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2015 Agenda For Iowa Legislature

2015 Agenda For Iowa Legislature

iowa state capitolA friend of mine that is working in the Iowa Senate as a clerk this year asked me what one thing I would like to see done by the Iowa Legislature this year.

My answer to him was simple.  Current Iowa gun laws have several issues that would be helpful to address, but the most glaring issue is actually something that is missing: the right to keep a gun in an employee’s vehicle while parked at their employer’s parking lot while there for work.  Without specifically speaking to this issue, an employer in Iowa currently can prevent an employee with a legitimate permit to carry from protecting themselves while commuting to work.  A growing number of states have been adding protections so that employees can keep their weapons locked in their vehicles despite an employer’s ban of weapons on company property.  Iowa should do likewise.

Of course, a session with one agenda item is not much of a session.  Here is a brief list of key items that I think the 2015 Assembly should tackle:

Gun rights for employees.  Grant employees the right to keep firearms locked in their vehicles while parked in employer-provided parking, or while going about company business (discussion above).

Address road and bridge repairs.  This has been a painful issue across the state as roads and bridges have gone into disrepair as the Road Fund has dwindled.  A lot of hand-wringing over the Gas Tax has failed to bring a solution to the issue.  I don’t think raising the Gas Tax is the way to solve this.  The Gas Tax is in no way an equitable approach to sharing the cost based on usage in an age when consumption is less and less tied to miles driven and weight, especially with the growth of more fuel efficient vehicles and the use of alternative fuels (electricity and hydrogen in particular, although I’ll grant hydrogen has not yet made a significant entry in Iowa).  The most equitable solution would be to establish mileage monitoring of resident vehicles and toll roads on the major interstates and highways.  Equitable, but not practical.  I think the most practical and reasonable solution is to finance repairs out of the General Fund with revenue from Sales Taxes and commercial transport fees (trucks).  While some may consider this inequitable, the fact is that in general Iowan’s benefit from the availability of roads, for personal driving, access to emergency services, shipping of products consumed by Iowans, etc.  Frankly, roads are a critical part of a thriving economy and without taking proper care of them, we stand to suffer significant loss over time.

Provide access to “approved” medication.  I was pleased to see the Cannabis Oil legislation passed last session until those that this was provided for (including some close friends) discovered there is no legal or practical way to deliver the medication to them in Iowa.  I don’t know if those who supported the legislation in the Assembly already realized that there efforts were a practical smoke screen or not, but providing a “get out of jail free” card to patients, which is all the law effectively does, is clearly not the way to solve this.  All forms of Medical Marijuana, at least as far as approved, should be made available as needed.  I do not support recreational availability of this drug, but I do think it should be removed from the class 1 list, and frankly it should be treated exactly like opioids.  We have much more dangerous and addictive drugs than marijuana available to patients today.  With the known benefits of cannabis, our current situation is shameful.  I realize there are Federal issues involved, but it is time work on this seriously and with vigor.

Eliminate the State Income Tax.  As with many grassroots movements, we will struggle to eliminate the Federal Income Tax (which also needs to be eliminated) without broader consensus among the States.  Currently, seven states have no income tax.  There is no reason that Iowa can’t proceed with shifting from an income-based system to a more fully sales-based system.  I’m not in favor of replacing the current tiered income tax with a flat-tax.  Frankly, I believe that dropping the income tax will actually improve our economy as people will have more of their own resources to work with, and that any increase in the Sales Tax will need to be adjusted to account for the fact that there will be a larger base of sales to tax than exists today.  The biggest risk of taking this path is that legislators may increase the Sales Tax further than needed, and then won’t have the gumption to return the additional revenue to the people of Iowa (been there before).  Eliminating the Income Tax will also make Iowa a more attractive state to live and do business in.

Definition of Life Amendment to the Iowa Constitution.  It’s time that we get this issue out on the table.  Life begins at conception, period.  Unfortunately, while many on the Right have pushed for this, those on the Left will oppose any discussion whatsoever in order to provide cover for their party members (in the Iowa Senate, of course).  I doubt this will happen, but with some new Democrat blood in the Senate, perhaps it may be possible?  Lacking success in this arena, we also need to make sure that efforts to expand abortions are blocked, and opportunities to limit them further are taken.  I want abortions copletely abolished everywhere, but I will support any effort to abolish as many as possible.

I’m sure that you, the reader, have other items you think belong on this list.  If you shared those with me, I might be reminded or convinced, but right now these are the things are that front-of-mind for me and seem the most pressing to improving the lives of Iowans.  There are a few other items that I think merit some discussion and action if possible, but are not as critical to be addressed as these in my opinion.  I hope to speak to some of these other issues in coming days.

After All This, Medical Marijuana May Die Anyway

After All This, Medical Marijuana May Die Anyway

Cannibis Oil, Medical MarijuanaI started off today thinking things were looking good. I have a good job, my wife loves me, had a great Easter service at church, and my friends Steve and Sally Gaer appeared to finally be done with their fight to be able to get cannibis oil treatments for their daughter Margaret who has seizures regularly due to epilepsy.

I could have done without the “Pot” reference in the headline, but I could let that go.

Seeing the article in the Register, after several conversations with Sally in the past few months, was incredibly encouraging. The bill that has been in the works, which was brought about after the funnel with help from both sides of the aisle, is very restrictive but is an important step in meeting the needs of some at this time… allowing Medical Marijuana in Oil form only (or at least decriminalizing it). One of the biggest opponents is helping write the bill. And even after sticking his foot in his mouth on this issue, the Governor has indicated he could sign this bill.

Everything appears set to go!


This evening I was informed that there appears to be some kind of stalemate between Republican Party leaders in the House and Senate. I don’t have any real details about this except that something is holding this up. Republican legislators have truly set themselves up as heroes, by showing they are there for the people on this issue by taking real action, but are hung up suddenly because the leaders can’t close the deal.

It’s like watching the end of an action movie where Good triumphs over Evil, only at the last minute Good steps back and lets Evil win.  For no apparent reason.

I’m not in any way in favor of recreational use of marijuana. Nor am I in favor of recreational use of opiates, but I’m glad that I or anyone in my family can get Morphine and Codeine-based products after surgery or when afflicted with extreme pain.  From a medical standpoint, I don’t see any difference between marijuana and opiates, so I fail to understand why we continue to treat them differently except for the hammering down on marijuana as evil and deadly over the past 50 years.

It’s time we evaluate our assumptions on this topic and speak truthfully instead of running a line that is meaningless. There is no intelligent reason to prohibit the use of marijuana and its derivatives as tools to heal. None. I’ve had conversations with numerous opponents on this and the only argument they can produce is that “it’s a gateway drug”.

So is alcohol.

The law should NOT be in place to prevent parents from providing their children with proven tools to alleviate their pain, seizures, or discomfort. Parents, husbands, wives, and children of those that suffer from any number of illnesses and side-effects from the drugs used for those illnesses should not be considered criminals for helping their loved ones.

There is something fundamentally wrong when society treats those in physical need as insignificant because they don’t have their own lobbyists. It’s bad enough that drug companies consider some diseases unworthy of cures because of the small number of sufferers, but we have the means to provide aid and comfort to those who suffer… why would we not?

If you agree, please contact your legislator.

Julian Garrett Wins Iowa Senate Special Election

Julian Garrett Wins Iowa Senate Special Election

Julian Garrett, Iowa State House, Iowa Senate, Iowa PoliticsJulian Garrett, Republican member of the Iowa House from the 25th District (all of Madison and parts of Warren County) has won the special election for Senate District 13, previously held by Kent Sorensen who resigned in early October.  Garrett was opposed by Democrat and former Iowa House Member Mark Davitt.

In a release from Iowa Republican Party Headquarters, Chairman A. J. Spiker said: “Julian Garrett worked hard to win this election and I’m pleased to hear of the results, ” said Spiker. “We were excited to work with him over the past month’s campaign and look forward to having him in the State Senate.”

Garrett’s win was important for Republicans who already need to win 3 seats in 2014 to regain control of the Iowa Senate.  A loss today would have increased the number of seats needed to 4.  That said, Garrett’s new Senate seat will be on the 2014 ballot as well.

Two other special elections were held in 2013 for Iowa House seats that were vacated by Democrats.  Democrats maintained control of both of those seats.  A special election to fill the seat now vacated by Julian Garrett in the Iowa House has yet to be scheduled.

David Stockman is Right, and We Should Probably Be Afraid

David Stockman is Right, and We Should Probably Be Afraid

Iowa Politics Money Chess TaxesFormer Michigan Congressman and Reagan Budget Director David Stockman’s new book “The Great Deformation” provoked a flurry of insult and ridicule when it first came out back in April. I’m late to the party because as a law school graduate I spend all of my spare cash on liquor; in fact, I have not yet read the book. Fortunately for me, book tour promotional speeches are readily available on Youtube, and Stockman has no instinct for holding back.

Here is the gist; the Bretton Woods Conference made the dollar the reserve currency of the world, it was gold-based until 1971 when Nixon decided to let it float free, allowing the US to run endless trade deficits with mercantilist, export-led industrializing countries in East Asia. Along the way, the US ran up an enormous government debt – selling bonds to the East Asian economies that were gradually undermining American industry – to expand the welfare state, fight a half-dozen wars, fund some peanut farmer’s idea of Synfuels, wind power, weapons systems that weren’t even used in the half-dozen wars, and what Stockman refers to as the HES – Healthcare, Education, and Social Services employment sectors – government jobs funding the consumers of Chinese goods.

Calling the Federal Reserve a “Bubble Machine,” Stockman digs into their low-interest rate policies and attempts to fine-tune capital allocation through the Tech Bubble, the Housing Bubble, and the Government Bubble that is, according to Stockman, about to pop.

I see no reason to doubt Stockman’s basic assertions; the stock market is playing with new highs even as the labor participation rate slips – only about 47 percent of adult Americans have full time jobs – and a full 100 million Americans receive some kind of food aid from the federal government.

What remains of American prosperity is Crony Capitalism in Stockman’s terms, where politically-connected operators get all the benefits of cheap money from the Fed, tax breaks only they can claim, and bailouts when things go bad; and the bulk of the people get nothing, not even jobs.

There is no escape, either. Stockman doesn’t hold back regarding Social Security, Medicare, the massive debt already on the books, and the massive tax hikes that will be required to keep the grist mill turning, assuming the next generation of tax oxen can even earn income – and Stockman doesn’t seem to think that they will.

The stunning loss of what he calls “Breadwinner Jobs,” which are jobs that actually pay the bills, has gone hand-in-hand with the loss of sound money and the growth of the welfare state.

The middle classes have been the main patrons of sectors ranging from real estate, insurance, retail, and even my field, the law. The nobility of Europe could commission artists for grand portraits and sculptures, but it took a growing bourgeois class with the money to buy houses worth decorating to spur the great easel painters of the Dutch Golden Age or the salons of 19th Century Paris. From art to coffee, the principle is inescapable; the indulgences might exist in some form regardless, but their proliferation takes middle class aspiration.

I think that our middle class is in trouble; Stockman believes this, too. With bills that we cannot pay, debts we cannot service, interest rates that cannot stay low forever, a large population of labor rendered unemployable by circumstances, and no indications of growth beyond the rather disturbing rise in the number of coffee shops around the Des Moines Metro area – patronized by students and a handful of investors who “feel wealthier” because the Dow is up – then the next meltdown will be far worse.

Do you deny that the middle class is shrinking? I have an exercise for you – right now, get in your car and take a drive through the nearest urban area. Count the number of times you see the following scene:

A super-discount retailer (Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, etc…) sharing a parking lot with a payday loan outlet, and a bucket-shop tax preparation shop (they specialize in helping low-income people claim the Earned Income Tax Credit) and some sort of no-frills dining. Depending on where you are, you might even see a blood plasma collection company and in the near vicinity there will be a “buy here pay here” auto lot, where used cars are sold on credit to people who cannot get formal bank loans.

Hardly the commercial trappings of a wealthy economy.

Obamacare: Welcome to Neo-Feudalism

Obamacare: Welcome to Neo-Feudalism

obamacareIt is axiomatic in history that the new worlds of the revolutionaries tend to resemble the social systems of the past. Tsar Alexander II freed 60 million serfs with the stroke of a pen, and seventy years later Joseph Stalin would re-impose serfdom under the guise of collective farms. He used bullets instead of ink. Similar stories can be told of the French Revolution, the Chinese Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, and probably all revolutions in some respect.

Alexander Hamilton wanted America to copy the British system, complete with political elites, state-supported monopoly corporations like the British East India Company, and all-powerful central government. It took two hundred years to overcome Jeffersonian resistance, but Hamilton finally won when TARP was implemented.

Perhaps it is no surprise that Barack Obama’s career-building commitment to the rhetoric of egalitarianism would lead to a stratified-by-force society resembling the old feudal model.

Get Fewer Hours, for Less Pay, and No Benefits

A friend of mine is facing the situation that has been making headlines lately; employers are cutting hours and eliminating their existing health care programs. Her employer (a farm-and-country retail chain) currently provides their employees with monthly cash payments earmarked for employee healthcare needs.

The company has been considering eliminating the cash payment, because paying the Obamacare penalty will be cheaper. Now, let’s examine this with the incredulous and caustic clarity that is my trademark – the company will stop giving money to employees for their healthcare needs, and give it to the government instead.

The employees lose their health program and are now individually liable for the Obamacare penalty if they fail to obtain health insurance on their own – fewer resources and greater obligations, a pincer strike on their standard of living.


Obamacare minstrels have been pointing out that the law goes into effect for companies with over 50 full-time equivalents – or “FTE’s,” so a company with 10 full-time employees and 100 part-time employees would have 60 FTE’s and would have to provide insurance but only for employees that work over 30 hours a week – in this case, 10 employees.

Fewer benefits, fewer hours, less income, and more obligations; employees lose at every bloody turn. To make up the difference, employees will scrounge for second and third jobs, as well as government support.

It used to be that you found a job and worked hard, so you would not have to rely on public support. Now, you will be dependent on the government whether you have a job or not.

We’re All Day Laborers Now

Corporate America is in a process of firing all of their employees and replacing them with temps. Much like some serfs were Villeins and some were Cottagers (the difference was that some retained land and others were landless laborers providing service to the lords for subsistence), there are several types of temp employee.

Some are just like standard employees, except that they have to reapply for their job every 3 to 6 months, while others are full-fledged employees of a temp agency, and are sent out on contracts to whatever employer has engaged them.

Check the job boards for your home town; temp agency jobs might be the bulk of what is available.

Revolutionary Destruction

Causing strain on social and economic relationships has been a tactic of ideological struggle between countries, factions, movements, religions, and all radicals since the beginning of time.

Causing stress within families can justify enormous social work bureaucracies; causing stress within the workplace can break down the economy and make employers and employees view each other as enemies and potential litigants; and so on with teachers and students, citizens and police, and any thing else you can think of to insert more arbitrators, sensitivity counselors, HR consultants, labor activists, and social workers into the workings of the nation.

I haven’t even included the doctors opting for early retirement. So, what will the part-time employee with no health coverage whose tax refund was eaten up by the Obamacare penalty and has no spare cash because scheduled hours were reduced do for healthcare? There will be Medicaid, and emergency rooms – but hospitals will be understaffed.

Perhaps you should become good friends with your local veterinarian; it helped on “The Walking Dead,” and it might come in handy as we slide into post-industrial feudalism.

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