Des Moines Register. October 27, 2017

Stop blaming Obamacare and focus on helping Iowa

Former Gov. Terry Branstad was an avid Donald Trump supporter leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Gov. Kim Reynolds was glued to his side with an approving smile. Voters in this state ultimately helped send Trump to the White House.

What did this political support earn Iowans? Nothing, when it came to helping Iowa shore up its individual health insurance market. Perhaps worse than nothing.

Now Iowa's elected officials must focus their energies on finding ways to ensure access to affordable health insurance. And they'll need to do this on their own. The Trump administration is apparently not going to lend a hand.

On Monday state officials announced they were abandoning a "stopgap" proposal pushed by state insurance commissioner Doug Ommen. The idea, which would repurpose health reform dollars to aid private insurers, was questionable to begin with. But state leaders were desperate to try anything after major insurers exited the individual market, leaving only one insurer to offer policies next year.

Iowa only needed approval from Washington to proceed with Ommen's plan. But the president, who reportedly learned about Iowa's request for a federal waiver in a newspaper story, called a top federal human services administrator in August and told her to reject it, the Washington Post has reported.

On Monday, state officials finally gave up. The Republican president rejected a Republican-crafted plan supported by a Republican governor and U.S. senators that would thwart health rules crafted under a Democratic administration.

Iowa officials were so confident the stopgap would be approved, they had already readied state computers for the switch. Reynolds had personally reached out to Washington on this issue.

When the reality of the dysfunctional Trump administration finally soaked in and Iowa was left with no choice but to abandon the stopgap, Reynolds took the tired, lame route of blaming Obamacare.

"It came down to the law," she said. "It just does not afford the flexibility that we need to be creative."

Actually, the Trump administration has the power to grant flexibility to allow states to deviate from law and rules. That is the very premise of waivers like the one Iowa was seeking. Instead of acknowledging that, Reynolds blamed the law and thanked Trump for trying to repeal it.

Will Iowa's governor also give Trump a big round of applause for doing everything he can to further destabilize the very private insurance market Republicans have long embraced as the key to insuring Americans?

His administration has actively worked to suppress the number of people who sign up for coverage during the open enrollment period that begins Wednesday, such as shortening the sign-up period by half. Trump also recently announced the discontinuing of cost-sharing subsidies. These actions make it less likely private insurers will participate in exchanges and more likely Iowans will go without coverage.

Politicians who continue to blame a seven-year-old law are not helping Iowans. Repealing the law without an adequate replacement won't help either. And Trump clearly has no interest in offering assistance.

So it's time for Reynolds and the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature to acknowledge the Washington reality and be leaders who solve the problems facing this state. That will require working with Democrats. It may require using state money to shore up insurance markets or cover more people in Medicaid. It could even mean — gasp — finding ways to raise revenue.

Obamacare has insured more than 100,000 Iowans, allowed health providers to be paid for treating the previously uninsured and brought millions of additional federal dollars to this state. Iowa continues to enjoy these benefits.

The law is not at fault when a president ignores or rejects a plea for help from state leaders in his own party to do what's allowed under the law.

This editorial is the opinion of The Des Moines Register's editorial board: David Chivers, president; Carol Hunter, executive editor; Lynn Hicks, opinion editor; and Andie Dominick, editorial writer.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. October 25, 2017

Time to give bootlegging law the boot

Dubuque residents who bring home a souvenir six-pack from the Potosi Brewery might not realize they're breaking the law.

Even if they do realize it, the fact that the law they are violating is archaic and — can we just say it? stupid — probably emboldens them to go ahead and do it anyway.

But just in case you weren't aware of the law — or you thought that outdated laws just sort of faded away — the Iowa Division of Alcoholic Beverages is not letting you off so easily.

This month, the state body that governs alcohol sales sent out an "Educational Bulletin" on the subject of interstate commerce as it pertains to alcohol. It pointedly states that the bulletin "is to provide clarification on the personal importation of alcoholic beverages into the state of Iowa."

If you were under the impression that bringing hard liquor across the state line was a worse transgression than beer or wine, this memo is for you.

In fact, it's OK to bring a liter of liquor home from another state. But beer and wine? That's a no-no.

That cabernet you bought at the Galena Cellars? That's a violation. That beer you bought in East Dubuque to avoid Iowa's nickel-a-container deposit? Under Iowa's rules, you should not have.

Keep in mind that we're addressing low-volume purchases for personal consumption. Hauling bulk quantities of the stuff for sale or consumption in a commercial venue is a separate matter.

But before you fret about limiting your liquor-shopping options, consider what the Dubuque police have to say. To paraphrase: "Yeah, we've got bigger fish to catch than the priest who buys communion wine when it's on sale at Family Beer."

Of course they do.

Likewise, in 2017, living in a tri-state region, citizens should be able to move fluidly in and out of each state's area of commerce without hitting outdated obstacles. It takes residents of all three states to support tri-state area businesses. So some Iowans cross state lines to buy alcohol; how many Illinoisans and Wisconsinites cross state lines to buy groceries, furniture, cars, clothes — and nearly everything else? That's the give-and-take of regional economies.

To make the current law even more of head-scratcher, the allowable limit on carry-ins from outside the country is higher than state-to-state transport. If you buy a bottle of vodka in Illinois, it's supposed to be just one liter. But if you buy that same vodka in Russia, feel free to bring in four liters.

Iowa lawmakers need to take a look at this law so police and law-abiding citizens don't have to keep looking the other way or over their shoulders, as the case might be.

Let's embrace our tri-state region and make interstate commerce reasonable and convenient.


Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. October 29,2017

A proud achievement for a Waterloo native

For many years, the Martin Luther King Jr. banquet in Waterloo has commemorated the Nobel Peace Prize winner's belief in the American dream and equal opportunity.

Speakers have included many area residents, or men and women with local ties, who have made significant contributions to society and their communities.

Attendees at the January 2018 event will get a special treat. Nikole Hannah-Jones will be the keynote speaker. She was recently selected for the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, based on her work "chronicling the demise of racial integration efforts and persistence of segregation in American society, particularly in education."

Hannah-Jones was one of 24 recipients for 2017. Sometimes referred to as a "genius grant," the award comes with a $625,000 stipend to be paid out over five years and spent in any way recipients choose.

The award is unique in that it is speculative; it does not recognize lifetime achievement. Instead it invests in individual potential.

Astrophysicist Joseph Taylor, for instance, was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1981. Ten years later, his work on pulsars was recognized with a Nobel Prize.

Award winners cross a myriad of careers and passions. There's really no way to generalize them. However, if you feel the need, you could say they are "thinkers and doers."

Many have worked in addressing social issues, like Rosanne Haggerty (2001), who worked diligently in providing housing for homeless individuals and families.

No one can apply for the program, and generally, no one even knows if he or she is being considered as a candidate. That explains Hannah-Jones' reaction: "Just shock and surprise, disbelief."

"When you're a journalist, you dream about getting a Pulitzer," she said. "I never dreamed of getting a MacArthur."

The MacArthur Fellows Program is part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The foundation's stated aim is to support "creative people, effective institutions and influential networks building a more just, verdant and peaceful world."

For Hannah-Jones, insights on racial segregation issues began with her own experiences as a young child in Waterloo.

"Even as a kid and bused across town, I would see the difference between what the west side and the east side looked like," she said in a phone interview from Brooklyn, N.Y., where she now lives with her family. "You saw a distinct color line. I was very curious and observant of these things at a young age."

That awareness caused Hannah-Jones to begin calling out racial injustice while a student at Hoover Middle School and West High School, which she graduated from in 1994. It led to a career as an investigative journalist now working at New York Times Magazine, where she has extensively written about how segregation is maintained through government policy and action.

In high school, Hannah-Jones worked on West's school newspaper, winning an award from the Iowa High School Press Association her senior year. After graduation, she headed to the University of Notre Dame.

She worked for the Raleigh News and Observer, the Oregonian and ProPublica prior to joining the staff of the New York Times in 2015.

In recent years, Hannah-Jones began writing about school segregation exclusively, stating she believes it is the biggest driver of inequality.

She did an hour-long piece for National Public Radio's "This American Life" in 2015 looking at the educational system in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting of Michael Brown. Last year, she wrote a personal account of her experience as a parent in the New York City public schools. Currently, she is on leave from the New York Times Magazine writing a book about school segregation.

Fellowship grant recipients work in a range of fields such as psychology, architecture, theater, music, art, anthropology, journalism, computer science and much more.

Past winners include:

Allan Charles Wilson, a professor of biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, a pioneer in the use of molecular approaches to understand evolutionary change.

Adrienne Cecile Rich, an American poet, essayist and feminist. She was called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century."

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, an American journalist whose works focus on the marginalized members of society: adolescents living in poverty, prostitutes, women in prison, etc.

This is an award that, for decades, has reflected a wide range of American creativity and diversity. We are proud Waterloo's own Nikole Hannah-Jones in becoming one of these thinkers and doers, and we can't think of a more appropriate speaker for the next MLK Banquet.

We certainly look forward to hearing what she has to say.


Fort Dodge Messenger. October 27, 2017

CFR gets ready for the future

Organization breaks ground for a much-needed new home

Community and Family Resources is an organization that undertakes vital work in our community and region. It is a nonprofit agency that specializes in helping people overcome and recover from addiction. It also assists individuals who most cope with mental health problems.

In 2017, CFR served more than 3,000 clients through treatment programs. It offers treatment services in eight Iowa counties and prevention services in 10 counties.

To help it better fulfill a multifaceted mission, CFR has begun construction at 211 Ave. M West of a new home for its Fort Dodge campus. The $6.6 million facility is expected to take about 18 months to build. Once completed it will consolidate all of CFR's Fort Dodge operations in one place. The new structure will replace aging, outdated facilities.

"This new building represents hope, healing, and recovery," said CFR Executive Director Michelle De La Riva, at the recent groundbreaking ceremony. "With this new building we are going to increase our capacity almost by double. We're going to have increased efficiency, we're going to have safety and security, and most of all our clients are going to be able to come in and say this is a wonderful place of hope, healing and refuge."

Providing this important agency with a state-of-the-art home will help it fulfill a challenging mission that is of crucial importance to the well-being of Fort Dodge and other central Iowa communities.

A CFR capital campaign has been launched with the initial goal of raising $2 million. The Messenger urges readers to give support to CFR.