'s usually has more contextstatewide scope, and humour (say it with a British or French accent to justify my misspelling), than the flagship for my party.   

 

Mid-week open thread: Tragedies

Several recent tragedies in the Des Moines area have been on my mind this week. Last Friday, a body was found in Water Work Park, later identified as Richard Miles, a Iraq War veteran who had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after three deployments. He had sought in-patient help at the VA hospital in Des Moines on February 15, but was sent home with medication. He disappeared two days later. U.S. Senator Joni Ernst has written to the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs seeking a federal investigation into Miles’ case and more generally the mental health programs of the Veterans Affairs Central Iowa Health Care System.

After the jump I’ve posted a list of mental health resources available to veterans, as well as a timeline and statement that Miles’ friends released this week.

Two girls who attended Urbandale Middle School committed suicide within a week of each other. One was 12 years old and in sixth grade; the other 14 years old and in eighth grade. Police haven’t found evidence of bullying in the first case and are investigating the second case. The sixth-grader’s father has urged parents “to monitor their children’s social media activity and for others to speak out if they see anything unusual on a friend’s account.” I’ve enclosed more of his comments below.

Child psychiatrist Dr. Donner Dewdney encourages parents to watch closely for sign of depression in their children, and to talk to teens specifically about alternatives to suicide.

Here are some resources and hotline numbers for Iowans of any age who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Many resources for children or teenagers who have experienced the death of a friend or close relative are available here and here.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Mid-week open thread, with more links on the vaccine controversy

What’s on your mind this week, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Both in the “real world” and on social media, it seems like everyone I know is talking about the controversy over mandatory vaccinations in light of the current measles outbreak. Following up on yesterday’s post about some Republican presidential candidates’ comments, here are more related links:

Over at Iowa Starting Line, Pat Rynard compiles reaction from other GOP presidential hopefuls, including Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. (Scot Walker also issued a strong pro-vaccination statement.) Rynard sees Christie and Paul getting “burned” on an issue they didn’t handle well. I’m not so sure. Social conservatives do not agree with big government imposing its judgment on any aspect of child-rearing. Arguably Christie has no hope with that crowd anyway after signing the New Jersey law that banned gay conversion therapy for teenagers, but Paul has a shot with them.

A nurse-practitioner who survived measles as a child wrote this open letter to parents who aren’t immunizing their children.

I believe it’s a huge mistake to discount anti-vaxxers as “anti-science.” I have encountered hundreds of parents who opt against vaccinating and talked with many of them about why we choose to vaccinate our children. My impression is similar to what German Lopez wrote after interviewing a prominent anti-vaccine activist:

Vaccine skeptics do think they believe in scientific evidence. They can cite dozens of studies and cases. They see themselves as the side in this debate that’s actually following the evidence, while the pro-vaccine side is blindly trusting in authority and ultimately getting taken in by a massive pharmaceutical scam.

I also believe that images and accounts of vaccine-injured children (yes, there are some adverse reactions) evoke such a powerful emotional response that it becomes difficult for many parents to imagine deliberately injecting a vaccine into their child. Statistically, every time you put your baby in a car and drive somewhere, your baby is at greater risk of serious injury than when getting a shot at the doctor. Statistically, the number of lives saved by vaccinating against diseases like HiB and meningitis vastly outnumbers the serious adverse reactions to vaccines. But in all the times I have used those arguments, I don’t think I have ever convinced a single skeptical parent to start vaccinating.

Since the year 2000, a growing number of Iowa families have sought medical or religious exemptions from state vaccination requirements. The Des Moines Register reports that there are no efforts in the Iowa House or Senate to tighten the rules on vaccine exemptions. Governor Terry Branstad is also satisfied with current policy, according to a statement from his office.

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Why the vaccination issue is a minefield for Republican presidential candidates

The recent measles outbreak has sparked more media discussion of the trend away from routine vaccination. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to walk a fine line when asked about the issue yesterday, saying parents should have “some measure of choice” over immunizing their kids. I enclose his comments and his staff’s later attempts to clarify below.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who is also a medical doctor, told a popular right-wing radio host yesterday, “I’m not anti-vaccine at all but…most of them ought to be voluntary. […] I think there are times in which there can be some rules but for the most part it ought to be voluntary.” He took a shot at former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has said it was a mistake for his administration to try to require the human papillomavirus vaccine for pre-teen girls in Texas.

As these and other Republican presidential candidates tour Iowa this year, I guarantee that they will face many more questions about the vaccine issue. In my non-blogging life, I have encountered hundreds of Iowa parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. They are a diverse group and can’t be stereotyped as “crunchy hippie” lefties or religious conservatives. Some don’t trust the government to regulate toxins in products pushed by pharmaceutical companies. Others may not believe vaccines cause autism but fear different adverse reactions. Or, they think “natural immunity” acquired through getting a disease is stronger. Many conservative evangelicals and Catholics shun vaccines because of concerns about the use of fetal tissue in their manufacture (see also here). Although the most influential homeschooling group, the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, does not take a position for or against immunizations, my impression is that anti-vaccine views are more prevalent among homeschoolers than among parents who send their children to public or parochial schools. Homeschoolers were a critical base of support for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 Iowa caucus campaign and were courted by multiple presidential candidates before the 2012 caucuses.

Some libertarian-leaning conservatives may not worry about the safety or ethics of vaccines, and may even have their own children immunized, but on principle don’t think the government should tell parents anything about how to raise kids. That group looks like a natural Rand Paul constituency, but they may be open to other candidates who cater to their views.

Regardless of how far the measles outbreak spreads, this issue will remain a minefield for GOP candidates.

Side note: In central Iowa, more and more pediatric practices are rejecting families whose parents want to deviate from the accepted vaccine schedule. In my opinion, that is a huge mistake. There is no one perfect immunization schedule. Medical associations in different countries recommend that babies and toddlers get shots for various diseases at different times. Based on my conversations, many of these parents would agree to most or all of the vaccines eventually; they just feel uncomfortable with so many shots clustered close together. Instead of accommodating those concerns with a delayed schedule, pediatricians are driving families away. So worried parents either stop taking their kids to regular wellness checks, or seek medical care only from chiropractors or alternative health providers.

UPDATE: Added below further comments from Rand Paul on why vaccines should be voluntary.

Likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton weighed in on Twitter: “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest”

A Bleeding Heartland reader reminded me about this report from last year, indicating that “In West Des Moines, 37 percent of home-schooled children are not fully vaccinated.”  

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