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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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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Reynolds, GOP killed way to reduce racial, economic disparities in Iowa courts

Governor Kim Reynolds made headlines last week with two vetoes: blocking language targeting the attorney general, and rejecting a medical cannabis bill that had strong bipartisan support in both chambers.

A provision she didn’t veto drew little attention. For the foreseeable future, it will prevent Iowa courts from using a tool designed to make the criminal justice system more fair to defendants of all races and income levels.

Reynolds should appreciate the value of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), since she works closely with two former State Public Defenders: Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and the governor’s senior legal counsel Sam Langholz. But last year she ordered a premature end to a pilot program introducing the tool in four counties. The governor’s staff did not reply to repeated inquiries about the reasoning behind Reynolds’ stance on this policy.

Notably, the owner of Iowa’s largest bail bonding company substantially increased his giving to GOP candidates during the last election cycle, donating $10,100 to the governor’s campaign and $28,050 to Republicans serving in the state legislature.

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Outliers

Stacey Walker has chaired the Linn County Board of Supervisors since January. He delivered this State of the County Address on May 8. -promoted by Laura Belin

It is with great pride that I stand before you today, with the awesome task of presenting the state of the county address: an occasion I’m sure everyone here has been looking forward to since the date was announced. I know in my heart that you’re all here because you want to be, and not because your employer bought a table and needed it to be filled.

My sincere thanks to the women and men of the League of Women Voters for doing the hard work of organizing this event – and many others – designed to keep the general public informed of and engaged in the happenings of our democracy. You all are heroes.

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An army of misery forced to decamp with UnitedHealthcare's departure

John Morrissey is a longtime Des Moines resident who has investigated state spending increases, financial anomalies, and payment disruptions associated with Medicaid privatization in Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

The “he said/she said” controversy between an insurance company CEO and Iowa’s governor about why UnitedHealthcare decided to leave the state’s Medicaid program might make entertaining copy, but it doesn’t address who is going to manage the care of 420,000 Iowans left in the lurch.

Nor does it address whether the remaining company (Amerigroup) is adequately prepared to handle more members, and whether a new player poised to enter our state’s Medicaid market (Iowa Total Care) has the expertise to handle special populations in Iowa such as the elderly, disabled, and very ill.

It also doesn’t consider whether the state’s traditional fee-for-service Medicaid offering has the financial wherewithal to shoulder an even larger share of the enrollment and cost. Fee-for-service was held over from the old state-run program when most of the Medicaid program was privatized in 2016. The fee-for-service program pays the claims of Iowa’s sickest and most frail Medicaid members, which the for-profit managed care organizations (MCOs) don’t want or can’t handle.

The Iowa Deparment of Human Services (DHS) did not respond to a request for comment on these issues.

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New GOP bill would slash energy programs for low-income Iowans

UPDATE: This bill did not advance, but Republicans put comparable language into the “standings” budget bill, Senate File 638 (see Division IX on pages 16 and 17). Governor Kim Reynolds can and should item veto this section.

Energy-efficiency programs that benefit low-income Iowans would be cut under a bill Republicans advanced today from an Iowa Senate subcommittee.

Senate Study Bill 1256 would compound the harm done by Senate File 2311, which Republicans enacted in 2018 over objections from many stakeholders. Whereas last year’s bill reduced utility companies’ required spending on energy efficiency programs with a 25-year track record, the new bill would limit allowable spending on such programs.

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