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Iowa out of step on access to police video

Every few months, someone is killed or injured by police somewhere in the United States under circumstances that lead to inevitable questions about what exactly occurred.

Typically, answers come when video from the law officers’ squad car cameras or their uniform cameras is made public. Each time this occurs, there are two inescapable conclusions:

First, police in most states realize it is their obligation to release this video. They know that public faith and respect for law officers will suffer if citizens and journalists are prevented from viewing the footage, especially when an incident results in death or injury, most notably when the person was not armed.

And second, each time such video is released somewhere in the United States, it becomes obvious Iowa is out of step with most other states — because in Iowa, law enforcement agencies and government attorneys insist the video must forever remain off-limits because it is part of a confidential investigative file.

This insistence on secrecy harms public trust and respect for Iowa law enforcement.

GOP principles: up in smoke at Iowa Statehouse

by Iowa Capital Dispatch
March 13, 2023

Republicans in the Iowa Legislature like to talk about their bedrock principles. This year, those principles seem to be printed on tissue paper and every new bill lights another match.

I wrote a whole column last week about how Statehouse Republicans, despite their repeated declarations of trust for parents, are working to eliminate choices for many. That was just one example, and the pattern has been regularly repeated.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Rep. Chad Ingels of Randalia, one of five Republicans who voted against the ban on gender-affirming health care for minors:

“This (bill) seeds division. It also asks the question: When do parents matter? Many people have talked already today that we have had a lot of talk, a lot of discussion, about parents mattering. Parents being the focus. But that’s until those parents think differently than us. You think differently than we do? To hell with them.”

But the abandonment of trust for parents isn’t the only one way the majority of Republicans are shredding previous principles. A central argument for banning drug therapies such as puberty blockers for minors was what Republicans cited as a lack of medical research on the long-term “efficacy” and safety of the medication.

And yet, just last year, House Republicans went to the wall to push through so-called “right to try” legislation to enable unapproved, unproven and potentially unsafe off-label use of drugs for certain patients. They wanted to clear the way for internet-fad remedies like ivermectin, commonly used to deworm horses, to treat COVID-19.

A rural school teaches lessons on governing

By Randy Evans

There is an interesting study in contrasts playing out right now in Iowa.

One example comes from the Davis County School District in Bloomfield. It is the 96th-largest of Iowa’s 328 public districts, with an enrollment of 1,150 students.

The other example comes from the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The Davis County school board is wrestling with an incredibly difficult decision — whether to hold classes four days a week instead of the traditional five-day-a-week schedule.

The decision-making process has been marked by ongoing public information over the past five months. There has been lots of opportunity for people to ask questions about what is best for the Davis County schools and Davis County kids.

The process is geared both for learning what people in the district want and for helping the community become comfortable with the decision the school board eventually makes.

On the other hand, the solid Republican majorities in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate, with a Republican in the governor’s office, seem more interested in gaining legislative victories and less interested in following a process that builds confidence and acceptance among Iowans whose opinions differ from the Republicans.

‘Don’t say Kim?’ – Governor Reynold's bill would regulate schools’ use of student nicknames

Iowa Capital Dispatch
February 13, 2023

The Republican Party’s obsession with sex and gender identity has reached a fever pitch in the Iowa Statehouse this year. Gov. Kim Reynolds and her gang of helicopter mothers are clutching their pearls so hard they must be cutting off oxygen to their brains. At this rate, they will end up banning rainbows before the next election.

Iowa GOP lawmakers have expanded on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law from Florida, extending the prohibition in schools on all things LGBTQ all the way to eighth grade. The Florida ban specifies kindergarten through third grade.

Sen. Sandy Salmon’s version of the bill, Senate File 159, would create draconian civil penalties from $10,000 to $50,000 for schools where violations occur and are not immediately corrected. The bill prohibits any instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation in grades K-8, while also requiring instruction on human growth and development to be “age-appropriate” and research-based. That seems like a contradiction, since pretending LGBTQ people don’t exist is neither age-appropriate nor research-based. It’s delusional.

Governor supports a different indoctrination

A recent public opinion poll found that three-quarters of Americans want members of Congress to end their bickering and begin compromising more with their colleagues from the other party.

The poll was conducted across the United States by Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion for National Public Radio and the PBS News Hour.

If such a poll were conducted in Iowa, it’s my hunch the pollsters would find people here have similar views of the inability, or unwillingness, of senators and representatives in Washington to engage in the thoughtful give-and-take art of lawmaking.

It is also my hunch that Iowans are at a similar point with respect to the Legislature’s recent string of proposed laws that target our 327 public school districts.

That hunch jelled even before Gov. Kim Reynolds signaled last week where she may be headed next in her quest to transform public schools. Her new goal should bother freedom-loving moms and dads and others who understand what our Founding Fathers wanted when they established the United States — you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Butlers oftha bushel: Or, why do farm operators still insist on tilling their corn fields in the fall?

I’ve seen a lot of Iowa winters and I have to say the weeks between Christmas and January 20 were the ugliest I’ve seen the state look.

I know northwest Iowa has had some snow cover, but what little snow there is lying around the rest of the state is thickly coated with the dirt that we're repeatedly told is so, so precious to the SOL (Stewards Oftha Land).

A pre-Christmas blizzard moved a lot of snow and a lot of $20k per acre dirt along with it into the ditches, and the immediate warmup that followed melted much of the white stuff, exposing what the Cropagandists tell us is black gold.

Elections, not caucuses, should be the focus

Not that she asked, but I have some advice for Rita Hart, the new chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Yes, Hart is an experienced practitioner of politics. She was twice elected to the Iowa Senate. She was the Democrats’ lieutenant governor candidate on the ticket with Fred Hubbell in 2018. And two years ago, she came within an eyelash — six votes — of winning a seat in Congress. She also is a former teacher and still farms with her husband near the Clinton County town of Wheatland.

Normally, I would trust the judgment of someone with her credentials on what her priorities should be as the Iowa Democrats’ top state leader. But this is the Iowa Democratic Party, and too many party activists, along with civic boosters and journalists, cling to the belief that the process of choosing presidential nominees absolutely and without question must begin in Iowa.

Message from Iowa Gov. Reynolds and the state Republican Party – transparency is only for suckers

Iowa Capital Dispatch
January 23, 2023

Transparency is for suckers.

That’s the message, loud and clear, from Gov. Kim Reynolds and her Republican enablers in the Legislature.

I’d suspect that this was another, particularly idiotic manifestation of the trans-phobia that has infected Republican officeholders the past few years. But no, Reynolds and GOP lawmakers are insisting on “transparency” through various priority bills in the Legislature while keeping the public in the dark. Everybody loves transparency  – as long as it required of other people.

Reynolds’ recent interview with Amanda Rooker of KCCI-TV made that abundantly clear. Rooker asked Reynolds about the so-called “transparency” measures she is proposing for public schools. These may include ideas proposed in the past, like requiring teachers to post their lesson plans online or school libraries posting every title on their shelves.

Rooker asked if Reynolds would also seek to impose those rules on private schools that receive taxpayer funds from her education savings account proposal.

Reynolds stammered.

“Well, you know they’re held to — you know, most of this would deal with public schools, would public schools right now. So you know, they – it would just be public schools.”

That last phrase is the actual answer. Only public schools would have to post course details and library titles and whatever else the governor and GOP lawmakers can think of to demand from public schools.

So many questions, but so few answers

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that private school vouchers appear to be barreling toward passage by the Iowa Legislature, just three weeks into the 2023 session. These vouchers, or education savings accounts, or whatever you want to call them, would give parents $7,600 per year for each of their kids to attend a private K-12 school.

Although the outcome has been easy to foresee, it has not been easy to get answers to the many questions being asked across the state as lawmakers move to make this landmark change in education in Iowa.

Some questions that deserve answers include:

  • Does the governor and other proponents really believe $900 million can be siphoned away from Iowa’s 327 public school districts over the next four years for vouchers without harming the public schools?
  • The premise is to give parents a choice of where their children will be educated. Don’t parents already have a wide range of options if they can't afford the tuition at a private school — from enrolling their kids in an adjacent public school district at no cost, to home-schooling, or enrolling them tuition-free in Iowa Connections Academy or Iowa Virtual Academy, Iowa’s two online public schools?
  • If a child has learning disabilities or behavior issues, or if English is not the child’s native language, do vouchers serve their intended purpose when these children can be turned away by a private school without the parents having any recourse? When that occurs, what happens to the governor’s “school choice” message?
  • Forty-one of Iowa’s 99 counties do not have any private schools. How are vouchers going to help students in those counties, especially when voucher money cannot be used to pay for the expense of driving to a private school in another county?
  • Do supporters of the governor’s proposal really think state tax revenues will be sufficient to allow the Legislature to allocate $340 million per year for vouchers indefinitely?
  • What happens when the income tax cuts lawmakers approved in 2022 fully take effect in the next few years? These tax cuts will reduce the state general fund revenue by about $2 billion — a reduction of about one-fifth.
  • Won’t the combined effects of the cost of vouchers and the reduced income tax revenue put an excruciating squeeze on the state government’s budget needs? Won’t that squeeze make it nearly impossible to maintain the services that Iowans have come to expect — from state law enforcement, to the courts, state parks, community colleges and state universities, to health care for the poor, and the public schools?
  • Why are Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican leaders in the Legislature adamant to get the voucher program approved before the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency completes its cost analysis — especially without an estimate of how much the state will pay a for-profit company that is still to be chosen to manage the voucher applications and payments?
  • Might the governor and Republican leaders be trying to get this proposal approved before Iowans fully understand the cost, and the consequences, and can express their opinions when their senators and representatives are back home on the weekends?

School enrollment data show there are 482,000 students attending public K-12 schools in Iowa. Private schools now serve 33,000 students.

The governor and proponents of vouchers have talked about the "failing" public schools in Iowa. Shouldn’t these officials be called on to cite specific examples of these failures, so Iowans know whether the concerns are legitimate or exaggerated?

Lousy choices best describes 'school choice' bill

Along the Mississippi

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says her plan to use taxpayer money to pay for private schooling gives people a choice to educate their kids where they want.

But that’s not what her plan says. Just look at the details: Only certain families with kids in public schools will get that choice.

What this plan really does is pay people who already are sending their kids to private schools.

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