Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Dubuque Telegraph Herald. January 8, 2023.

Editorial: More must be done to address shortage of volunteer emergency responders

Still haven’t settled on a New Year’s resolution? Instead of that no-carb diet that will wane in a few months, consider doing something this year that helps your community, is drastically needed and is even heroic. Consider becoming a volunteer firefighter.

Throughout the tri-state area, volunteer fire departments and ambulance services are struggling desperately to recruit enough members to perform their vital services.


Des Moines Register. January 8, 2023.

Editorial: Are Kim Reynolds and Republicans listening to Iowans’ questions?

We’re offering here some questions to which we’d love to hear answers this week, from Reynolds, Sen. Jack Whitver, Rep. Pat Grassley, and other party leaders.

When Gov. Kim Reynolds gives her Condition of the State address Tuesday night, it will be the first time Iowans have heard anything substantive from her since Election Day in November. She has not held a news conference in months. A brief meeting with reporters scheduled for December was called off. She and two top GOP legislators declined to take an hour of their time for an annual briefing with Statehouse journalists that’s been held for decades just before the legislative session. (Democratic legislators held a virtual session with journalists Friday, while Republicans plan a “legislative breakfast” Monday morning.)

Until not so long ago, American politicians dodged the news media at their peril. Newspapers, radio and television were the only megaphones for quickly reaching most of their constituents, and disengaged officials risked the messages through those megaphones being unflattering and unchallenged.

That is obviously no longer the case. Relationships with the conventional news media are no longer obligatory, and Reynolds is among many politicians who have correctly calculated that they will face no observable electoral or other penalty with the public by shunning reporters.

For us journalists, this is at worst an annoyance. Transparency laws provide many tools for providing robust coverage of the people’s business. Many have observed that journalists who aren’t dependent on “access” have an easier time maintaining objective distance from the people and bodies they cover.

But the situation is still regrettable, and Iowa Republicans’ choices still are mistaken. News conferences and independent questioning can help make government better. Foolish mistakes can be averted when ideas are exposed to scrutiny sooner rather than later. While some Iowans might choose to consume only partisan media sources or sift only official pronouncements and documents, many others appreciate the curation and analysis the independent media provide.

Since Iowa Republicans choose not to recognize this, we’re offering here some questions to which we’d love to hear answers this week, from Reynolds, Sen. Jack Whitver, Rep. Pat Grassley, and other party leaders.

What parts of your agenda will specifically benefit rural Iowa?

Neither major party has offered a compelling vision for preserving and building vitality outside of Iowa’s urban areas. Support for unfettered industrial agriculture doesn’t count. And one thing we know for sure we’ll see in the next few weeks is a bill to take tax money that currently is provided for public K-12 education and make it available for private school tuition and other uses — legislation that is unlikely to create tenable options for Iowa families who live far from private schools and simultaneously threatens lower-enrollment public districts where losing just a few thousand dollars might jeopardize important pieces of the budget. Such a move would take Iowa in the wrong direction. The majority party should detail anything it’s actually doing for rural Iowa.

Will you take action to restrict the availability of abortion pills in Iowa?

A Food and Drug Administration action last week makes it easier for retail pharmacies to dispense, including by mail, a medication abortion regimen approved for use through 10 weeks of pregnancy. Iowa still has relatively robust abortion access, even after the state Supreme Court upheld a law instituting a 24-hour waiting period this spring, but abortion opponents are petitioning the courts to revive one of the nation’s most stringent restrictions. And if they fail, Reynolds and many Republican lawmakers have an established history of seeking to effectively outlaw abortion care. Would they go so far as to try to clamp down on Iowans’ mail?

Is your education plan focused on solving the teacher shortage, or on micromanaging curriculum?

Legislatures across the country have seen both serious and unserious attempts to grapple with the lack of people entering the education profession, and the numbers of people leaving it. Iowa should, for instance, again consider an alternate path to licensure that didn’t progress last year, but shun any measure that would drastically reduce the qualifications for becoming a teacher. It’s a tricky issue to find the right balance of incentives and rigorous standards, and lawmakers should give it their full attention after their unnecessary and damaging meddling in recent years on how “divisive concepts,” mostly involving race and history, are presented.

Will you honor voters’ will by passing a sales tax increase to fund conservation and recreation spending?

In the past three years both Reynolds and legislative leaders have proposed tax overhauls that include a higher sales tax. Under a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2010, a portion of that new revenue would be dedicated to a Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Yes, sales taxes are regressive, full stop. Yes, the problems with Iowa’s environment go well beyond what millions of dollars can repair while we continue fouling our waters. But the opportunities to at least start somewhere with dedicated spending and to honor Iowa voters’ wishes should push state leaders to make this happen in 2023.

These questions of course leave out many pressing issues, such as child care, higher education, tax and Medicaid policy. (What questions would you ask? Email them to abetteriowa@dmreg.com.) The state’s top elected officials might not find it in their self-interest to discuss these topics with neutral or unfriendly audiences. But doing so would better serve the state’s, and the people’s, interests.