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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

July 30, 2018

Des Moines Register. July 27, 2018

Lazy lawmaking misses mark on ‘stand your ground’ law

Judges in Iowa are trying to navigate a 2017 “stand your ground” law, which states people do not have to retreat before using deadly force if they believe their lives are in danger. Yet this law lacks clarity and clear procedure.

In March, Johnson County Judge Paul Miller found the the law “void for vagueness” and said an Iowa City man was not entitled to immunity when he opened fire on the city’s pedestrian mall, killing one person and injuring two others.

The man’s lawyers said he acted in self-defense and the “stand-your-ground” law should provide immunity. The judge not only disagreed, he noted that there were “numerous problems” with the law and that the statute does not make clear whether a defendant would be immune from prosecution. He wrote immunity could mean “anything from court costs associated with prosecution, to fines, to restitution, to simply being prosecuted at all.”

This month Patrick Grady, Iowa’s sixth judicial district’s chief judge, denied a request by a Cedar Rapids man to receive protection from prosecution under the law after he and another man shot at each other in January at a bar and restaurant in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Grady wrote that Iowa lacks the type of “clear pretrial procedure” other states with such laws have developed through legislation or high court rulings. He based his decision only on the minutes of the testimony of the case and the undisputed facts in the court record.

“Though this may lead to a result that is less than the protection provided by traditional immunity, it is a result that could have been intended by the legislature or should be clarified,” he wrote.

He noted the defendant could still raise a defense of justification — just as he could under the old law — although he would have to go to trial to do so.

It is bad enough Iowa’s GOP legislators have done all they can to encourage people to own guns, carry them everywhere and shoot others. Their lawmaking skills miss the mark as well. They pass bills with boilerplate language provided by lobbyists or national associations and pat themselves on the back.

Everyone else is left to try to make sense of the sloppy statutes.

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Quad-City Times. July 29, 2018

Iowa farmers want markets, not welfare

A heavy dose of socialism and a small mountain of bureaucratic red tape — that’s what Midwesterners who held their noses and voted for President Donald Trump wanted, right?

Well, whether Iowa’s farmers like it or not, that’s what they’re getting, as the White House this past week rolled out a $12 billion package to pay producers — particularly of soybeans and pork — for lost revenue that resulted from the president’s absurd trade war.

Iowa is a key target of the program that would bilk taxpayers in the name of political expedience.

Trump’s Tuesday announcement — followed by stops on Thursday in Iowa and Illinois — gave a whole new meaning to the budgetary pejorative “pork.” And it landed with a distinct thud among conservative fiscal hawks in the House and Trump’s rural Midwestern base alike.

Illinois and Iowa rank Nos. 1 and 2 respectively in U.S. soybean production. Iowa’s the country’s top pork producer. This is, in a very real sense, a matter of local significance, one that could affect the bottom line of Quad-Cities manufacturing, too, which heavily favors the agricultural sector.

Some Republicans likened Trump’s aid package to Soviet-style market manipulation. While a bit over the top, this characterization does point to just how anti-free market Trump’s New New Deal actually is. The protectionist American president is to the left of most Democrats.

The policy is so ridiculously anti-capitalistic that a chorus of Republicans, Democrats and independents all blasted it. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said farmers don’t want nor need corporate welfare. They desire access to the markets Trump has suddenly rendered unreachable through his bluster and peacocking. U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, said basically the same thing. So, too, did Iowa’s Republican U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.

Trump’s agri-welfare program united Republicans, Democrats, liberals and tea party members in opposition in an era of near-unprecedented partisanship. It’s just that awful. Even still, don’t expect Congress to do its job and rein Trump in.

The fact that Trump is asking taxpayers to foot the bill for economic troubles of his own making isn’t a surprise. As with most issues throughout his presidency, foreign and domestic, Trump shows up, breaks something and then claims victory when everything doesn’t go to hell.

But the farm aid program flies in the face of years’ worth of U.S. policy built through bipartisan consensus and heaps of study. In 2014, lawmakers lauded an overhaul to the Farm Bill, for instance, because it pulled back on long-derided direct payments, which made already wealthy industrial farmers even richer, in lieu of more robust crop insurance.

The trade relief package only adds to an already ballooning deficit, too, fueled by federal tax cuts and massive increases in military spending. It effectively makes the American taxpayer the proud owner of tons of pork, soybeans and beef that are destined to rot in warehouses.

And, comically, the program is slated for only one year and accessible only if farmers plow through heaps of paperwork. This from the administration that falsely claims it’s killed more red tape than any other.

So, in short, Trump’s aid package is just nonsense, and a clear signal by the Trump administration that it has no intention of ending the trade war it started. It’s welfare for farmers who wouldn’t need it if the White House listened to reason and didn’t pick a fight with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico. It’s an unnecessary expense solely designed to placate the voters who put Trump in office in the lead up to November’s mid-term elections. And it assumes that perhaps the country’s most incompetent White House in history can fix what it broke in less than a year.

Farmers aren’t the issue. Nor is the loss of direct subsidies. No, Trump’s trade war is the problem, and no amount of cynical patronage can change it.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald. July 29, 2018

Trump’s visit spotlights workforce issues

Regular readers of this editorial page know that the need to build up the tri-state area’s skilled workforce is a common theme.

For several years, leaders in nearly every category of business have been lamenting the lack of workers to fill their job openings — and they predict the situation will get worse.

In TH editorials, about issues from higher education funding to city amenities to support for the arts, it seems that all roads lead to attracting and maintaining a solid workforce. That reflects the depth and seriousness of the issue; it impacts every level of the community.

Last week, the rest of the world heard a bit about workforce challenges in this region when President Donald Trump landed in Dubuque and held a roundtable discussion on this very issue at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta.

The choice of venue for the event was fitting, as NICC is vital in workforce initiatives. It is training and retraining area residents so that they have the required knowledge and skills to fill job openings.

Trump’s visit included a college tour hosted by NICC President Liang Chee Wee. Few people understand the importance of workforce development in the way that Dr. Wee does.

The visit enabled Wee and NICC officials to show firsthand the vital role community colleges play in preparing ready workers. President Trump even got to interact with students engaged in hands-on learning.

That set the stage perfectly for Trump’s announcement that he plans to sign legislation reauthorizing a program to provide money for job training and related programs for students.

Congress last authorized the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in 2006. Lawmakers passed the bill on Wednesday. According to Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, the measure will help 11 million students and workers across the country acquire the technical skills they need to thrive in an increasingly digital economy.

That’s great news. Education is the pathway for building workforce — and workforce is a linchpin of a vital community.

Whether you agree with President Trump or side more with the citizens protesting outside NICC, drawing more attention to workforce issues — and specifically supporting development of workers through education — is a positive step.

As Sen. Chuck Grassley said last week, “We can’t take a good economy for granted.” More attention and effort must be placed on building a workforce.

The president’s visit brought together key leaders in politics, business, industry and education, and the need to build up a strong workforce was one area on which they could all agree.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. July 29, 2018

Iowa Sales Tax Holiday starts Friday

It’s hard to believe, but area families are already beginning to think about the items that will be needed to send young folks back to school properly equipped and looking good.

According to the National Retail Foundation, a typical family with children in school will spend nearly $600 on back-to-school merchandise. As the inevitable shopping gets under way, consumers are hard-pressed this summer. Many will be inclined to be more frugal than might otherwise have been the case because the economy — even though we have emerged from recession — is by almost universal consensus something less than robust.

Finding bargains is part of the fun of back-to-school shopping every year. In 2018, doing so will take on increased urgency for many parents and students.

Clothing and shoes are among the necessities that will be on just about everyone’s to-buy list. The annual Iowa Sales Tax Holiday that begins Friday and continues Saturday will help shoppers stretch their precious dollars.

This program is now in its 19th year. It exempts from sales tax certain clothing and shoe purchases with an item price under $100.

Iowa’s Legislature launched this two-day tax holiday in 2000. Mike Cormack, a Republican who at that time represented the Fort Dodge area in the Iowa House of Representatives, was the driving force behind the measure. It’s a program that especially benefits those lower-income individuals who must make every penny count, but it is a welcome assist to everyone.

Many other states have similar tax holidays. Some extend the sales-tax exemption to a wider range of school-related items such as assorted supplies, computers and books. When the Legislature returns to the Capitol, members should seriously consider broadening the applicability of the sales tax exemption. Outfitting kids for school is becoming ever more expensive and the required purchases go far beyond clothing and shoes. If the policy makes sense, it should reflect the real world of back-to-school costs that shoppers face.

The Messenger reminds readers that the Iowa Sales Tax Holiday is an excellent opportunity to acquire needed items at a saving. Don’t miss out on the bargains available Friday and Saturday.

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