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What’s the Matter With Iowa? Dark News From Red-State America

Posted on Mar 18, 2017

By Paul Street

(Page 3)


Turning to women’s rights, the Iowa Senate recently passed Senate File 2. This measure would block public funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Most abortions would be outlawed 20 weeks after fertilization under Iowa Senate File 53, which has cleared a Senate committee. (Editor’s note: You can see the disposition of all of the bills in the Iowa Legislature here.)

Gunfighter State

Iowa House Study Bill 133 would rewrite Iowa’s weapons laws to include “stand your ground” provisions. It also would allow children to use handguns and ease some permitting processes. An amended version has cleared the House Judiciary Committee.

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Rolling Back Voter Rights

Iowa House Study Bill 93 and Senate Study Bill 1163 would implement new voter identification requirements—a measure designed to suppress the Democratic-leaning votes of minorities and college and university students.

Dismantling a Blue Water Utility

Iowa House File 484 and Senate Study Bill 1146 would dismantle the longstanding Des Moines Water Works (DmWW)—a metropolitan water utility under the control of a board appointed by Des Moines’ mayor. The measure is red-state retaliation against the blue-city water board for filing a federal lawsuit against four rural northwest Iowa counties that have permitted toxic nitrate farm runoff to pollute water used by the Des Moines region. The lawsuit antagonized Republican-leaning agriculture interests, which spend a lot on elections and lobbying.

As a result of this big ag activism, The Des Moines Register noted four years ago, “Iowa counties that have zoning laws regulating the placement of factories and homes are forbidden by state law from regulating the sites of animal confinements. Farmers are asked only to voluntarily comply with conservation programs designed to reduce nitrates in rivers, lakes and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.” The lawsuit would be dropped under the new Republican-sponsored legislation.

An Ecocidal “Public Utility”

Speaking of water, last year, Iowa’s governor-appointed Iowa Utilities Board approved the construction of the ecocidal Dakota Access pipeline across 18 Iowa counties on grounds that the project was a “public utility” serving the people of Iowa. It is no such thing. The Dakota pipeline will carry fracked oil from North Dakota to Illinois for the profit of drillers and the pipeline’s corporate builder, Energy Transfer Partners. It carries no discernible benefits for Iowa while it helps big carbon cook the planet past its climatological tipping point and threatens numerous rivers, streams and fields across the state.

This alone might be grounds for caring consumers, businesses, investors and convention- and event-planners to think seriously about boycotting the state of Iowa. If we don’t take dramatic action to get off fossil fuels and avert the global-warming specter of environmental catastrophe in the next 10 years or so, nothing else that liberals and progressive care about—livable wages, gun laws, immigrant and abortion rights, union bargaining power, universal health insurance, rights of free assembly—will matter all that much.

Anti-Protest/Free Speech

Iowa Republican legislators have joined their counterparts in at least 15 other Republican-controlled states in advancing measures to discourage and criminalize popular protest actions. A state Senate bill, filed after 100 anti-Trump protesters (including this writer) closed Interstate Highway 80 near Iowa City, would make blocking high-speed roads a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $7,500 in fines.

But it may be unfair to single out Iowa. Many, if not most, U.S. states are boycott-worthy in this dark right-wing moment. Policy developments at the national level are all too often overshadowed by mainstream media’s obsession with the rolling “This Week in Trump” spectacle. But the great Trump matador’s cape of distraction can be even more deadly at the state level, where big money may speak louder than it does in Washington—and where many policies that matter to ordinary citizens and workers are made.

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