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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Will poll-tested language sway Iowa voters on abortion amendment?

During the closing days of the Iowa legislature’s 2021 session, Republicans accomplished one task that eluded them in 2020: getting a constitutional amendment on abortion halfway toward appearing on a statewide ballot. I expected the House and Senate to approve the measure quickly, emboldened by a larger majority in the lower chamber, where the proposal stalled last year.

Instead, Republicans spent months haggling over how the amendment would be phrased, hoping to make this effort more palatable to Iowans who currently oppose it.

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Stake out moral ground

John Tyson is a Mennonite pastor. He lives in Waukee. -promoted by Laura Belin

I am the pastor of a church in Des Moines that played a major role in Governor Robert Ray’s resettlement of Tai Dam refugees in Iowa in the 1970s. Although some Iowans voiced familiar concerns that new arrivals would take away jobs, Ray persisted regardless of political risk.

To justify his humanitarian welcome of refugee families, he put a stake in moral ground: “I didn’t think we could just sit here idly and say, ‘Let those people die’. We wouldn’t want the rest of the world to say that about us if we were in the same situation…Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

This is moral language in defense of policy – and from the vantage point of 2021, it is jarring to see it coming from a Republican.

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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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Racial disparities narrow in Iowa's COVID-19 vaccinations

As Iowa prepares to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults on April 5, racial and ethnic disparities in the state’s vaccination rates have narrowed slightly since Bleeding Heartland last reviewed this data four weeks ago. However, people of color have still received far fewer vaccine doses per capita, compared to white Iowans.

At least 1,588,117 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to Iowa residents, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard on April 4. At least 662,885 Iowans have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine (that is, two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). Another 368,646 Iowans “have received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series, but have not completed the series.”

Breaking down the numbers by race and ethnicity, it’s apparent that Iowa has a long way to go to achieve equity in vaccine distribution.

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Pandering on police budgets won't save Democrats from bad-faith GOP attacks

Some bills are designed to solve real problems, some create the appearance of solving a real problem, and others just cue up attack ads.

So it was with Senate File 479, which passed on March 10 with a large bipartisan majority even though no organizations are lobbying for it.

The bill would make local governments “ineligible to receive any state funds” if they reduced a law enforcement agency’s budget by a larger percentage than the reduction in the government entity’s total budget. While floor managing the measure, Republican State Senator Chris Cournoyer said, “This is not the time to cut funding” for law enforcement. She claimed the bill would “keep our communities and our citizens safe” and asked colleagues to “show their strong support for law enforcement with a yes vote.”

Ten Democrats–Tony Bisignano, Nate Boulton, Bill Dotzler, Eric Giddens, Kevin Kinney, Jim Lykam, Liz Mathis, Amanda Ragan, Jackie Smith, and Todd Taylor–joined the 31 Republicans present to approve the legislation.

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