Kathie Obradovich's blog

Don’t claim you support law enforcement if you work to demonize the FBI and IRS

Iowa Capital Dispatch
August 15, 2022

This may come as news to Sen. Chuck Grassley and many of his fellow Republicans: The Federal Bureau of Investigation is a law enforcement agency. So is the Internal Revenue Service.

Most people already think of the FBI as an elite policing agency. But the IRS also investigates crime beyond tax evasion and fraud. Organized crime, drug trafficking, illegal gaming, money laundering and public corruption are just a few examples.

Republicans, including Grassley, claim to be champions of law enforcement and horrified by violence in America.

In fact, at a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, most Republican senators entirely ignored or barely mentioned the actual focus of the hearing. Instead, they put on a show of how worried they are about violence and threats against police, judges, anti-abortion institutions and residents of certain cities that happen to be run by Democrats.

Frankenstein legislation and midnight shell games given green light by Iowa Supreme Court decision

Iowans’ ability to stay informed about what’s happening in the state Legislature took another body blow recently – and lawmakers aren’t even in session.

The latest smackdown on open government came in the Iowa Supreme Court’s recent ruling that also eliminated the right to abortion in the state constitution. Most people, understandably, overlooked the part of the ruling dealing with legislative procedure – specifically the constitutional requirement that bills being debated in the Legislature address a single subject.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, however, didn’t miss it.

This is what political courage looks like

We all know what courage looks like. It’s at the core of our favorite stories. It’s central to the plots in most movies and television shows. It’s the backbone of the legends we cherish from history and from daily life.

Political courage is not so familiar. It’s an oxymoron these days, or one of those blue-moon phenomena that only happen when a politician is about to leave office forever. Compromise is a dirty word, and elected officials who stand up for what they believe against a party priority or work across the aisle to get things done face the mortality of their careers.

We saw both kinds of courage in prime time on Thursday night at the first public hearing of the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Statehouse standoff leaves Iowans in the dark

The 100th day of the 2022 legislative session in Iowa is Tuesday.

I know that’s probably not a day marked on your calendar. Most Iowans don’t pay much attention to whether the Legislature is in session or not. Those who celebrate Easter, Passover or Ramadan may have been spending time with family. Others may be planning their gardens, attending kids’ track meets and working toward the end of the school year. Some may have spent the weekend figuring out their taxes.

Speaking of taxes, yours are paying for everything that happens at the Iowa Statehouse, and guess what? Not much is happening right now. And whatever may be happening is being done in secret, behind closed doors, where you aren’t welcome.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst summed it up: “First and foremost, I want to echo what I’ve heard from so many Iowans who have reached out to me over the last few days and said the phrase: ‘The hell’s going on up there?’”

The Republicans who control the Iowa House, Senate and governor’s office have been unable to reach agreement on some key elements of the governor’s agenda. As a result, work on the state budget is at a standstill.

Bottle bill proposals leave Iowans holding their cans

Iowa lawmakers seem poised, with their latest effort to update the state’s popular but long-struggling bottle bill, to give everyone what they want.

Everyone, that is, except consumers.

What do consumers want? Most simply want the convenience of returning their empties to their grocery stores or nearby redemption centers. They also want to keep bottles and cans out of the ditches and the landfills.

Republican-led 'bottle bill' overhaul would allow retailers to refuse container returns

Iowa grocery stores and other retailers would be allowed to opt out of taking back bottle and can returns and repaying deposits in 2023 under the latest version of a bill making its way through the Iowa Senate.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, and Republicans on the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed the rewrite of Senate File 2122 on Thursday, with all Democrats on the panel voting no.

The amended bill replaces a version passed earlier this week by a Senate subcommittee, which would have allowed grocery stores and other retailers to opt out of taking containers back if a redemption center was located within 20 miles of the store.

Parents’ rights? Not this time, GOP says

Iowa Capital Dispatch
February 28, 2022

When I was in high school, I agreed to teach a Sunday school class for 3-year-olds at my church with another high-school classmate.

The class was only 45 minutes long, and mostly consisted of coloring, simple crafts and reading Bible stories to the children. No big deal – except there were at least 10 kids in the class and my “team mate” only showed up about half the time.

I managed, even though one little boy always cried when his mother dropped him off, so I usually spent the first 15 minutes of class trying to get everyone settled and busy with a sobbing boy on my hip.

I didn’t have to feed the kids, take them outside, change diapers (I think they were all potty-trained back then) or dispense medications. I don’t recall that any of the kids had disabilities or special needs. Still, it was exhausting. I didn’t volunteer again.

The experience came to mind recently, as lawmakers were debating legislation to allow child care facilities to care for more 2- or 3-year-olds per staff member.

Senate File 2268, which passed the Senate last week, would allow one day care employee to watch up to seven 2-year-olds, or up to 10 3-year-olds. Under current law, child care centers must have one worker for every six 2-year-olds or eight 3-year-olds.

Why are Republicans demonizing teachers as ‘sinister’ and pushing pedophilia?

Iowa Capital Digest

Gov. Kim Reynolds took time in her Condition of the State message to accuse Iowa teachers and school administrators of “pushing their world view” on students by allowing certain books in the school library or classroom.

The address came a day after Senate President Jake Chapman, an Adel Republican, accused both teachers and journalists of having a “sinister” motive and even promoting pedophilia and incest.

“Those who wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children, including pedophilia and incest, are pushing this movement more than ever before. Our children should be safe and free from this atrocious assault,” Chapman said in his speech on the opening day of the legislative session.

With or without omicron, Iowa lacks the will to overcome COVID

News of the omicron variant of COVID-19 was like a bucket of ice water in the face after a refreshingly normal Thanksgiving weekend marked by in-person gatherings with family and friends.

The variant, first identified in South Africa, had already been confirmed as close as Minnesota by middle of last week. Chances are, it’ll show up in Iowa before you read this.

We don’t know much about this strain of coronavirus yet, including how easily it spreads and how effective current vaccines are at preventing infections, hospital admissions and deaths. It could be a relatively benign development, or it could drive a new, disruptive surge.

Either way, it should be a wakeup call. If omicron isn’t deadlier than delta or immune to the current vaccines, the next variants in line might be. How prepared is Iowa to deal with that?

The news hasn’t been terribly encouraging.

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.

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