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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

The Associated PressApril 1, 2019

Des Moines Register. March 27, 2019

Republicans should explain how they would pay for Medicaid work requirement

Iowa does not need approval from state lawmakers to pursue imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients. But Republicans apparently needed to look tough on poor people who rely on government health insurance.

So the GOP-controlled Senate passed Senate File 538. The misdirected bill directs the Iowa Department of Human Services to seek federal permission to require “able-bodied” Iowans to work, engage in community activities or be enrolled in school to utilize Medicaid. Now, legislative leaders say the legislation is not expected to pass this year.

That’s good but even so, the 32 Republican senators who supported this have some explaining to do to voters. Namely, how they’re expected to pay for all the bureaucracy created by their idea.

The bill was opposed by lobbyists representing hospitals, doctors, United Way, churches, public unions, the mental health community and numerous other organizations. They opposed it for good reason.

Mandating work or other activities to obtain health insurance is counter-productive in the GOP’s supposed attempt to usher Iowans toward jobs. Access to care may be the very thing someone needs to be healthy enough to secure and hold a job.

If you are mentally ill, prescription drugs may be the key to gaining employment. People suffering from chronic pain, shortness of breath, depression, diabetes, or numerous other problems need health care in order to pursue opportunities, including education and work.

But Senate Republicans refused to understand this basic concept. What they should understand is how much their stunt would have cost the state of Iowa. It’s explained to them in a fiscal note attached to the legislation.

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, more than 70,000 low-income Iowans would be affected by a work requirement. Though that’s only a fraction of the Iowans on Medicaid, these are people whose health care is paid almost entirely by the federal government. That means the state will save little if they lose coverage.

Meanwhile, state employees would have a heck of a lot more work to do because they’ll need to review, gather and update information on the tens of thousands of people subjected to the new mandate. That would take 10 minutes per case twice a year, according to LSA. Getting that done would require 18 more employees, including one supervisor, at DHS, an agency that has lost hundreds of workers in recent years.

Republicans who supposedly despise big government should also know the education and training component of their bill would require additional workers to navigate and manage cases through community college programs.

Medicaid recipients who fail to volunteer, work at least 20 hours per week or participate in other activities will lose their health insurance in six months. They will likely reapply for coverage, which could create more work for the state.

The estimated cost to Iowa for all this: $5 million the first year and nearly $12 million the second. (Plus the cost of defending the state against any lawsuits.)

That’s a pretty penny in tax money to pay for the GOP’s mean-spirited attempt to strip poor Iowans of health insurance. Lawmakers should explain where they thought the money was going to come from.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. March 25, 2019.

Iowa invests in education

Graduation from high school is a key benchmark event. It is a major transition point in life. For many young folks, not only does it represent completion of a critical educational phase, but it also is a time when adulthood is close at hand. For our state it means that these young people are ready to assume the responsibilities of citizenship. It also means that Iowa’s pool of potential workers is being replenished and enhanced.

Iowans have long put a high priority on education. Not long after pioneers first settled the Hawkeye State, one-room schoolhouses dotted the rural landscape. Today schools have evolved into high-tech centers of learning that surely would astound the settlers who first called Iowa home. Our state continues to show its determination to invest in education. The current Legislature recently passed funding to support pre-kindergarten through high school programs that Gov. Kim Reynolds welcomed enthusiastically.

“With the Iowa Legislature’s approval of historic pre-K-12 school funding, we can continue moving forward in preparing our young people for the challenges of a 21st century economy,” she said on Feb. 13.

It is a tribute to Iowa’s emphasis on education — and a source of pride — that our state typically has one of the nation’s highest graduation rates for high school students. In 2016, Iowa ranked ahead of all other states with a graduation rate of 91 percent. It looks like that performance could be repeated when the national figures for 2017-2018 are known because statistics just released by the Iowa Department of Education show that the graduation rate for that year edged up to 91.4 percent, which is an all-time high for Iowa.

“This latest success is directly tied to our strong K-12 education system and Iowa’s innovative, engaging approach to education, which shapes the lives of our young people as well as the economic vitality of our state,” Reynolds said. “We’re transforming how students learn by connecting what they’re taught in the classroom to the career opportunities that a 21st century economy demands.”

Not content with already excellent performance, the State Board of Education has set a graduation-rate goal of 95 percent for the years ahead. That is a daunting, but realistic target.

An educated public is vitally important to the success of democratic institutions. In a world where each of us is inundated by a vast amount of information, the ability to evaluate it is crucial. The analytical skills learned in school are relevant for a lifetime.

The Messenger congratulates state officials, local school boards and Iowa’s educators for helping bring about this impressive graduation rate. We also applaud the parents who support our young people as they move through their educational journey and the dedication of the students. There are many reasons to be proud of Iowa. This graduation rate is most certainly one of them.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald. March 25, 2019

‘Sunshine bill’ could have negative impact on Iowans

It’s difficult to build the renewable-energy sector when industry giants throw up roadblocks — which is exactly what has happened in the Iowa Legislature.

A bill passed last week would allow utilities to impose new costs on solar-generating customers. For the businesses and individuals who thought they were doing something positive for the environment by installing solar panels, the state of Iowa would thank them by raising their taxes $300 a year.

The “Sunshine Tax” (SF 583) would change how utility customers are charged for electricity if they have solar now or in the future, making it far less advantageous to use solar energy.

MidAmerican Energy is pushing the measure, calling it an issue of fairness regarding solar customers’ use of the utility grid. Yet it is the utilities, not Iowans, who would benefit from the bill. Also, the 800 jobs in Iowa’s solar industry could be in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Utilities Board is midway through a three-year study of how net-metering of renewable energy impacts the state. Yet this bill has forged ahead without the benefit of the state board’s research and oversight.

If there’s a need to address fairness in the energy industry,

Iowans should be able to see unbiased research making the case, not rely on legislation pushed by one stakeholder over another.

The last time we wrote about former President Jimmy Carter on this editorial page, it was to honor his service and wish him well as he embarked on a fierce battle with a deadly cancer that had spread from his liver to his brain.

That was more than three years ago. Miraculously, Carter announced months later that his cancer is gone.

Now Carter hit a milestone that adds a significant note to his place in history: He’s lived longer than any other president ever has. As of Friday, Carter reached the age of 94 years and 172 days, making him one day older than George H. W. Bush was when he died in November.

That unique record was roundly applauded with warm regards for the 39th president. Nearly four decades out of office, we have come to see Carter outside of the harsh spotlight of politics. Today the name Jimmy Carter is synonymous with humanitarian.

Over the last 40 years, Carter has quietly devoted his life to public service. As a visible presence for Habitat for Humanity, Carter rolled up his sleeves and helped build houses for the poor. He created The Carter Center, an organization committed to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. The center — and often Carter himself — observed more than 100 elections in 38 countries to encourage and ensure integrity in the process.

Through the center, Carter led an international campaign to fight disease in Africa, nearly eradicating Guinea worm disease. In 1986, there were some 3.5 million Guinea worm infections every year across 21 countries. In 2018, there were only 28 cases in the world, according to the Carter Center. It will be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated.

Though he’s cut back a bit on his schedule, Carter still teaches Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga.

Congratulations to America’s oldest president ever. What an added blessing that the person to hold this honor is also a model of humility, compassion and integrity.

The college admissions scandal continues to grow, with prosecutors seeking even more parents to indict.

The next step comes April 3 when actresses — and moms — Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and other defendants appear in a Boston courtroom.

The actresses are among dozens of wealthy parents arrested for their role in a scheme to get their children into elite colleges by cheating on entrance exams and/or falsifying athletic records.

It’s enough to make hard-working students and parents scrimping to put kids through school sick.

Just how hard the hammer of justice will fall on the wealthy parents is difficult to predict. But don’t expect to see Huffman and Loughlin in orange jumpsuits anytime soon.

Though it might be satisfying to see the rich parents completing menial labor in community service, that’s a punishment not befitting the crime.

Here’s a suggestion for the court when it comes to meting out punishment: The payments parents made were run through a sham non-profit that supposedly was to benefit low-income students. What could be more appropriate than demanding these parents make good on what they claimed to be doing and actually donate tens of thousands of dollars to a fund to help students who can’t afford college?

Those most hurt by this scandal are gifted students across the country who have been shut out of elite schools while others slipped through by cheating. If something positive is to come of this, it should be to the benefit of students who play by the rules.

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