Kathie Obradovich's blog

Reynolds office least transparent in 30 years

A journalist is arrested and put on trial for doing her job. The governor’s office and state agencies defy the law without consequence by ignoring or refusing requests for public records. A veteran state employee claims she was fired for complying with the law and providing a public record to a reporter.

It sounds like some banana republic that we might hear about on the news. Sorry to say, these and other assaults on the First Amendment, press freedoms and public access to their government have all happened right here in Iowa. And it’s costing all of us, the taxpayers.

In my years as a journalist in Iowa, I’ve covered five gubernatorial administrations. (Only four governors, because Gov. Terry Branstad served twice.) I can say without hesitation that Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration has been the absolute worst in terms of secrecy and outright denial of public access to information.

Judge calls out lawmakers on ‘tricks’ and ‘mischiefs’ in Iowa's legislative process

Last week’s district court ruling that struck down a 2020 Iowa law was notable not only as the latest skirmish in the war over abortion rights but also for the way the judge took Iowa lawmakers to task for the shortcuts they have been taking with the legislative process.

District Judge Mitchell Turner dispensed fairly quickly with the substance of the law: a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. He simply pointed to the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling that struck down a similar, 72-hour waiting period and overturned the new law on similar grounds.

The governor has already vowed an appeal and the new law is on hold until then. But the Iowa Legislature’s work may well continue before the appeal is decided and this ruling directly relates to how lawmakers do the people’s business.

Cutting of unemployment benefits by Gov. Reynolds won’t solve the worker shortage in Iowa

The solution to Iowa's worker shortage isn't cutting off pandemic-related unemployment assistance.

I’ve worked almost my entire life, from collecting dimes as a small child for household chores like making my bed, to babysitting as a junior high student and summer farm work for my grandparents before I was old enough to get a “real job.”

Sometimes, there were things I’d rather be doing. In high school, I gave up basketball after my sophomore year because the varsity coach made it a requirement for the team to also run track. (He also coached the track team.) I didn’t mind the exercise but the daylong track meets would have interfered with my part-time restaurant job. It was a difficult choice, but I decided to work.

Iowa legislators aren’t doing their job; now's the time for Gov. Reynolds to do her job

One of the first things I learned when I started covering the Iowa Legislature almost 30 years ago was the only work lawmakers really have to do is pass a budget. Everything else is optional.

And yet, we are starting what should be the final week of the 2021 session without a single budget bill having passed both chambers. Worse, the bills that the Republican-majority House and Senate have moved out of their committees are far apart on both money and policy.

For example, the House has proposed a $20 million increase for state prisons, where overcrowding and understaffing is back in the public eye after last month’s fatal attack on a guard and a nurse at the Anamosa penitentiary. The Senate has proposed an increase of just over $6 million, with some lawmakers trying to argue that they have to wait for an investigation to know whether understaffing was a factor in the tragedy.

Iowa House Republicans: Standing up for free speech (white privilege, implicit bias not included)

Sales of dandruff shampoo should be spiking in Iowa after all the head-scratching over the latest adventures of the Iowa Legislature.

There’s been a lot to puzzle over. Just last week, the Legislature gave final approval to a bill to make it legal for landlords in three Iowa cities to kick poor people out of their homes because they use federal housing vouchers. The Iowa House stayed up half the night on Wednesday to eliminate permit requirements to buy or carry a handgun, right after approving a broad liability shield for the gun industry. And the allegedly pro-business Iowa Senate Republicans voted to turn their backs on a growing big-tech development sector in the state in the name of making a point about social media “censorship.”

GOP defenders of First Amendment stood by while press freedom was on trial in Des Moines

Iowa Republican lawmakers, as you’ve read in this space, have been so terribly concerned about the First Amendment this year that some are willing to destroy Iowa’s state universities and potentially harm business recruitment to make a point about free speech.

Senators have passed legislation out of committee to eliminate tenure at state universities, even though they’ve been told that merely debating it would harm the universities’ ability to recruit quality faculty. If the bill were enacted, which I don’t expect to happen, it would shut down important research as professors flee the state.

Lawmakers have also advanced bills that, if enacted, would penalize tech companies doing business in Iowa that enforce their own usage standards by “censoring” dangerous lies and conspiracy theories. They are working diligently to ensure that school faculty and student leaders are trained on the First Amendment (which as I’ve said is a fine idea) but Senate Republicans loaded down the bill with topics those training programs cannot address, such as dealing with white privilege and implicit racial bias.

Safety, transparency at the Iowa Capitol? Ahhh, no

Iowa Republican legislative leaders told reporters less than two weeks ago they were going to do all they could to preserve public access to the Iowa Capitol while keeping lawmakers, staff and the public as safe as possible from COVID-19. They are failing on both counts.

“We have to have a transparent process to the government, regardless of what party and I think we would all agree on that,” House Speaker Pat Grassley told reporters Jan. 7 at an Iowa Capital Press Association forum. “So we have to find that fine line in which we can still do that. We can still try to be as safe as we can, but also have transparency in this process.”

Election didn't ‘validate’ governor’s response

Gov. Kim Reynolds is claiming the election results were a “validation” of her approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This year, Iowans validated the direction of our state by expanding the majority in the Iowa House and maintaining the strong majority in the state Senate,” she said Thursday. “… In addition, it was a validation of our balanced response to COVID-19, one that is mindful of both public health and economic health.”

She said that with a straight face, as the pandemic is surging out of control in Iowa, setting new records almost daily for new infections, hospitalizations and deaths. She said it as two face-masked hospital executives stood by, preparing to plead for Iowans to consider exhausted health care workers and stretched hospital resources before they make their holiday gathering plans or decide to go maskless in public.

Subscribe to RSS - Kathie Obradovich's blog
Go to top