- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

The Des Moines Register. Feb. 26, 2014.

Pharmacy Board forgets it’s to serve the public

Iowa has dozens of state boards responsible for licensing everyone from cosmetologists and doctors to hearing aid technicians and athletic trainers. The primary mission of these boards is supposed to be protecting the public health and safety.

That means they are supposed to ensure licensed workers meet the state’s educational requirements and abide by the regulations the state establishes for these occupations. The boards are supposed to issue cease-and-desist orders to those not abiding by the rules and respond to complaints from consumers.

Though these complaints are not public when they are initially filed, if the board investigates and decides to file a “statement of charges” against the license holder, those charges become a public document. The board’s subsequent decision in the case - whether that is dismissal of charges, the imposition of sanctions or the revocation of the person’s state license - are also public documents.

Most of the time, this information is posted on board websites and sometimes sent out by boards in news releases. Iowans who want to know whether their barbers or doctors have been sanctioned can easily check online. Just scroll through recent board actions or type in a name and see what the search yields.

But every once in a while, an Iowa licensing board forgets that it exists to protect the public and focuses, instead, on protecting the reputations of people and entities it is supposed to regulate.

That is exactly what the Iowa Board of Pharmacy did last November.

This board, which oversees thousands of pharmacists, pharmacies, drug wholesalers and controlled-substance handlers, removed a link on its website that connected the public with the board’s past statements of charges and disciplinary action.

One day all the information was available online. The next day, it wasn’t there.

Instead of being able to easily access information on discipline against pharmacists or pharmacies, Iowans were met with this message: “Please contact Lloyd Jessen for a list of licensees and registrants who have been disciplined by the Board.”

Jessen is the pharmacy board’s executive director, and his email was provided with the message on the website.

Why would the board remove information that was previously, easily available?

Why would it require Iowans to take the extra step of emailing him to find out about potential problems with a specific pharmacist or a certain pharmacy?

This wouldn’t be an attempt to protect pharmacists and pharmacies from embarrassment, would it, because that’s what it appears to be.

“A couple pharmacists have had statements of charges and then the board dismissed the charges,” Jessen told the Register. “Those pharmacists went to their legislators and complained we shouldn’t be putting that on the website.”

It turns out there was one lawmaker, Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, who was inquiring about updating information on the board’s website on behalf of a constituent, pharmacist Diane Heiken.

In November emails provided to the Register, Jessen informed legislative staff that the board’s website had been updated and if someone contacted the board office to inquire about discipline or charges related to pharmacies and pharmacists licensed by the board, “a printout of an entire list will not be provided,” Jessen said.

That means the public cannot know who or how often the board is sanctioning pharmacists or discern any patterns in that disciplinary action.

Interestingly, when the Register's editorial board called Jessen this week to ask about the absence of the disciplinary information, he said his staff planned yet this week to repost a link to disciplinary action. What a coincidence.

The Board of Pharmacy promotes itself as an entity that “protects the public health, safety and welfare through effective regulation.” Taking steps, as the board did last November, to limit public access to information about health practitioners does not fulfill that mission.


Sioux City Journal. March 2, 2014.

Perhaps it’s time to loosen Iowa’s fireworks ban

Legalization of fireworks in Iowa is an issue on which we see both sides.

On the one hand, we appreciate the desire by some Iowans to celebrate the Fourth of July with something more than sparklers and snakes, and we get the financial attraction of capturing part of a business Iowa loses to other states, such as Nebraska and South Dakota, each year.

On the other hand, we recognize the dangers of fireworks, and we respect the wishes of residents - particularly those who live in urban areas like this one - who don’t want the noise and mess associated with them in their neighborhoods.

We broach this subject because the Iowa Legislature is discussing the possibility of ending Iowa’s ban on fireworks, which dates back nearly 80 years.

In the past, we have expressed support for revisiting the ban.

Today, we restate our support, with these qualifications:

1) As this debate proceeds, we encourage lawmakers to involve and take input from police, sheriff’s and fire departments who would be responsible for enforcement of any law the Legislature passes.

2) Minors should be prohibited from purchasing fireworks.

3) Use of fireworks should be confined to a specific, limited, reasonable number of days either side of Independence Day. Fines for violation should be stiff, to provide a deterrent.

4) Do not embrace a sky-is-the-limit approach to what is sold. Establish reasonable boundaries. We don’t need our communities turning into war zones over the Fourth.

5) Give local governments the power to restrict sales and use of fireworks when public safety might be threatened (for example, during times of drought).

Ours is not a go-to-the-mat position on legalization of fireworks. Iowa won’t be a lesser state if it doesn’t end its ban.

Still, recognition of the existing landscape suggests this is something at least worth talking about.

Illegally, many, many people shoot off fireworks, purchased in other states, in Iowa. That’s a fact. From a practical standpoint, in other words, the ban isn’t terribly effective.

So, perhaps it’s time to loosen the ban and to regulate and produce profit from the industry within our state. That seems to work rather well for our neighbors in Nebraska and South Dakota.

We have to believe it’s possible, within the proper framework, to open more fireworks to the enjoyment of Iowans, in Iowa, in a way acceptable to and respectful of all residents.


Fort Dodge Messenger. March 1, 2014.

Debt limit follies continue

.How would you react if your bank gave you an open-ended credit limit - and assured you that within a year or so, no matter how much you had borrowed in the interim, it would be increased?

Banks don’t do that because their executives are well aware of what would happen.

But Congress does.

President Barack Obama has signed into law a measure passed by both houses of Congress last week, to increase the national debt limit. Already, we Americans are $17.3 trillion in debt - about $50,500 for every man, woman and child in the country. About $6.6 trillion of that has been run up during Obama’s presidency, by the way.

Congress could have set a new debt limit by specifying a dollar amount, as your credit card company does. Instead, however, lawmakers approved a bill stating, in effect, that the government can borrow as much as it wants until March 16, 2015. Sometime before then, a new date, farther into the future, will be set.

Good heavens.

No wonder we’re drowning in a sea of debt. Congress and presidents, both Democratic and Republican, keep handing themselves blank checks.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. March 2, 2014.

Don’t dilute casino markets

It might appear parochial for the editorial board of a newspaper based in Dubuque, home to two state-licensed casinos, to resist an expansion of gambling that will hurt operations here.

However, we nonetheless again question the wisdom and fairness of authorizing a casino license for Cedar Rapids when, according to not one but two studies, a new casino’s revenue will come largely at the expense of competitors, including both casinos in Dubuque. This, while existing casinos are experiencing a downturn in revenue.

To be fair, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has not made a decision on the Cedar Rapids application - that might come on April 17 - and over the years the commission has been cautious regarding additional licenses, especially in regions served by existing gambling venues. More often than not, commissioners say no.

Later this week, the commission will review the aforementioned studies, one by Marquette Advisors and one by Union Gaming Analytics, both of which point to saturation of the region’s gambling market and note that Cedar Rapids’ gain would be its neighbors’ loss. “Cannibalization” would take money away from current casinos and shift dollars to Cedar Crossing Casino. That would be great for Cedar Rapids, but not for the other communities, which have come to rely on their casinos for jobs, economic development initiatives and charitable donations. Their investment - by the public and private sectors - is significant, and state officials must tread carefully before making decisions that will diminish that. By officials’ past decisions, they have shown that caution.

Over the years, our editorial position regarding the expansion of gambling has not wavered. In “Gambling pie only so big” (May 5, 2013), for example, we noted that “adding casinos doesn’t necessarily add gamblers.” We concluded, “The reality is twofold: State officials should know that expanding gambling in Iowa is more likely to redistribute gambling dollars than draw a significant amount of new revenue. Dubuque officials should know that gambling profits will likely continue to shrink in the face of more competition. Neither of those points is particularly palatable, but it’s important that future decisions are based on what’s realistic, not what we might hope will happen.”

State commissioners should not hurt existing casinos, including those in Dubuque, by granting a license to Cedar Rapids.

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