Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Dubuque Telegraph Herald. April 9, 2021.

Editorial: Proposed ethanol bill good for Iowa economy, environment

Area lawmakers working on changes to rules regarding ethanol in gasoline have gone about penning new legislation in the right way: By bringing all stakeholders to the table, hashing out differences and working toward compromise.

Iowa House of Representatives Study Bill 185 would require that new gas station infrastructure support at least 10% ethanol products and that fewer pumps deliver gas with no ethanol. It also would create seasonal biodiesel standards, among other things.

Rep. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, said members spent weeks seeking opinions from various groups, and the resulting measure looks significantly different than the original bill proposed. The heart of the issue is a 10% ethanol standard statewide, a priority set out before the session by Gov. Kim Reynolds. Changes to the bill would raise the standard to 15% by 2028.

Hein was joined by Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, and Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, in supporting the measure. Its details call for waivers for small retailers in an effort to negotiate a more palatable bill. Still, the move will face strong opposition from the fuel industry.

A statewide ethanol standard makes sense for Iowa. Production of ethanol is good for the state economy and the environment. A standard of 10% ethanol still means 90% gasoline, so the petroleum industry remains the dominant player in every transaction.

Credit goes to Hein and colleagues for attempting to hammer out more palatable legislation. No group gets everything it wants in a negotiation. This is how complex issues should be approached.

If Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs off on a bill on her desk, no cities in the state would be allowed to force landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

Pending that possibility, the City of Dubuque is wise to move forward with more incentives for landlords to try to increase the number of housing units potentially available to those struggling financially.

Four pilot programs are now in effect and will be tested for six months to try to encourage landlords to accept tenants receiving assistance.

The new incentives include a landlord signing bonus, which provides $1,000 to landlords who successfully lease to a housing choice voucher participant. A no-loss vacancy program reimburses landlords up to one month of rent for holding a vacant unit so a tenant receiving housing assistance can lease it. Another incentive program provides up to $2,500 in reimbursement for a landlord who accepts a housing voucher tenant and experiences damage to the leased unit.

Here’s another good example of government officials seeking collaborative solutions. Housing officials listened to landlords and devised incentives based on what landlords said might entice them. Federal relief aid from the pandemic will cover the cost of some of the initiatives. A $50,000 grant from Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque will cover another. It’s great to see community stakeholders stepping up to address this ongoing issue.

The pilot programs should provide officials some good data to pave the way toward a broadening of available housing options for those who need government assistance.

Talk to someone under the age of 30 about changes in the LGBTQ community, and they likely will be entirely nonplussed. They are of a generation far more accepting of gender identity and sexual orientation differences than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

And that acceptance, thankfully, is growing.

A recent Gallup poll showed one in six, or 15.9%, of adult Generation Z individuals — noted as people ages 18 to 23 — identify as LGBTQ+. The survey shows 9.1% of millennials, noted in the survey as ages 24 to 39, identify as LGBTQ+; 3.8% of Generation X, ages 40 to 55, identify this way; and 2% of baby boomers, ages 56 to 74, do the same.

As those numbers grow, so, too, do awareness and tolerance, according to tri-state-area LGBTQ activists. Reporter Kayli Reese examined this changing cultural trend in Sunday’s TH. Her work shed light on an evolving cultural shift — exciting to see but with much work still to be done.

The City of Dubuque has been a leader in this area. Dubuque was first recognized for its LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts in 2016 by the Human Rights Campaign with a score of 82 out of 100 on the Municipal Equality Index. The score increased to 84 in 2017 and has been at a full 100 points for the past three years. Yet how many local businesses and institutions would earn a similar score?

It’s encouraging to see the community becoming more welcoming and inclusive to people of all gender identities.


Des Moines Register. April 8, 2021.

Editorial: COVID-19 menace persists today, including for those who dismiss vaccines. All Iowans are now eligible for inoculations. Getting yours will keep you out of the emergency room and morgue

Want to know what can happen if you refuse a COVID-19 vaccination? Look to your local hospital. Ask a local ER doctor.

Dr. Tom Benzoni, an Iowa emergency room physician, told an editorial writer about a man who came to the hospital last week because he was struggling to breathe. The patient was old enough to have been eligible for a coronavirus vaccine in February. But he hadn’t wanted one. He said he didn’t believe in them.

His body certainly disagreed.

The man tested positive for COVID-19. His oxygen level was low. His lungs sounded wet and sticky. He was admitted to the hospital, while his wife sat nearby, looking sad.

“It’s really difficult seeing people struggle to breathe,” Benzoni said. “It’s double difficult knowing it was likely preventable. It’s triple difficult watching the family members suffer.”

Benzoni said he cannot imagine what people who refuse vaccinations are thinking.

“I cannot begin to understand the mental gymnastics one has to do to create coherence between one’s present suffering and one’s denial of the possibility of one’s current state.”

If some people need to continue to deny this nightmare of a pandemic and the efficacy of vaccines, they should do it while getting in line for a COVID vaccination, Benzoni said.

The vast majority of Americans want to be vaccinated. Some of us counted the days until we were eligible. We spent hours online and on the phone trying to book appointments. We hovered near pharmacies hoping to land an “extra” dose, waited in lines and took selfies during our shots.

And we’re baffled, even offended, by those who refuse vaccinations and try to discredit them.

While vaccine-deniers unnecessarily risk their lives, some Americans who desperately wanted the shots died while waiting for them, according to recent reporting from the Associated Press.

One woman, an Air Force veteran, was dying at a hospice center when the phone rang. It was a health care worker calling to schedule her first appointment for a coronavirus shot.

There was the story of Charlotte Crawford, who was fully immunized in January because her work in a hospital laboratory made her eligible. Yet her husband and two adult children were not eligible. All three contracted COVID-19 and died.

There was the 73-year-old man who was very excited to get a shot and received it in early January. He tested positive for the virus and died less than two weeks before he was eligible for his second dose, which is needed for more comprehensive protection.

COVID-19 vaccines work. They save lives.

Inoculations have helped halt deadly outbreaks in long-term care facilities where residents were among the first people inoculated.

The Navajo Nation, which had one of the worst coronavirus case rates in the country, has gained control of the virus. After a peak of 250 new coronavirus cases daily in November, it recently averaged about 11 new cases a day and deaths dropped significantly. It’s no coincidence the promising developments come as more than half the residents living on tribal lands are fully vaccinated.

All Iowans are now eligible for shots. Getting one will keep this virus from sending you to the emergency room or the morgue.


Quad-City Times. April 7, 2021.

Editorial: Making the cut

The Iowa Legislature is heading into the home stretch. Last week, the second funnel deadline passed, and a number of bills that hadn’t made sufficient progress were left in the waste bin.

We’re happy to see some of those that would have been harmful to our area didn’t make the cut, particularly a bill that would have big-footed local city councils by prohibiting them from managing their own public safety budgets. The bill was aimed at stopping governments from “defunding” the police, but in truth it limited the ability of local governments to keep their streets safe.

The proposal to jettison tenure at the state’s major universities also failed. This would have done incalculable damage to our state’s economy, not to mention free speech. A ban on traffic cameras also failed again; unfortunately, so did an amendment to the state Constitution to allow people with felony convictions to vote. The bill passed the House, but once again it couldn’t clear the Senate. The governor has signed an executive order to allow felons to vote, but permanent language needs to be added to the Constitution.

There are a lot of proposals still alive for the session, among them legislation aimed at improving child care in the state. It’s true some bills didn’t survive, but we would urge lawmakers to focus their attention on working to pass meaningful legislation to improve the affordability and availability of child care. It is vital that lawmakers get this done.

The same goes with steps to improve broadband and housing affordability in Iowa.

It is unfortunate that other bills still are alive: Legislation that would reduce unemployment benefits for people, many of them suffering from the pandemic’s fallout, remains viable; also, the bottle bill that would let retailers refuse redeeming containers if they are near a redemption center is still alive. This proposal would make it more difficult for Iowans to take back empties and may lead to greater littering on the state’s roads.

Some parts of the governor’s “school choice” agenda are alive; that includes proposals on charter schools, though the bill to promote state funding for private scholarships failed. Meanwhile, a proposal to scuttle voluntary diversity plans, like the one in Davenport, is still alive, too. This bill has the potential to loosen the reins on parents who want their kids to be able to leave the district and go elsewhere. But it would also do financial damage to the district and the students who remain.

We would urge our delegation to look out for the interests of the community as a whole, along with its people and institutions. In Des Moines, there are plenty of individuals, and special interest groups, making clear their agenda. We’d rather lawmakers focus on the greater good.