Iowa Republicans ready to back statewide absentee mailing—with a catch

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate kept quiet for weeks.

He said nothing in public as Republican lawmakers sought to stop him from taking steps that contributed to record-breaking turnout in Iowa’s primary election.

He said nothing when legislators agreed to allow him to exercise emergency powers over an election only with approval from the GOP-dominated Legislative Council.

He had no public comment when Governor Kim Reynolds signed that bill.

Nor did he react when Republicans on the Legislative Council voted down a Democratic motion to let the secretary of state send absentee ballot request forms to all registered Iowa voters before the November election.

Pate’s staff did not respond to journalists’ inquiries about whether he would attempt to send a universal absentee request mailing this fall.

The secretary of state finally broke his silence on July 16 with a written proposal to mail every active registered Iowa voter an absentee ballot request form. But that’s not all. Pate’s also seeking to stop county auditors from making it easier for their constituents to return complete and accurate requests for absentee ballots.

Republicans on the Legislative Council will surely approve Pate’s request when they meet on July 17. But it’s not clear the secretary of state has the legal authority to limit what county auditors send voters.

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Iowa Republicans fail to uphold promises of Older Americans Act

Mike McCarthy is president of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans. -promoted by Laura Belin

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law on July 14, 1965. It responded to the need for community services, evidence-based health promotion, disease prevention programs, civic engagement, and elder justice for senior citizens. America’s seniors require a similar response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans believes that seniors must have relevant and accurate information about preventing and treating the coronavirus. Seniors and retirees are becoming more desperate looking for security and a cure. We should be able to trust President Donald Trump’s pronouncements. However, he repeatedly shows us that we cannot believe his statements.

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Abortions up 25 percent after Iowa GOP replaced family planning program

Who could have predicted it, other than anyone familiar with reproductive health care?

Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad eliminated Iowa’s successful Medicaid Family Planning Waiver in 2017 and created a new state program that excluded abortion providers. The move forced Planned Parenthood to close four of its Iowa clinics around the state and dramatically decreased the number of Iowans receiving birth control and other reproductive services.

Preliminary data from the Iowa Department of Public Health indicate that Iowans had 25 percent more abortions in 2019 than in the previous year.

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Why I'm asking Iowa to seek an exemption from federal drug laws

Carl Olsen recounts his long battle to reschedule cannabis and the latest legal steps in his effort to reconcile state and federal drug laws. -promoted by Laura Belin

Last month, I filed a petition with the Iowa Department of Public Health, asking the agency to start the process of obtaining a federal exemption for Iowa’s medical cannabis law.

I had presented this idea to Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Board in August 2019. The board members unanimously approved the concept and recommended in January 2020 that the legislature protect schools and long-term care facilities, which “are hesitant to allow medical cannabidiol products to be administered and stored at the facilities due to the current scheduling of Cannabis at the federal level.” The board suggested “Developing language to protect these facilities or seeking exemption for Iowa’s program from federal drug laws.”

Instead of adopting my proposal, Republican lawmakers approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed House File 2589, which instructed the Department of Public Health to “request guarantees” from federal agencies that they would not withhold federal funding from educational or long-term care facilities that allow patients to possess or staff to administer medical cannabidiol.

That approach makes no sense, because it would put Iowa in direct conflict with federal drug law. As I wrote in my petition, “There is no formal process for requesting guarantees from federal agencies not to withhold funding for violation of federal drug laws.”

Here’s why Iowa should take a different path.

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Iowa Republicans may regret blocking statewide absentee ballot mailing

July 6 was the first day Iowans can request an absentee ballot for the 2020 general election. Under normal circumstances, I prefer voting early in person and have encouraged others to do the same. But voting by mail is by far the safest option for 2020, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republican legislators signaled last week they won’t allow Secretary of State Paul Pate to send absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter again.

Election officials in Iowa’s largest counties aren’t waiting to see how things play out. Several auditors are already making plans for their own universal mailings. Higher turnout in those counties should benefit Democratic candidates for federal offices and state legislative seats.

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Minority impact statements in Iowa: History and continuing efforts

Marty Ryan of Des Moines lobbied the Iowa legislature for 27 years and now blogs weekly. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Iowa quarter, printed in the latter part of 2004, is based upon a Grant Wood painting depicting a group of students and their teacher planting a tree outside of a county school. The statement on the coin says, “Foundation In Education.” For many decades, Iowa was noted for its first-in-the-nation education status. Likewise, Iowa has been a consistent leader in civil rights.

In fact, Iowa established some standards of equality long before the federal government or other states.

But racial disparities continue to affect Iowans in many areas of life. A reform the Democratic-controlled legislature enacted more than a decade ago has only slightly mitigated the problem.

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