Memo to presidential candidates: Rural Iowa is more than farm sector economics

ISU economist Dave Swenson: Iowa’s rural needs are more complicated, persistent, and acute than the current fortunes of the farm sector. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa currently hosts a horde of Democratic presidential candidates, but from what I can tell thus far, few have any meaningful experiences or insights dealing with rural areas or rural issues.

Historically, visiting candidates paid obligatory lip service to farm sector concerns – ethanol, commodity prices, and regulatory restrictions as examples — and assumed or pretended that took care of most rural issues.

But rural economies are more diverse than most suppose.

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The level playing field has tipped against Iowa teachers

Republicans claimed collective bargaining changes would level the playing field in contract talks. Randy Richardson, retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, examines the impact on teachers. -promoted by Laura Belin

In February 2017, Republican lawmakers rammed through a bill that quickly changed the dynamic of collective bargaining for public employees in Iowa. The bill eliminated virtually all of the mandatory items that unions and their employers were required to bargain, with the exception of base salary. It left in place a short list of “permissive” items that public employees and employers could bargain by mutual consent, and prohibited bargaining on some other topics. The bill sparked outrage among all public employees and their supporters.

Shortly before the bill became law, House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow published an article on the Iowa House Republican website called “Collective Bargaining: Fact vs. Fiction.” One passage from that article became a major Republican talking point in defense of their actions. Hagenow wrote,

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Iowa Regents didn't bargain in good faith with UNI faculty, UI grad students

The state broke Iowa law by refusing to negotiate in good faith when the Iowa Board of Regents delayed contract talks with unions representing University of Northern Iowa faculty and University of Iowa graduate students in late 2016 and early 2017, the Public Employee Relations Board determined in separate rulings last week.

Following the 2016 election, when it was clear Republicans would have total control of state government, United Faculty and the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students (COGS) attempted to negotiate new contracts for their members, following a bargaining schedule used in previous years.

But the governing body for Iowa’s state universities instructed its attorney not to engage in such talks until after GOP lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad had eliminated most public employee bargaining rights under Iowa Code Chapter 20. Bruce Rastetter was the Regents president at the time. He didn’t seek reappointment by Branstad in 2017, as it was clear Iowa Senate Democrats would have blocked his confirmation.

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Tricia Gavin challenging Charles Schneider in Iowa Senate district 22

Republican State Senator Charles Schneider coasted to re-election in 2016. He defeated his Senate district 22 challenger Andrew Barnes by more than 4,000 votes after spending only a token amount on the race. In fact, Schneider gave most of his own campaign funds ($133,000) to the Iowa GOP for use in more competitive state Senate districts.

Schneider drew his first declared challenger for this cycle on June 11, when Tricia Gavin announced her candidacy. At least one other Democrat is seriously considering this race, so Schneider’s general election opponent will not be known until after the June 2020 primary.

Given recent political trends in the western suburbs of Des Moines, it’s already obvious that Senate district 22 will be a top Democratic target next year.

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Planned Parenthood on track to receive sex ed grants

Two Iowa state agencies announced on May 31 an intent to award Planned Parenthood of the Heartland sex education grants for the fiscal year beginning on July 1.

Republican lawmakers approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation seeking to deny Planned Parenthood access to the federally-funded Community Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Services Program (CAPP) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) grants. However, a Polk County District Court put that provision on hold this week, saying Planned Parenthood was “likely to succeed on the merits of its equal protection claim” under the Iowa Constitution.

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