Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Des Moines Register. July 17, 2021.

Editorial: If Reynolds wants to get Iowans ‘back to work,’ she should support Biden order to limit noncompete agreements

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced in May that Iowa would no longer administer pandemic-related unemployment assistance programs funded with federal money. Laid-off Iowans who could have received an additional $300 weekly through September can thank the governor for those payments being cut off in June.

Reynolds’ justification for denying her constituents financial assistance: Iowa employers cannot find enough workers and “it’s time for everyone who can to get back to work.”

A month later, help-wanted signs remain ubiquitous.

Addressing a worker shortage requires more than cutting off modest, temporary financial help to Iowans. It requires this governor and GOP lawmakers to embrace some ideas they tend to shun. These ideas include:

Encouraging employers to require vaccinations

Only about half of Iowans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while the coronavirus delta variant is now widely circulating and contributing to outbreaks.

People who are understandably nervous about spending hours sharing air in offices, warehouses, stores and manufacturing plants may feel more comfortable working if they know their co-workers are inoculated to protect against a virus that has killed more than 6,100 Iowans.

Supporting Biden’s new executive order

Earlier this month, the Biden administration issued a broad executive order that, among other things, asked the Federal Trade Commission to ban or limit noncompete agreements nationwide.

These agreements, which workers may be required to sign as a condition of employment or may not even know they signed, are common. They generally prevent workers who leave an employer from taking a job with a competitor for a given period. Intended to protect trade secrets, such agreements may be understandable in Silicon Valley. But they prevent low-wage employees from moving to another job or working for themselves.

For example, a young woman cutting hair at a strip mall for $10.50 an hour is prohibited from taking a job at a salon down the street for $12 an hour. An in-home caregiver employed by an agency and taking care of an elderly client cannot leave the agency and work directly for that client.

Noncompete agreements limit economic opportunity, kill entrepreneurial efforts and prevent workers from securing better-paying jobs, which may help usher them off government-funded assistance programs.

Iowa lawmakers should have done away with noncompetes long ago, but that hasn’t happened. They should support Biden’s federal efforts on this issue.

Finally eliminating unnecessary job licenses

The president’s executive order also seeks to ban or eliminate “unnecessary, cumbersome occupational licensing requirements that impede economic mobility.”

It’s as though he was talking directly to Iowa.

This state is a job licensing nightmare.

If you want to earn a living cutting hair, you need 2,100 hours of “training.” You must secure a state license (as well as undergo extensive training, pay a fee and be overseen by a board of private-sector peers) to wax eyebrows, massage backs, fit hearing aids, interpret sign language, whiten teeth and perform dozens of other tasks for compensation.

These onerous requirements to begin work limit competition, stifle new businesses, make it more difficult for people to find work and don’t increase consumer safety.

For years this editorial page has argued that state lawmakers should eliminate unnecessary licensing laws. Conservatives around the country have been leading the charge to do exactly that.

Yet Republicans who control the Iowa Legislature refuse to follow in the footsteps of their political brethren in other states. This should be their priority next legislative session.

Attracting new residents

Iowa’s unemployment rate has been hovering around 4%, relatively low. The vast majority of working-age Iowans are already employed. Population growth has slowed, and current residents are aging — and retiring.

This reality means Iowa needs to do more than get current Iowans “back to work.” It needs more residents. And those people need to come from outside the state.

To attract them, Republicans will need to stop actively working to make Iowa the last place many people would choose to live. That means no more attacking tenure at universities, alienating transgender people, refusing to ban racial profiling by law enforcement or using policies and rhetoric to discourage immigrants and refugees from coming and remaining here.

Iowa needs more workers. We need them so employers want to operate businesses here and so we have more people to contribute taxes that fund government services. We need them so we customers can get served at a restaurant and checked out at a grocery store.

These are constructive, helpful things Iowa leaders can do to grow our labor force.

Noncompete clauses deprive workers of freedom, Iowa attorney general says

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller was among 19 state attorneys general who co-signed a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 urging it to bring an end to the use of noncompete clauses in employment.

The commission’s rule-making authority “offers the quickest, most comprehensive regulatory path to protecting all workers from these exploitative contracts,” according to the letter.

“Non-compete clauses in employment contracts prevent employees of one business from leaving and working for or starting another. Using non-competes, employers have bound a wide range of workers — including baristas, engineers, journalists, home health aides, physicians, and sandwich makers — and deprived them of their freedom to use their labor as they choose. Non-competes deprive workers of the right to pursue their ambitions and can lock them into hostile or unsafe working environments. In total, nearly 30 million American workers, or one in every five, currently work under a non-compete while approximately 60 million workers, or two in five, have been bound by a non-compete at some point during their careers,” they wrote.


Fort Dodge Messenger. July, 15, 2021.

Editorial: Fort Dodge remains home of state softball. Unique partnership has kept event here since 1970

The excitement, the crowds, the cheers and even the tears that are part of the Iowa state softball tournament will continue in Fort Dodge through at least 2025.

The City Council and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union have agreed on a five-year contract extension. That means the tournament will continue at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex for the immediate future.

The state’s best softball teams have been competing for the championships in their divisions at the sports complex since 1970. That is a unique, long running tradition nurtured by the relationships between the Athletic Union and the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, Iowa Central Community College and the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Over the years, 893,002 fans have attended the tournament.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has calculated that the tournament has a direct economic impact of $1.2 million annually, with an indirect economic impact of about $4 million.

Many of the teams stay on the Iowa Central campus. They get meals there and have access to the practice facilities.

Fort Dodge has the outstanding softball facility in the state at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex. That alone makes the city an enticing spot to hold the tournament. Add in the support provided by the unique partnership between the city government, the community college and the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Athletic Union really has no need to think about going anywhere else.

The credit for this long-running success is due to everyone from elected officials to part-time employees grooming the infield between innings.

Their success will be repeated again next week when the 2021 version of the tournament comes to town.

Fort Dodge residents should be proud that their city has been the home of the softball tournament for so long.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. July 16, 2021.

Editorial: Theisen donation for caregiver center shows understanding of local need

Jim Theisen and the Theisen family are widely known in the Dubuque area for their philanthropy. Charitable organizations far and wide have been benefactors of the giving nature that runs in the Theisen blood.

But a gift from the Theisen family announced last week struck a chord close to the heart. The Theisens, owners of Theisen Supply, have pledged $1 million toward the creation of a resource center for nonprofessional caregivers. This family knows personally how challenging the role of caregiver can be.

The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque will partner with the Theisen family on fundraising efforts for the planned Dubuque Area Caregiver Resource Center to be opened at Stonehill Communities, 3485 Windsor Ave. The center will provide a range of advisory and support services for people who are responsible for the care of loved ones, either elderly or ill. The Theisens’ $1 million will create an endowment to fund the annual expenses of the facility. The foundation is working to raise an additional $1 million in order to give the fund enough financial weight to generate $100,000 annually.

Jim Theisen, a past recipient of the Telegraph Herald First Citizen Award for his philanthropic pursuits, chose to create the center after spending several years as the primary caregiver for his wife, Marita Theisen, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

This family knows, just as so many families have experienced, how exhausting, heart-wrenching and, yet, rewarding the role of caregiver can be. Having a place to turn for support will be a wonderful addition to the services provided at Stonehill.

Once again, Jim Theisen leads by example. Many thanks from a grateful community.

As we stretch into the dog days of summer, you can almost smell the corn dogs on the midway from area county fairs.

After a year of curtailed and canceled events at county fairs — the Midwest’s quintessential summertime family fun spot — 2021 promises a return to the good old days. That means demolition derbies, fresh-squeezed lemonade, blue ribbons and Ferris wheels.

County fairs present a great opportunity to teach “city kids” a little bit about the agriculturally rich area that we live in. You’ll see the finest kept pigs, cows, goats, sheep and other creatures, tended to by kids involved in FFA and 4-H. These youngsters earn cash prizes and life lessons through their hard work.

Among the midway rides, carnival games, locally run food stands and grandstand shows, there’s something for everyone at area county fairs, and you can find a fair in the tri-state area just about every weekend from now until Labor Day. Enjoy a slice of vintage tri-state summer fun at a county fair.

Credit goes to the Illinois Department of Transportation for plans to transform a busy section of U.S. 20 in East Dubuque to make it safer for tri-state drivers.

The $2 million project will transition U.S. 20 from Sixth Street, just east of Van’s Liquor Store, to Camillus Drive, where Family Beer & Liquor is located, from four lanes to three. The plan will reconfigure traffic lanes to create an eastbound lane, a westbound lane and a bi-directional center turning lane. It is expected to be completed later this year.

The mile-long stretch of highway has been the site of frequent crashes, and the lane change will undoubtedly provide needed improvement.

The Illinois DOT would be wise to consider more changes to U.S. 20 through East Dubuque. Bridge access to the highway from downtown East Dubuque is another trouble spot, as is access at Barge Terminal Road, where the speed limit already has been dropped in the wake of other serious crashes.

Transportation officials get credit for addressing safety issues on state-maintained roads as they arise. Making travel safer for area residents is taxpayer money well spent.