Lawmakers are reducing the quality of life that has defined Iowa


Let’s be honest: People don’t move to Iowa for the weather. Nor do they pack the family, disconnect the laptop from the workplace, or travel hundreds of miles to “overflown” country, as critics dub ours, to ski or swim in natural environments.

No, many of us who chose Iowa found a quality of life there that was difficult to quantify in income or heating degree days. But, unfortunately, lawmakers and their business bosses have done a good job of cutting back some of what made the state so attractive.

We were drawn to the sense of community that large urban areas lacked, a sense where people volunteer in food pantries or in homes damaged by natural disasters. These Iowa values ​​have manifested themselves on the Little League field, in the classroom, and even in the grocery store line when someone with a full cart gives way to someone with a basket. Whether it’s farming crops that sometimes require helping each other, or spiritual beliefs that teach you can’t thrive if those around you are struggling, these small gestures speak to a larger mindset. .

But increasingly, our leadership makes us a narrow-minded state, which devalues ​​some of the things we were once proud of: high-quality, well-funded schools, tended productive land, clean water and high safety standards. , whether in an amusement park, a nursery, a construction site or in public health policies on precautions in the face of a deadly pandemic.

Instead, in recent years lawmakers have been busy cutting budgets to increase state surpluses and cutting regulations in deference to business. They let agricultural facilities help erode soil and pollute water with chemical runoff and hog confinement waste.

Now lawmakers are weakening laws governing toddler-to-adult ratios in child care centers and cheating people who have lost their jobs about some of the unemployment benefits they could previously rely on. And elected leaders are doing it while uttering meaningless stereotypes about how Iowans enjoy life so much that they will always do the right thing without having to. We’ve seen how it worked during the worst of COVID-19.

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Less attention for children only helps the results

Mother’s Day is approaching, but instead of being recognized, mothers of young children in Iowa will have more reason to worry for them if a bill increasing the number of children who can legally be cared for single person in a care center is signed by the governor.

A few weeks ago, I visited a daycare in a Baltimore suburb with my son and daughter-in-law, who were checking in on their baby. I asked the director about teacher-child ratios and was pleased to learn that by law, Maryland day care centers must have at least one child care worker caring for three infants up to 2 years. For older children, it becomes one to six.

In Iowa, current law requires one caregiver for every four infants and one for every six 2-year-olds, but the recently passed bill would allow seven 2-year-olds to be cared for by a teacher. I wouldn’t want my child, or anyone else’s, to be treated as a crowd management problem. I want their day care providers to spend quality time nurturing them, teaching them to learn, create, move, express themselves and interact with others.

The legislation would also allow workers as young as 16 to care for children on their own in Iowa daycares. Currently, under 18s require adult supervision. Sixteen is too young to take on that kind of responsibility on your own, sometimes having to make serious judgments about how to balance everyone’s needs at the same time.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll this spring found that only 25% of Iowans support the proposal while 65% oppose it. Most of us see reduced safety and attention to children. But the bill’s lead, Republican Ann Meyer of Fort Dodge, said revising the current law “would loosen up a little the regulations that are holding back some of our child care centers a little bit.”

But at whose expense?

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Republicans make unemployment a moral failure

And then there is the plight of the unemployed in Iowa. If you’re reading this in print, today is May Day, and if we were in Europe – or dozens of other countries – we’d be celebrating workers’ rights with picnics, parties, demonstrations and rallies. Instead, the majority party in the Statehouse is kicking Iowa’s unemployed workers by stripping them of 10 weeks of unemployment benefits to which they were entitled. The current maximum is 26 weeks.

To their credit, House Republicans have at least refused to add a week of waiting before the unemployed can start collecting their benefits. But that doesn’t make the bill’s passage a “tremendous victory for Iowa’s workforce,” as its Senate leader Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said.

In fact, if you listen to the rhetoric of Republican leaders on this, it seems to blame the unemployed themselves for not having a job. And heaven forbid they will hold one with half decent pay and growth opportunities. They must then listen to Governor Kim Reynolds announce the “dignity” of work and scoff: “When work begins to seem optional rather than fundamental, society begins to degrade. The bill would force workers to take lower-paying jobs sooner or risk losing their benefits.

If you read the existing unemployment law and compare it to the wording of the recently passed bill, you can’t help but notice how the original justification for unemployment benefits, which focused on the welfare of the unemployed, has been removed. .

Calling economic insecurity due to unemployment a “serious threat to the health, morals, and welfare of the inhabitants of this state,” the current law speaks of the legislature’s responsibility “to prevent its spread and lighten his burden which now so often falls with crushing force upon the unemployed and his family.”

Current lawmakers have removed these latter references.

In small ways like these, many of those who hold power in the state seem more concerned with the happiness of private enterprise than with the needs of the people. And it wasn’t Iowa that lured some of us in with its healthy values. It risks becoming an Iowa where every man, woman and child has to look out for themselves.

Many of us will endure the freezing winters and scorching summers, and trade the majestic mountains and ocean views for the qualities that drew us here. But at the rate these values ​​are being undermined, we’re going to have a hard time keeping even the ones we have here, let alone fooling others. This is something to seriously consider at election time.


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