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Governor is correct: More transparency needed

Gov. Kim Reynolds talked last week about the importance of government leaders keeping other government officials looped in as decisions are made and events unfold.

The governor was more correct than she probably intended. I will get to that shortly.

But first, here is some important background on the governor’s statement — because she and I see eye to eye on this, at least as it relates to the issue that provoked her displeasure with federal officials.

Americans deserve answers, not more politics

Plenty of stray thoughts have been swirling through my noggin lately. Thoughts like:

What would Americans and members of Congress think today if the federal government decided against creating the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John Kennedy?

What would we think today if the House and Senate two decades ago rejected an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the aborted airliner attack on either the White House or Capitol?

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.

The population problem Iowa should discuss

Through the years, the Iowa Legislature is the place where Iowans gather to debate the biggest issues and challenges facing our state. It has been this way for 175 years.

The 2021 session is days from adjournment, but there has been precious little time spent discussing one of the thorniest problems confronting this state in decades or looking for solutions.

The issue is the quality of our water.

Our lakes, streams and rivers are so polluted with agricultural runoff that experts urge people, for health reasons, to not swim in many lakes and to avoid eating fish caught in certain rivers.

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.

'Big Pollution' in Iowa courtesy of Big Ag

It’s always been in the best interests of the ag industry to make nutrient pollution seem mysteriously complex.

After all, complex problems rarely lend themselves well to simple solutions. Complex problems require lots and lots of time and money to solve, and the bigger the problem, the more likely the taxpayer is going to be asked to solve it with contributions from the public coffers.

And the folks that own all this expensive farmland (worth well more than $200 billion in Iowa) surely can’t be expected to own the pollution too!

Where oh where are today’s Bob Rays?

It’s hard for those of us of a certain vintage to realize it has been 39 years since Robert Ray was Iowa’s governor.

In spite of the passage of so much time, his name was on the minds of many people last week.

What triggered the Bob Ray memories was Gov. Kim Reynolds’ interview with WHO Radio on Thursday.

Reynolds was asked about the thousands of children, mostly from Central America, who are showing up this year at our border with Mexico without their parents. They arrive hoping to be allowed to live in the United States with relatives or sponsors, freeing them from the deadly violence and the grip of poverty so common where they came from.

Iowans deserve a governor, not a ruler

The Iowa Supreme Court chamber is a magnificent venue for the seven justices who referee the thorniest legal questions in our state.

The courtroom seats a few dozen spectators. Last week, it’s a shame there weren’t thousands of people listening to the justices’ questions and the lawyers’ responses in the appeal of Christopher Godfrey’s lawsuit against former Gov. Terry Branstad.

There is much riding on the decision the Supreme Court will make this spring. The stakes go beyond the district court jury verdict that taxpayers must pay the former Iowa workers compensation commissioner $1.5 million in damages for Branstad’s decision in 2011 to cut his salary by one-third.

That occurred, according to the lawyers for the two sides, either because Godfrey is gay and because a handful of Branstad business supporters disliked Godfrey’s decisions in cases involving workers hurt on the job, or because the governor was merely exercising his administrative discretion as the state’s chief executive.

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.

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