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Editorial: The Republican checklist

  • 5 min to read

It's about ticking off the boxes.

There's a checklist whenever a single party takes total control of a state. For liberals, it's about expanding the social safety net and, too often, bowing to organized labor. 

In Republican-run states, uniform policy on schools, voting rights, women's health care access and local government authority is legislated and adopted in statehouses from South Carolina to Utah.

It's not without irony coming from a party that vocally opposes one-size-fits-all policy. Instead of the federal government, it's big-money lobbyists, corporations and right-wing activists that are writing laws and dictating policy. The near word-for-word nature of the bills shouldn't be a surprise. In many cases, stock bills are drafted at meetings organized by groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council. 

The ultimate goal is two-fold: Reduce taxes and push a conservative social agenda. Some of the movement's earliest adopters are having buyer's remorse. Kansas' Republican-run Legislature is pushing back against Gov. Sam Brownback's far-right agenda, which has bled that state dry. Lawmakers there are pushing a tax hike to pay for the schools and roads that were left to rot, thanks to Brownback's dogma. 

Now, Iowa is one of 25 states where the GOP wields total control. And the Republican checklist is most definitely in play. 

Loosen gun laws


• Where it stands: In progress

This is guaranteed whenever the GOP seizes a statehouse. The gun lobby won't accept any less. 

Iowa law already protects the use of force against someone threatening life, home or property. But, apparently, that's not good enough for the gun lobby.

Surprise, surprise, an omnibus gun package, which, of course, includes a "stand-your-ground" provision, is on the docket in the Iowa Legislature as of last week.

This type of legislation makes using deadly force far too easy. It's a sure-fire way to see situations escalate unnecessarily. It's policy built on ideology instead of need. 

Suppress education funding

• Where it stands: In progress

Both houses of the Iowa Legislature have approved a 1.1 percent boost to public school funding for next year, equating to $40 million. They claim it's an "increase," but that's bogus when inflation is considered.

In the real world, the school funding levels now under consideration in Iowa would amount to a cut.

Years-worth of neglect is taking its toll on the state's vaunted higher education. Almost 2,500 University of Iowa students will not receive previously promised scholarships, school officials announced last week. The $4.3 million cut to student assistance comes on top of tuition hikes. University administrators blame an $8 million cut in its funding for this coming year.

It's all because lawmakers won't pony up.

On the plus side, there seems to be a long-term fix for the inequity inherent in Iowa's formula for public school districts. It's an issue on which Davenport Superintendent Art Tate has staked his career. State Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, has offered promising legislation that would patch the inequity problem while the long-term fix rolls out over the next decade.

Cut taxes

• Where it stands: Stalled

Rumbles about another tax cut early in the session were quickly silenced as lawmakers faced a $100 million shortfall before even entering the chamber. Gov. Terry Branstad made clear that he wouldn't support another tax cut.

And that's a good thing. The last round of cuts have done enough damage. Simply reference the "suppress education funding" for evidence. 

Centralize power

Minimum wage

• Where it stands: In progress

Supervisors in four Iowa counties last year voted to hike the minimum wage. Oh, no. That power must be concentrated in Des Moines, lawmakers concluded.

The proposed bill on this issue does two things: It strips local governments of the power to hike wages, and it maintains the current $7.25 hourly rate.

There's a rational economic argument against a patchwork of wages throughout the state. But clearly, the growing movement among county governments is aimed at the state's refusal to budge from an out-of-date hourly wage that hasn't moved in years. 

But that's not all. Another piece of legislation — offered by a group associated with the Iowa Farm Bureau — looks to blame the messenger instead of actually grappling with tainted rivers and creeks. 

The bill would would dissolve Des Moines' water utility and establish a regional one. The proposal is in direct response to Des Moines Water Works' federal lawsuit challenging three northwest Iowa counties that fail to regulate the incredible amount of nutrients flowing from farm fields.

Last year, Branstad and lawmakers kicked around a few ideas for grappling with water quality. None was fantastic, but at the very least, they acknowledged the problem exists. This year's iteration probably won't do much to actually address the problem.

Lawmakers and the Farm Bureau would rather act as if water quality concerns are unfounded and punish Des Moines for daring to question Iowa's commitment to clean water. 

Make voting more difficult

• Where it stands: In progress

Secretary of State Paul Pate's voter ID bill is making progress in committee.

Pate's supporters claim that Iowa's voting system is rife with holes that could be welcoming voter fraud. Yet repeated attempts to uncover fraud in the past were unsuccessful, making that portion of the legislation indefensible. That's too bad, too, because much in Pate's bill has merit. No one is criticizing his calls for new technology and post-election audits.  

What is true is that Voter ID laws do suppress poor, elderly and minority voters.

Defund Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood

• Where it stands: In progress

Not a dime of state or federal funding pays for abortions. But lawmakers' falling back to this go-to social issue was predictable the moment the GOP won total control on Nov. 8.

Fact is, similar moves in other states have been a bit of a dumpster fire. Ask the thousands of women without access to adequate health care if you would like.

Just last week, a federal judge in Texas denied the state's request to lift an injunction on its ban on paying Planned Parenthood with Medicaid funds. Iowa is likely on a similar course, spending money it doesn't have on a law that helps no one.

But hey, it plays well with the base, right?

Erode public employee unions


• Where it stands: Done deal

The recent changes to Iowa's collective bargaining law were a big victory conservatives, modeled after similar moves in Wisconsin and Michigan. The Quad-City Times editorial board eventually backed it because it's bound to save taxpayers cash, particularly on health care spending. 

Make no mistake, though. This, too, is yet another erosion of local control. 

Dabble in the absurd

• Where it stands:  Kicking around

Few represent a total misunderstanding of and disrespect for academic freedom than state Sen. Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa.

Chelgren's half-baked bill could be cribbed from Joe McCarthy's playbook. In essence, it would require universities to hire faculty based on affiliation to a political party, allegedly for parity sake. You know, those liberal professors and so forth. 


Where do we begin. Well, how would this work? So voter registration would suddenly be part of the interview process. That's probably illegal, but go on. And what's keeping a bunch of professors at University of Iowa from simply walking to the county auditor's office and changing their registration? The bill would permit professors to register "no party" and avoid the culling list. In so doing, it would essentially lock them out of the caucus process, which is probably part of Chelgren's aim here. 

There's another practical problem here. It's relatively easy to find conservative economists and probably business faculty, too. But good luck finding a Republican anthropologist or sculptor. Some fields of study are simply based in ideas such as cultural relativism. They generally reject moral realism. And, as such, don't tend to support guys like Chelgren.

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, City Editor Dan Bowerman, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.