Do the folks in politics think we are asleep? Do they really believe no one is paying attention to what politicians are up to? It’s not surprising if you have acid indigestion these days. A few examples illustrate why I might need a tanker truck of Maalox. SENATE RACE.
The chambers of the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives are silent after a busy 2021 session. Lawmakers teed up bills that addressed a wide assortment of problems, real or imagined. They decided against an increase in tax revenues for the three state universities. They took away authority of local governments to impose face-mask requirements to combat current or future diseases. They made significant changes in the process for creating charter schools, which will operate with state tax money but will not face many requirements public K-12 schools must follow.
The 2021 session of the Iowa Legislature will end in a few weeks, and one big issue moving toward a final vote would make charter schools easier to create as an alternative to the traditional K-12 public schools. Others can debate the pros and cons of charter schools and House File 813, the bill that is awaiting debate and a vote in the Senate. That’s not my purpose here today. But I want to sound a cautionary note:
If the Legislature wants to make it easier to establish these independent schools and provide them with state tax money to operate, then lawmakers should amend House File 813 to ensure these schools are subject to Iowa’s public records laws. As written, the bill already states that meetings of the charter schools’ boards of directors would have to be open to the public.
Many years ago, during a conversation with an old lawyer, he made a comment I still remember: “You can sue the bishop of Boston for bastardy, but that doesn’t mean you are going to collect.”
It was Frank Karpan’s way of reminding a young editor that merely filing a lawsuit is not the most important occurrence in a dispute. The outcome is. My friend’s Frank-isms have been quoted in these columns before. My favorite is the rarely wrong observation, “I never had a client listen himself into trouble, but I’ve had plenty who talked themselves into trouble.”
Frank’s comment about the bishop occurred back when it was easier to figure out winners and losers in court fights. These days, however, someone can win in court but ultimately lose, because the cost of a skilled legal defense can be staggering.
The sponsor of an Iowa bill that would prohibit cities or counties from regulating the sale of natural gas or propane said he is confident the legislation will make it to the governor’s desk after recently clearing committee votes in both chambers. State Sen. Jason Schultz, a Republican from southwest Iowa, said his bill (SF 455) is meant to counter the “radical left environmental agenda” in Des Moines, where the City Council recently adopted a goal of transitioning to carbon-free electricity citywide by 2035. The Iowa House Commerce Committee approved the measure on Feb. 15 by a 16-4 vote, and the Senate Commerce Committee approved similar language 13-4 on Feb. 24.
There have not been a lot of bright spots since coronavirus began sickening Iowans. So far, 685 people have died in our state from the virus, and another 26,000 have been infected. Unemployment in Iowa is in the double digits. We have
already begun hearing of business owners throwing in the towel and closing permanently. But one thing has gone phenomenally well during the pandemic, and that was the primary election on June 2.
Iowans take considerable pleasure in enumerating the various ways our state stands apart from the other 49 states – beyond our endangered first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. For many years, we pointed with pride to the fact that Iowa’s high school graduation rate was tops in the United States. We like to remind friends from other states that Iowa farmers
produce more corn, hogs and eggs than farmers anywhere else. Sports fans beamed over the University of Iowa wrestling team’s success from 1978 to 1986, when the Hawkeyes won the NCAA title a record nine consecutive times. That is a longer string of NCAA team championships than any other Division I university in any other sport.
A bill now awaiting debate and a vote in the Iowa Senate is quite short. It adds a mere 10 lines to the Iowa Code. But those 10 lines are an important legal statement Iowa lawmakers should adopt before they finish their work for 2020. Senate File 2331 says employees of Iowa’s public schools shall not be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned or in any other way retaliated against for protecting a student’s freedom of expression or for refusing to infringe on a student’s First Amendment rights. Currently, students in Iowa public schools have a right to exercise freedom of speech in the papers they are assigned to write for classes or in articles they write for their school’s student newspaper.
There is a retired businessman in western Iowa who bristles every time he reads a newspaper article from somewhere in our state about government officials who have misused their government credit cards for unauthorized purchases. This man is worried such abuses could be happening at the local county hospital since top administrators were given credit cards to use. His concern grew when he learned the hospital’s board of directors does not see an itemized bill from the credit card company with each of the month’s transactions listed. Instead, board members only see a lump sum total they are asked to approve for payment. Randy Evans
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.
Credibility is oh so fragile, and officials in Iowa’s largest school district dented theirs last week. Even people who don’t live in Des Moines should be troubled by what occurred, because there is a good chance, come January, the Iowa Legislature will respond in ways that could affect every other school district in the state. Here’s why:
In the Nov. 5 school election, the Des Moines school district asked voters to approve a higher property tax levy for the district’s building and equipment needs. The higher physical plant and equipment levy will bring in an additional $6.5 million a year.