- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

Des Moines Register. Mar. 4, 2016

Lawmakers should increase minimum wage.

Here’s an idea for state lawmakers: Listen to your constituents. About 7 in 10 Iowans favor an increase in the state’s $7.25 minimum hourly wage, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Support has grown from 65 percent to 69 percent since the question was asked a year ago, and the vast majority who support raising the floor would increase it to at least $9 per hour.

Iowans know anyone other than a teenager living at home cannot sustain himself, let alone a family, on such paltry pay. They know the same leaders who bend over backwards to provide tax breaks for businesses should require businesses to pay workers a living wage. They know more than half the states - including Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska - have increased minimum wages above the federal floor of $7.25 per hour.

Why can’t Iowa lawmakers stand up for average people the way lawmakers in other states have done? Why isn’t Gov. Terry Branstad, who set the goal of increasing family incomes by 25 percent during his 2010 campaign, leading the charge? Why is a bill in the Democrat-controlled Senate to increase the wage to $8.75 an hour (over a two-year period) languishing in the Republican-controlled Iowa House?

The lack of action from Iowa’s leaders is baffling. The people of this state want an increase in minimum wage, meaning elected officials would hardly be jeopardizing their political futures by making it happen. And the argument against an increase feels contrived.

“It’s not just about paying their employees more. It’s actually just about the government telling them what they need to pay,” said Kristin Failor, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

By that logic, there should be no minimum wage at all. And perhaps no wage and hour or labor laws that provide marginal protection for American workers. If that pesky government would just get out of the way, employers would be free to do whatever they wanted, including paying employees even less.

Though some members of the Iowa Legislature have yet to figure it out, they are supposed to be working on behalf of Iowans. Raising the minimum wage would do that. A 2012 study from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that increasing the wage to $9.80 per hour would affect 332,000 Iowans, 81 percent of them 20 years old or older. Those people would spend the extra wages, generating economic activity and creating more jobs. And considering higher incomes would disqualify some of them for government safety net programs, you’d think conservative lawmakers who complain about food and housing assistance would be scrambling to raise incomes slightly.

If elected officials won’t act to help Iowans, perhaps they could do it to improve their own image. They have an opportunity to work across party lines to accomplish something constituents want them to do, a concept that is becoming increasingly rare in the Iowa Legislature.

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The Quad-City Times. Mar. 3, 2016

The Iowa House and an unhinged GOP.

Stop asking where Donald Trump came from. Stop wondering why the GOP has been hijacked by reactionaries. Stop pretending that the Republican Party hasn’t for years been infiltrated by echo-chamber demagogues.

The Iowa House is just the latest example of GOP right-wing absurdity on display.

Pay no mind to the fact that the so-called videographer of those Planned Parenthood videos is now up on charges in Texas. Ignore that numerous state-level investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. Disregard that federal law already prohibits the sale of fetal tissue for economic gain.

Nope. Iowa’s wing-nut brigade has a bill for you.

The legislation weaving through the Republican-dominated House would not only ban the sale of fetal tissue. It would also ban research using it.

Ah, yes, the old hamstring science approach to conservatism. What a good use of time and tax dollars.

The legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, flatly admitted that she’s carrying the bill because of those wholly discredited hit-piece videos.

“A number of us found this to be heart-rending, horrifying and unconscionable,” Salmon said. “This bill was brought forward to put a state law in place outlawing such barbaric practices.”

Again. It’s bunk. Never happened. Trumped-up, politicized propaganda. Nothing more. And, thanks to lawmakers like Salmon, it’s working. Legislatures throughout the country are doing their best to shame women in hopeless situations and inject subjective belief systems into the public sphere.

It’s not just the go-to abortion issue that’s consuming precious time and attention in the House. Free speech would be also under assault in Des Moines, if the Senate wasn’t solidly in Democratic hands.

On Tuesday, the House approved legislation that would ban the state from dealing with companies that publicly boycotted Israel. Right or wrong, such actions have been growing in popularity, particularly among academics, who view Israel’s treatment of Palestine as inhumane and undemocratic.

Suddenly, the most important of American freedoms isn’t acceptable if it targets one specific country. Such boycotts aren’t subversion. They’re political statements made about a complicated issue. Only Israel, because of its theological importance, receives such protection from the religious right. State legislatures aren’t discriminating against businesses that criticize Turkey.

This is the pandering, in-your-face social warrior mentality that drives too many Republicans in Iowa’s House. They’re more interested in scoring points with the same exact base that’s propelling Donald Trump toward the GOP nomination than combating the unreasonable anti-intellectualism that’s overtaken the GOP.

Never mind the facts of the issue. Just go with it.

The state-level Republican playbook would be tiresome if it wasn’t so offensive. Erode abortion rights, scuttle any and all gun restrictions and insert a specific religious view into the public sphere. Bonus points for intentionally confounding high school science students in the process.

For the good of the country, the party, and constituents: Please, stop.

Republican insiders have spent months hoping to rationalize the insanity of the 2016 presidential election cycle. But the answer lies in GOP-run legilatures like the Iowa House, where a hunger for red meat trumps rhyme or reason.

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Sioux City Journal. Mar. 2, 2016

Raise in pay for council members justified.

Whether an increase of 50 percent was necessary is debatable, but we do not, in principle, oppose the City Council’s decision to hike pay for the mayor and other council members.

Last month, council members voted to raise pay for the mayor from $10,000 to $15,000 and the pay of other council members from $8,500 to $13,000, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

We support a raise in pay of some amount for the mayor and other council members for these reasons:

- We recognize the demands on time necessary for a council member to properly perform his or her duties.

- Salaries for council members haven’t changed since Jan. 1, 2000.

- New levels for pay aren’t exorbitant when compared to pay for council members in other large Iowa cities.

- The pay of council members, even with the increases, remains less than half the pay of Woodbury County supervisors. (By the way, county board members will vote March 15 on whether to give themselves a 5 percent raise recommended by the Compensation Board.)

- Impact on the city’s budget, $23,000, is minimal in the big picture.

- A hike in salaries might help produce larger pools of council candidates in the future, something by which the community benefits.

Finally, we offer one final note about salaries for local elected public leaders.

In this discussion of pay, time demands and impact on candidates for elections, we are reminded of the fact members of our school board receive no remuneration.

For what is civic service in its purest form, we as a community owe them a special measure of appreciation.

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Mason City Globe Gazette. Mar. 4, 2016

MCHS bands celebrate tradition.

A tradition 89 years in the making continues Sunday when the Mason City High School bands give their spring concert.

Eighty-nine years of outstanding musicians and leaders. Eighty-nine years of award-winning bands - bands immortalized in the theater and in movies by one of their own, Meredith Willson, who wrote “The Music Man.”

And each band boasts its own claim to fame, those intangibles that make it stand out. That’s why each year’s concerts are so good.

This year, there’s the chance to satisfy your sweet tooth after hearing the sweet sounds as a bake sale will help finance the band and orchestra trip to Canada. We’re all for that - there’s too much good music not to share with others.

There’s plenty of buzz surrounding the latest production at Stebens Children’s Theatre. Each year, the theater takes a show to area schools. But before it hits the road, it gives one performance at its theater, and that’s what will happen Saturday when “Why Mosquitoes Buzz” is presented.

It’s a West African folk tale adapted for the stage, and it works well as a touring production because such shows are popular in schools, according to Tom Ballmer, executive director at Stebens.

Many hundreds of young people have been involved in productions at Stebens, with some going on to professional careers in theater. Productions like these are one reason why - thoughtful, challenging and fun for the cast and audience alike.

Those looking to unwind a bit after work Friday night might .

consider MacNider: Off the Clock at the Charles H. MacNider Museum. These events offer a chance to mingle, munch on goodies and meet artists and view artworks both in the permanent and touring displays. A special exhibit is the newly opened “School Art Show: High School.”

Student art work also is on display at the Clear Lake Arts Center, where there will be a “meet the artists” reception Saturday.

Another special event is the North Iowa Home and Landscaping Show Friday through Sunday at the North Iowa Events Center. This snow won’t last forever, and soon it will be time to think home improvement inside and out. This show will help you get started - or at least whet your appetite - with ideas from local contractors and businesses.

Among other notable activities this weekend:

The movie, “The Visitor,” will be shown at the MacNider Museum as part of its Winter Film Series.

The Barry Boyce Band will perform Sunday at the Carpenter Community Center.

A Pinewood Derby will be Saturday at Willowbrook Mall.

Plus there’s plenty of good food and music all around North Iowa, where every weekend is a good one. We’ll see you out and about.

Oh, and might we add: Go Mohawk girls!

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