Iowa's Ag department ignored repeated warnings from state auditors

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) has not acted on advice to improve its management of financial transactions and databases “to prevent losses from employee error or dishonesty.”

For ten years running, under three different state auditors, reports have warned Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig or his predecessor Bill Northey that the IDALS accounting system does not conform to best practices and does not ensure that some divisions are collecting and depositing fees appropriately.

IDALS leaders have responded to each report with boilerplate excuses and non-sequiturs, instead of changing internal procedures to address the concerns.

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Joni Ernst won't cross NRA for deal on Violence Against Women Act

Months of work on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which lapsed in February, “came to a screeching halt” this week, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst announced on the Senate floor on November 7.

For 25 years, that federal law has supported “criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.” Congress has reauthorized it three times, each time with improvements. By Ernst’s telling, “Democrats are putting politics ahead of people,” rejecting a bipartisan approach to revive the law in favor of “non-starter” legislation the U.S. House approved in April.

Some salient facts were missing from Ernst’s narrative. The House bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act was bipartisan: 33 Republicans voted for it.

Ernst also left out a few relevant words: guns, firearms, and National Rifle Association.

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How the Iowa Department of Corrections is addressing racial disparities

Iowa has long had one of the country’s worst racial disparities in the criminal justice system. A 2016 report by Ashley Nellis for The Sentencing Project showed the incarceration rate for African Americans in Iowa was the fourth-highest among the 50 states, with approximately one in seventeen adult black males imprisoned. Iowa ranked third-worst in the nation for racial disparity, with an incarceration rate for African Americans eleven times higher than the rate for white people.

Over the past year, the Iowa Department of Corrections has formally recognized the problem and its responsibility to provide a bias-free environment for incarcerated individuals and those in community-based corrections programs. The department has also taken several concrete steps to improve staff training and identify possible sources of racial disparities.

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Iowa governor names group to steer criminal justice reform efforts

Fourteen people representing a “diverse group of stakeholders” will recommend policies to reduce recidivism and racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system, Governor Kim Reynolds announced on November 4.

Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg, a former state public defender, will chair the Governor’s FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform, which will meet for the first time on November 7. FOCUS stands for “Fueling Ongoing Collaboration and Uncovering Solutions.” The other members are:

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Iowa remains among worst states for racial disparities

Midwestern states continue to have greater “racial disparities in economic opportunity and economic outcomes” than do other regions of the U.S., while “policy interventions designed to close those gaps are meager,” concludes a new report by Colin Gordon of the University of Iowa and the Iowa Policy Project.

Gordon’s findings are consistent with past research showing that African Americans in Iowa face pervasive barriers in many areas of life. By some measures, our state’s racial disparities are among the worst in the Midwest region and the country.

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Warm, yet fierce: Why I am supporting Kamala Harris

Norene Kelly is State Representative Karin Derry’s volunteer campaign manager. Derry flipped Iowa House district 39 in 2018 and is running for re-election in 2020.

“Be sure about your answer, sir.”

Senator Kamala Harris first got my attention at Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. She was focused and prosecutorial. Her legal background was an obvious advantage. She can be simultaneously steely and smiling. Pressure doesn’t faze her—it empowers her. Wow, I thought, I hope she runs for president.

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