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Opting Out Of Black Friday

jim hightowerOur household has been an REI member for years. Our idea of a good time is a road trip to Madison to visit the huge, amazing REI store where they have everything you could possibly need for any outdoor adventure. Bikes, canoes, skis, tents, gear, clothing, even outdoor accessories for your dog. Iowa now has an REI store that recently opened in Des Moines. Check it out. But not today!

Stop Shopping, Start Living

REI is doing its part to preserve the spirit of Thanksgiving.

By Jim Hightower

“Enough!” says REI.

REI, the national purveyor of outdoor gear and sporting goods, says it will no longer participate in the shopping spectacle known as “Black Friday.” This ritual of non-stop door-buster sales now overwhelms Thanksgiving.

The national retail co-op with 143 stores and $2.2 billion a year in sales is raising the ethical bar by boycotting Black Friday. Instead of shopping on the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving weekend, REI is urging its workers and customers to break out — literally.

Take a walk with family and friends, enjoy a bike ride, visit a public park, and otherwise get outside the soul-suffocating syndrome of constant consumerism.

What a concept: Don’t shop — live. Connect with people, nature, the spirits…and yourself. For more information, go to REI’s special website:

This holiday is meant to be a calm, family-oriented time to get away from all the hubbub of life and reflect on our blessings. Yet in recent years, such national chains as Macy’s and Wal-Mart have led a corporate assault on Thanksgiving with a buy-buy-buy blitz of consumer come-ons.

“Rush to the mall,” shout the barrage of Black Friday ads — enticing us to reduce our values to shallow monetary value — i.e., discounted stuff. They’ve turned this contemplative day of thanks into a weekend of worshipping mammon.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board.

Fear, Paranoia, Immigration And Christian Values

do not feed the fearsI am saddened by so many aspects of the responses to the Paris attacks. My heart aches for the dead, and their grieving loved ones. All violence should be condemned.

I worry for the Muslims in my personal circles. Orphaned survivors of the Bosnian conflicts in the ’90’s, adopted by a friend, and now healthy, well-educated, productive, compassionate members of our society. The tour bus driver on my recent trip to the Holy Land, who spent 2 weeks shepherding our group around the West Bank, explaining with a love and knowledge of history, that any history professor would be proud of, so many details about his land and culture that we never hear about back here. The Muslim family that hosted friends and I on our visit to Kashmir State, India, with a gracious hospitality that most Americans no longer see in action.  I wonder about the backlash against the American Muslims working in our political system, like Des Moines’ Ako Abdul-Samad and Minnesota’s Keith Ellison.

I am disappointed with arguments about assimilation. My Dutch ancestors used Dutch in their churches and neighborhoods for two generations after arriving here. So did the Scandinavian emigrants who landed in Iowa in the 1800’s. First generation immigrants don’t assimilate, and 3rd generation always do. Communities with constant additions of new first generation immigrants may seem unassimilated, but individuals are always moving in that direction.

What values do they not share with Americans? They are family oriented people.

Islam has always valued education, and much of our knowledge base is a result of Muslim scholarship

For me, the response to these immigrants tears at the heart of the definition of “Christian. ”

I see parallels in this to the Good Samaritan parable. Would Jesus want us to exclude Syrians from the definition of neighbor? Is personal safety a better excuse than the ones offered by the priest and Levite for ignoring urgent needs? Where do we find encouragement from Jesus to value personal safety, national borders, rigid adherence to laws and tradition above being Christ to those in need?

Addressing the “safety” issue needs perspective. After all of the rush to blame refugees and Syrians for our troubles, it turns out that the Paris attackers were neither.

We already have a very strong process for screening immigrants. This call for strengthening that process is not only blatant pandering to fear, but an insult to our hardworking, dedicated employees in the immigration department. Another way to to undermine government through false calls of failure.

Why do we fuss about the sincerely small chance of danger from refugees and immigrants while ignoring all of the damage we do to ourselves? The focus moves so very quickly from a reasoned accounting of facts to an abstract desire for cultural homogeneity, a desire that desecrates our history as a nation of immigrants. E Pluribus Unum. The founders’ motto. Out of many, one. There was no expectation of homogeneity right from our start.

We are not entitled to a perfectly safe world. Never has, never will exist.

“Lost Schools,” Iowa Medicaid Changes, JCDems Fall BBQ

joe bolkcom2Sign up for Senator Bolkcom’s newsletter.

In addition to [Governor Branstad’s] deadly decision to unilaterally close two critically needed Iowa mental health facilities, his veto of $55 million in much-needed funding for our local schools because he said we could not afford it and his decision to turn over a well-run, $4.2 billion Medicaid program to four profit-driven Wall Street managed care companies, his latest end run around the Legislature would give a $50-$90 million corporate tax cut to Iowa’s largest, most profitable manufactures.

Governor Branstad by many measures is out of control. The longest-serving Governor appears to believe he is all powerful. He is acting more like a dictator than a Governor. He knows better than you do. What next?


Many Iowans are expressing concern about Governor Branstad’s unilateral decision to privatize Iowa’s Medicaid program. If fully implemented, the Governor’s decision would have negative impacts on Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens and Iowa’s healthcare providers.

I’m concerned that people in our communities will be denied critical medical services and that local providers will not be adequately reimbursed for the medical care of patients. The long-term care of severely disabled adults and children makes up the bulk of Medicaid services in Iowa. Medicaid also covers prenatal care to pregnant women, health insurance for low-income children, and health care for low-income seniors and others.

The Governor’s plan is to turn over the care of more than a half-million Iowans—one in five Iowans—to four managed care companies by January 1, 2016. With this change, we will see administrative costs jump from 3 to 12 percent, reaching $600 million. At the same time, the overall cost to the state is supposed to fall by $100 million a year.

The math doesn’t add up. The only way these companies can collect the multimillion dollar profits guaranteed them is by denying critical services to Iowans and by failing to fully pay local health care organizations for services they provide.

The managed care companies have yet to sign contracts with the state, so providers are being asked to sign contracts that don’t include reimbursement rates. Medicaid recipients and their families have good reason to be worried about the future.

Iowans who depend on Medicaid and the people and organizations that care for them need more time. That’s why I’m calling on the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reject the Governor’s plan to put Iowa’s Medicaid Program in private hands or make major changes to it.

The federal government invests a significant amount in Iowa Medicaid services. We have a responsibility to federal taxpayers and to Iowans who need these services. We need to make sure, for example, that patient outcomes continue to improve and that access to health care is not decreased.

We all need to work together to make sure quality health care services remain available to local seniors, people with physical and mental disabilities, and mothers and children.
Share your concerns

If you are concerned about the Governor’s reckless privatization of Iowa Medicaid, make your voice heard.

I encourage you to share your views with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by writing to Andrew Slavitt, acting administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, at or 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244.
Where you can learn more

To learn more about privatizing Medicaid in Iowa, go to

In addition, the Iowa Department of Human Services is hosting meetings to help local Iowans understand what the transition means for them. These include:

For Medicaid recipients and their families:

Monday, November 16, 5 to 7 p.m., Cedar Rapids Public Library, Ladd Library (3750 Williams Blvd., Cedar Rapids).

Wednesday, November 18, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Coralville Public Library: Rms. A & B (1405 5th St. Coralville).

For community partners, advocates and other stakeholders (to attend stakeholder meetings, you must register at

Friday, October 16,  2 to 4 p.m., Kirkwood Community College – Hotel Kirkwood Ballroom A & F (7725 Kirkwood Boulevard SW, Cedar Rapids).

Get answers to your questions

Medicaid recipients with questions or concerns can call Members Services at 1-800-338-8366.

Questions from providers should be directed to the Provider Services Call Center at 1-800-338-7909.


Des Moines, IA – The Des Moines Register’s yearlong series is coming to the big screen. The full-length documentary will debut at an exclusive preview event held at the historic Varsity Theater on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 4 p.m.

This documentary, produced by The Des Moines Register and presented by Iowa Public Television, follows two Iowa districts and their communities for one school year as they wrestle with the monumental consequences of these changes. The footage captures the final classroom moments of one district and unveils the often emotional reality that looms over much of rural America. The film also offers insight into efforts to preserve the remaining pieces of the nation’s once numerically majestic educational system and the rural way of life that has been Iowa’s cultural bedrock.

Des Moines Register journalists Jason Clayworth, Charlie Litchfield and Rodney White chose to tell this story in both print and documentary as a result of the “rural decay” they frequently witnessed while on assignment during the past two decades with the paper.

The exclusive preview event is open to the public and includes a Q&A with writer Jason Clayworth and several of the community leaders and families that are featured in the film. You can purchase a VIP ticket or general admission ticket.

“Lost Schools” Preview Event

Where: Varsity Theater | 1207 25th St. Des Moines, IA 50311
When: Sunday, October 18th | 3:30 p.m. Doors open, 4:00 p.m. Screening followed by Q&A with families and community leaders featured in the film and emceed by writer Jason Clayworth.
Purchase: Tickets for the show are available for pre-purchase at

In addition, Iowa Public Television will air the documentary 15 times starting Thursday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. statewide. For a full list of air dates and times visit

For more information on the year-long series or to purchase a copy of Lost Schools, visit


Come to the BBQ! The Johnson County Democrats will hold their fall BBQ on Sunday at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, 4261 Oak Crest Hill Road SE, Buildings B & C. Doors open at 3:00 pm.

Speakers will include:

State Senator Bob Dvorsky – Building Democratic Majorities in the Iowa House and Senate
Congressman Dave Loebsack – Increasing Iowa’s Democratic Congressional Delegation
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
Jennifer Granholm – Michigan Governor 2003-2011, regular contributor to NBC’s Meet the Press, surrogate for Hillary Clinton

For more information, visit

Prairie Dog’s Fall Reading List

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2015 issue of  The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter, available only in hard copy for $12/yr.!!  Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244.

Incarnadine by Mary Szybist

Sometimes spiritual, sometimes erotic, always brave and beautiful – these are poems that will haunt you deep into the autumn night.  Szybist is deft and audacious, able to seamlessly weave words from a George W. Bush address to Congress into an Annunciation (both religious and political) about a young girl in a meadow, engrossed in a book.

The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson

The most talented of all Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates creates a mysterious, bleakly entertaining world of NATO intrigue, military bungling, madness, and betrayal in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the protagonist Nair says, “Never go back the way you came.” As Prairie Dog says, never invite anyone from a Denis Johnson novel into your home.

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

During the idyllic Batista years, American sugar kings and their families drink, have sex,  throw elaborate parties for their fellow expatriates, and look over their shoulders at the hills where Castro’s rebels lurk. Kushner’s debut novel, before The Flame Throwers, is a delicious melange of politics, passion, and psychology in a decadent world on the edge of disruption.

Cuba Straits by Randy Wayne White

Cut to contemporary Cuba, where White – a Davenport Central High grad – sets a hilarious saga of Santeria, smuggled baseball players, rare turtles, letters to a mysterious woman from Fidel and Raul, and a cast of Carribean characters worthy of a Carl Hiaasen crime caper.

The Things They Cannot Say by Kevin Sites

A collection of eleven harrowing portraits of soldiers and marines that could easily be titled The Things They Cannot Forget. Sites deals in raw and ugly truths about killing and surviving in battle, and how combatants live with what they’ve done and seen. Most don’t live with it very well, including embedded journalist Sites, who struggled for years to come to grips with his own complicity in allowing a man to die. For others, redemption comes only through efforts to help others heal from the horrors inflicted on those whose government has sent to fight its wars.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Also about redemption, and difficulty of finding it within America’s criminal justice system. Stevenson, a Harvard-trained lawyer choosing to work with prisoners condemned to death in the South, is arguably America’s most successful enemy of capitol punishment, as well as a gifted storyteller who will discuss his life and books at the Iowa City Book Fest this fall.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald

Paul “Prairie Mouse” Ingram of Prairie Lights Books calls Fitzgerald’s recently re-printed novels “witty and politically astute,” especially this one about workplace courage and cowardice in London’s BBC offices during the blitz.

Everyday White People Confront Racial and Social Injustice edited by Eddie Moore, Jr., Marguerite Penick-Parks, and Ali Michael.

If you grew up in the USA, racism in one way or another has shaped your life. Thec hallenge for Whites who want to confront racism is to confront their own – over and over and over. Moore, who founded the White Privilege Conference while teaching at Central College in Pella, Iowa, and his colleagues have gathered the stories of 15 white activists who continue to battle their own prejudices and privileges even while working against them.

Body Counts by Sean Strub

Born and raised in Iowa City, Strub survived AIDS, politics in New York and Washington, and a Catholic upbringing to become a successful direct-mail fundraiser, organizer/agitator, and magazine publisher.  His vivid autobiography chronicles the struggles of a young man on the verge of coming out, the protests and deaths that punctuated American life in the 80s and 90s, and the heroes and villains he met along the way (Tennessee Williams, Larry Kramer, and the closeted elected officials who voted for homophobic legislation during the day and hustled men in gay bars at night).

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Another British recommendation from Prairie Mouse, in which a mother and daughter make a living after World War II in humiliating fashion (for them) by housing strangers in their home. Hijinks ensue when the daughter falls in lust with the wife of one of the paying guests.

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

One of America’s greatest novelists lands on Prairie Dog’s Reading List for the third time. Having burrowed into the hearts and minds of cops, veterans, teen-agers, middle-aged married couples, elderly widows, and fastfood workers, O’Nan turns his  keen attention to more glamorous figures, with equally astonishing results. The imagined lives of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in their post-Gatsby years are as rich in detail as any biography, and as emotional and deeply felt as Fitzgerald’s finest fiction.

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman

Dark and silly, much like most of our day-to-day lives. You might find yourself identifying uncomfortably with the main characters (named A, B, and C) as they navigate an American landscape strangely obsessed with bodies, especially those of women.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Paying homage to James Baldwin, to whom he’s often compared, and describing the mind-blowing impact of Howard University on his view of black history and culture, Coates writes with beauty and artfulness.  But the power of this book lies in its unsparing anger at the country where, as Malcolm X said, “If you’re black, you’re born in jail.”

– Prairie Dog


Krugman: What Is Conservatism?

August 26,2015
krugman gop madness

Few can capture a concept so well as Paul Krugman. In his blog “Conscience Of A Liberal” Krugman captures concisely what conservatism is today:

The Reactionary Soul
Frank Bruni marvels at polls indicating that Donald Trump, with his multiple marriages and casinos, is the preferred candidate among Republican evangelicals. Others are shocked to see a crude mercantilist make so much headway in the alleged party of free markets. What happened to conservative principles?

Actually, nothing — because those alleged principles were never real. Conservative religiosity, conservative faith in markets, were never about living a godly life or letting the invisible hand promote entrepreneurship. Instead, it was all as Corey Robin describes it: Conservatism is

a reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.

It’s really about who’s boss, and making sure that the man in charge stays boss. Trump is admired for putting women and workers in their place, and it doesn’t matter if he covets his neighbor’s wife or demands trade wars.

The point is that Trump isn’t a diversion, he’s a revelation, bringing the real motivations of the movement out into the open.

Questions Related To The Confederate Flag Situation

Time to ride off into the sunset

Time to ride off into the sunset

Celebrating our country’s birthday we thought that some questions need to be asked as a follow up to the recent question that was spurred by the happenings in Charleston, SC:
“Why are government buildings in the US flying the flag from a treasonous group?”

These questions are also simple:
“Why do the governments of some states have holidays that honor traitors?
“Why are government buildings such as schools named after traitors such as Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis?”
“Why are there monuments to traitors to our country?”

In a stunning fallout of the racially driven murders in Charleston, SC, many Americans finally awoke to the fact that the flag of a treasonous group still flies in many places often sanctioned by the local and state governments. When Americans finally awoke to these flags flying, they also realized that the state supporting this flag is wrong.

In a similar vein, it appears to be time to examine all the state supported support of vestiges of the Confederate states. Private citizens may certainly do so if they desire, but tax money nor state approval should be given to those who committed treason. And such support definitely not go to those who supported the cause of maintaining slavery. It is well beyond time that their legacies be consigned to museums.

We do not have any Benedict Arnold Elementary schools in this country nor monuments to him. Germany has nothing honoring Rommel. Similarly, we should not have honors for men like Lee or Davis.

Corridor Home To 6 Of Past 11 Domestic Homocides In Iowa


 A message from DVIP following the recent shooting at Coral Ridge mall:

Eastern Iowa – we love our communities and the quality of life we enjoy here. But we are becoming more aware of the rising rate of violence related to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and child abduction. Out of respect for the ongoing investigation and limited information about the relationship between Andrea Farrington and the alleged assailant, this is not a commentary on that case, but a response to the escalation of violence against women in the Eastern Iowa Corridor.

Small town Iowa has always been synonymous with safe homes, but 6 of the past 11 domestic homicides in Iowa have been in the Eastern Iowa 380 Corridor or Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Marion and Cedar Rapids [bolding BFIA’s]. The Domestic Violence Intervention Program provides the only emergency safe shelter in our eight county service area (Johnson, Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Lee, Van Buren and Washington Counties).

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program not only helps victims of domestic violence, but also victims of dating violence, child abductions related to domestic violence and stalking. Stalking is defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear”. Over 85% of victims are stalked by someone they know—in domestic violence or dating violence, a victim is stalked by their intimate partner for an average of 21 months AFTER they leave their abusive partner. Of the 7.5 million people stalked each year in the United States, 15% of women and 6% of men have experienced stalking to the point where they felt very fearful or believed that they, or someone close to them, would be harmed or killed.

How a community responds to victims of violent crime is critical and requires an investment on everyone’s part to reduce crimes like stalking and domestic/dating violence. Our communities are strong and practice a national model Coordinated Community Response, which is a series of cross agency protocols and safety measures put in place by the community— advocates, health/mental health care workers, law enforcement, courts, child welfare workers—to collectively support victims and hold perpetrators accountable. But these systems often address the back end of the problem – after the crime has been committed. Our current Coordinated Community Response models lack one key element, a Bystander Network of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers looking out for and supporting victims. Bystander support networks have the capacity to intervene and prevent these crimes through thoughtful, caring support of victims and challenges to the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate violence against women.

To have effective community change, you need to know the facts about stalking or domestic/dating violence and how to really help someone in fear.

First, call our 24-hour crisis line (1-800-373-1043) to get real information on how you can help.

Second, with guidance from our trained staff and volunteers, talk to your friend/family/colleague about the situation in a way that is respectful to their safety and needs—they know the situation better than anyone else, and how to best keep themselves safe or the resources they need.

Third, ask what they really need; learn as much as you can from them about what they fear, what they hope for and what will change their situation for the better. And then most important – help them get what they need. Too many times we look in from the outside and make assumptions about what should happen – too many times those assumptions are wrong.

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program’s mission statement is to provide comprehensive support and advocacy services. To that end, we offer training to businesses and corporations to evaluate policies surrounding workplace stalking and domestic/dating violence, what to do to help prevent an incident at the workplace and how to safety plan with your employees when violence comes into the workplace.

Please contact for a workplace environment safety assessment and more information on policy and training addressing stalking and domestic/dating violence in the workplace.

Situations like Andrea Farrington’s are becoming much too commonplace in Eastern Iowa. We need to keep the conversation going about how we can keep victims of stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence safe.

Sometimes We Need To Laugh

Been a really bad week for those who believe that America can be what it claims to be. As with many here, the events of the week have been roiling in my mind making me wonder if it is worth the fight. Murder in a mall in the heartland, race driver mass murder in South Carolina, politicians in Washington giving away America’s sovereignty in something called the TPP, all in all a bad week.

Sometimes, we just need to step back and get away from the daily grind and have a laugh.

In that vein, I stole a post from democraticunderground which did just that. A hat tip to poster Madokie for this gem of a post:

For those of us who remember, for a moment of levity. Enjoy

These great questions and answers are from the days when Hollywood Squares’ game show responses were spontaneous, not scripted, as they are now!

Q. Paul, what is a good reason for pounding meat?

A. Paul Lynde: Loneliness!

(The audience laughed so long and so hard it took up almost 15 minutes of the show!)

Q. Do female frogs croak?

A. Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q. If you’re going to make a parachute jump, at least how high should you be

A. Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

Q. True or False, a pea can last as long as 5,000 years…

A. George Gobel: Boy, it sure seems that way sometimes.

Q. You’ve been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?

A.. Don Knotts: That’s what’s been keeping me awake.

Q. According to Cosmopolitan, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think that he is attractive, is it okay to come out and ask him if he’s married?

A.. Rose Marie: No wait until morning.

Q. Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?

A. Charley Weaver: My sense of decency..

Q. What are ‘Do It,’ ‘I Can Help,’ and ‘I Can’t Get Enough’?

A. George Gobel: I don’t know, but it’s coming from the next apartment.

Q. As you grow older, do you tend to gesture more or less with your hands while talking?

A. Rose Marie: You ask me one more growing old question Peter, and I’ll give you a gesture you’ll never forget.

Q. Paul, why do Hell’s Angels wear leather?

A. Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q.. Charley, you’ve just decided to grow strawberries. Are you going to get any during the first year?

A.. Charley Weaver: Of course not, I’m too busy growing strawberries.

Q. In bowling, what’s a perfect score?

A. Rose Marie: Ralph, the pin boy.

Q. During a tornado, are you safer in the bedroom or in the closet?

A. Rose Marie: Unfortunately Peter, I’m always safe in the bedroom.

Q. Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?

A.. Marty Allen: Only after lights out.

Q. When you pat a dog on its head he will wag his tail. What will a goose do?

A. Paul Lynde: Make him bark?

Q. If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?

A. Paul Lynde: Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark..

Q. According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people?

A. Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army.

Q. Back in the old days, when Great Grandpa put horseradish on his head, what was he trying to do?

A. George Gobel: Get it in his mouth.

Q. Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant?

A. Paul Lynde: Who told you about my elephant?

Q. Jackie Gleason recently revealed that he firmly believes in them and has actually seen them on at least two occasions. What are they?

A. Charley Weaver: His feet.

Q. According to Ann Landers, what are two things you should never do in bed?

A. Paul Lynde: Point and laugh


School Funding, Affordable College, Bipartisan Bills: The Courtney Report

Courtney Report


Disagreements over education funding are preventing the Legislature from adjourning for the year.

Iowa families count on great local schools to give their children and grandchildren a leg up in life. High-quality schools make Iowa workers among the nation’s most productive, which in turn attracts high-skill, high-wage jobs and businesses to our state.

Educational opportunity has long been a key factor in Iowa’s economic growth, and economic opportunity is directly related to education funding. Funding determines if schools can pay teachers and staff, how much one-on-one attention students receive, and whether classrooms have up-to-date materials and technology. Funding will help determine the success of the education reforms launched in 2013.

Today, Iowa invests $1,600 less per student than the national average. Education leaders say a 3 percent increase in funding for our schools is necessary to prevent Iowa from falling farther behind.

Republicans, who control the Iowa House, proposed an increase of 1.25 percent five months ago. Democrats, who hold the majority in the Iowa Senate, approved a 4 percent increase earlier this year and have made several attempts to compromise since.

We are willing to split the difference by giving schools a 2.625 percent increase, which would prevent cuts at most schools. Unfortunately, House Republicans won’t budge. As a recent Quad City Times editorial put it:

“Instead of doing the work of legislating, House Republicans hung fast to their session-opening position of limiting education funding to less than the rate of inflation, assuring unnecessary and harmful education cuts for Iowa schoolchildren.”

So far, the House position has forced schools across Iowa to send out “pink slips” to more than 1,000 Iowa teachers. This is not the way to strengthen student achievement, Iowa communities and our state’s future.

With Iowa’s finances in good shape, this is the year to renew our investment in education and our commitment to a strong economy.

For many, school does not stop with high school graduation. Increasingly, good jobs require higher education or worker training. Iowans of all ages and backgrounds need access to college to build a better future for themselves and their families.

Ideally, these opportunities should be as affordable as possible. Taking on massive student debt is another roadblock to achieving success, to strengthening our middle class and to growing our economy.

Iowa students already graduate with more student loan debt than in most other states. That leads some graduates to leave the state in search of higher paying jobs elsewhere. Yet the Republican House disagrees with us on the importance of college funding.

Community colleges work with employers to address local skilled worker shortages and provide an affordable path to a four-year degree. Senate Democrats propose investing $8 million more in Iowa’s community colleges. House Republicans oppose any increase.

At our three state universities, there will be a tuition freeze for in-state students for a third straight year under the Senate’s budget proposal. Senate Democrats also support an increase in tuition grants for Iowa students attending our private colleges.

In contrast, the budget plan approved by the House Republicans would force students to pay even more for their college education. The House budget actually cuts funding for the University of Iowa, Iowa State and need-based grants to Iowans attending our private colleges.

The budget approved by the Senate Democrats proves we can invest in education at all levels and balance the budget responsibly. We do it with an overall budget the same size as the budget proposed by Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

As we near the end of the 2015 session, there are many bipartisan issues that have been overlooked in the Iowa House. This includes initiatives to make our communities safer, improve health care and boost quality of life that won the support of Democrats and Republicans in the Iowa Senate.

Among them are efforts to:

* Keep all students safe with adequate training for schools to investigate harassment and bullying, including alleged incidents that occur outside of school, and to impose school discipline.
* Combat human trafficking through public awareness efforts, special training for law enforcement officers and making the crime a forcible felony.
* Prohibit the use of GPS to track a person without legitimate purpose or authorization.
* Give adoptive parents time to bond with their new child by requiring businesses with maternity leave programs to give adoptive parents the same time off as birth parents.
* Improve detection of breast cancer by notifying women in their mammogram results if they have dense breast tissue, may be at greater risk of developing breast cancer and should consult with a physician about additional screening options.
* Forbid felons from receiving life insurance proceeds if they commit a violent crime against an insured person within the six months prior to the death of that person.
* Provide immunity from prosecution for possessing, sharing or using controlled substances or drug paraphernalia to assist those suffering from an opioid overdose.
The House has a second chance to reconsider these bipartisan ideas because they were included in Senate File 510, which was approved by the Senate on May 14.

Ed Fallon: Pipeline Is Assault On Land And Livelihood Of Farmers And Landowners Across Iowa

ed fallonEd Fallon To Hold Press Conference Prior To Court Appearance

On Wednesday, May 27 at 12:45 p.m. on the south side of the Polk County Courthouse at 500 Mulberry Street in Des Moines, former Iowa lawmaker Ed Fallon and his attorney Joseph Glazebrook will announce how they intend to respond to the charge of trespass against Fallon for his refusal to leave Governor Branstad’s office last Monday while protesting the Bakken pipeline. Following the press conference, Fallon will appear with Glazebrook before a judge at 1:00 p.m. in Room 201 of the Courthouse.

On Monday, May 18 at 1:30 p.m., Fallon entered Governor Branstad’s office and informed staff that he would refuse to leave until the Governor met with him, heard the stories of the landowners in the path of the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline, and agreed to support the eminent domain bill (SF 506 and HSB 249). The Governor was in his office that day, but declined to meet with Fallon.

This will be Fallon’s second appearance at the Polk County Courthouse in response to a principled act of conscience. The first was in March of 2012, following his arrest as part of the Occupy movement, when on October 9, 2011, Fallon and 35 others refused to leave the public space on the west side of the State Capitol to demand that all levels of government respond to corruption on Wall Street and the growing crisis of income inequality. In response to that arrest, Fallon pled “not-guilty.” He was defended by Joseph Glazebrook. After a trial that lasted one week, Fallon was found “not guilty” by a jury of his peers on March 9, 2012.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the best course of action to take in response to my arrest last week at the Governor’s office,” said Fallon. “I take the matter very seriously, and have consulted not just with my attorney, Joseph Glazebrook, but with coworkers and others opposed to the Bakken Oil Pipeline as well.”

“Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s hearing, I reiterate my commitment to doing everything I can to continue the fight against this pipeline, which is not only an assault on the land and livelihood of farmers and landowners across Iowa, but an assault on our environment and planet as well,” concluded Fallon.

Fallon served 14 years in the Iowa House, from 1993-2006. He ran for Governor in 2006 and U.S. Congress in 2008. Since 2009, he has hosted the Fallon Forum, a public affairs talk show available on three Iowa radio stations and online at