New family planning program fails Iowans. Republicans don't want to know

Republican lawmakers made big promises last year that Iowans would have “more access” to family planning services under a new state program that excluded Planned Parenthood.

As anyone could have foreseen, the opposite was true. In the first nine months of the State Family Planning Program’s existence, the number of Iowans enrolled dropped by a third. The number who obtained at least one reproductive health care service fell by more than 40 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter the program was operating. The number of health care providers billing the program also declined by 40 percent during the same time frame.

Republican lawmakers don’t want to hear how poorly the new system is serving their constituents. Even worse, GOP state senators voted unanimously last week to compound the mistake by blocking Planned Parenthood from participating in sex education programs.

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Why the mental health bills that just passed are a big deal

Peggy Huppert is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Governor Kim Reynolds signed two mental health bills on March 29 in an emotional ceremony in the capitol rotunda. I was one of the hundreds of legislators, lobbyists and advocates who witnessed the event.

The two bills are quite different. What they have in common, in addition to dealing with mental health and being signed into law on the same day, is that they passed both chambers of the Iowa legislature unanimously. That in itself is extraordinary.

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Governor Reynolds, please veto Farm Bureau/Wellmark monopoly bill

Jon Muller canceled his insurance policy after more than 20 years as a Farm Bureau member because of legislation that could leave thousands of Iowans like his sister uninsurable. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Last night, I sent the following letter to Governor Kim Reynolds urging her veto of Senate File 2349, a bill that in effect grants a monopoly to a partnership between the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield. This letter does not get into all the negative implications of the bill, but it’s a start.

I’m no expert on whether vetoing this bill is politically expedient or not. But I am fairly certain the damage will be vast, and far beyond what anyone supporting this bill ever contemplated.

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Incumbents retiring in two battleground GOP-held Iowa Senate districts

During the last week before the filing deadline, Republican State Senators Mark Chelgren and Rick Bertrand announced that they will not seek re-election in 2018. Iowa Senate districts 41 and 7 were already the best Democratic pickup opportunities on a difficult midterm election map. Of the 29 Republicans now serving in the upper chamber, only four–Chelgren, Bertrand, Dan Dawson, and Tom Greene–hold seats where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans (barely in Dawson’s district). Dawson and Greene won’t be up for re-election until 2020.

Winning an open seat is usually easier than defeating a legislative incumbent, and Bertrand’s retirement clearly improves Democratic chances in Senate district 7.

But Republicans have likely increased their odds of holding Senate district 41 by swapping out Chelgren for Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

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