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Evans: Iowa should stop keeping police discipline secret

The actions of journalists and police officers were in the spotlight last week in a Des Moines courtroom. The scrutiny came at the trial of Andrea Sahouri, a Des Moines Register reporter. She was arrested while covering a chaotic protest last May 31, six days after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. The jury sorted through questions and allegations about the actions of Sahouri, who has worked for the Register since 2019, and Officer Luke Wilson, a Des Moines Police Department employee for 18 years. In the end, jurors believed Sahouri, not Wilson. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone made an interesting comment in defending his decision to charge Sahouri: “No one is above the law,” he said. 

The jurors who decided Sahouri did not overstep her rights as a journalist announced their decision in open court.

Sponsor says Iowa bill to block natural gas restrictions has path to approval

The sponsor of an Iowa bill that would prohibit cities or counties from regulating the sale of natural gas or propane said he is confident the legislation will make it to the governor’s desk after recently clearing committee votes in both chambers. State Sen. Jason Schultz, a Republican from southwest Iowa, said his bill (SF 455) is meant to counter the “radical left environmental agenda” in Des Moines, where the City Council recently adopted a goal of transitioning to carbon-free electricity citywide by 2035. The Iowa House Commerce Committee approved the measure on Feb. 15 by a 16-4 vote, and the Senate Commerce Committee approved similar language 13-4 on Feb. 24.

Evans: There’s more at stake than new road signs

Tucked away among hundreds of bills being considered this year by the Iowa Legislature is one people might have quickly embraced in a different era.But times have changed. It has been 38 years since Robert Ray left the governor’s office. State government today is far messier than it was back then.Compounding the reaction to Senate File 404 has been the social and political upheaval in Iowa in recent years — enough to bring out pundits with their potshots.The seemingly innocuous piece of legislation appropriates $350,000 for the Iowa Department of Transportation to replace the 68 “Welcome” signs along Iowa’s borders. The bill also contains a requirement that the new signs incorporate what it calls a “different and distinct” design and message for travelers.The current signs say, “The People of Iowa Welcome You,” with the secondary message, “Iowa, Field of Opportunities.”The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Carrie Koelker of Dyersville, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “This is something that I think is important, that we make sure as a state that we upgrade our image.”The “Field of Opportunities” slogan was adopted in 1999 when Tom Vilsack was governor. Iowa’s current marketing slogan — “This is Iowa” — seems more like something intended for lost motorists.The bill opened the spigot to a stream of creative juices at Raygun, the Des Moines company that sells smarty-pants T-shirts with a Midwest political and cultural flavor. Owner Mike Draper’s Facebook post produced a flood of suggestions for slogans for those new “Welcome” signs.Among them:“Iowa.

Weeks into vaccine rollout, some in Iowa worry about being left behind

Like many states, Iowa is now weeks into distributing the coronavirus vaccine to residents who are 65 or older. With vaccine demand still far outstripping supply, many Iowans are struggling to get an appointment and are frustrated. But some worry the state’s most vulnerable residents are also at risk for getting left behind. 

Chuck Betts is 74 and lives in eastern Iowa. He says getting an appointment to get vaccinated was anything but easy. He started by calling 2-1-1.

Evans: These changes won’t improve election security

Iowa’s 2020 election was one for the record books — with 1.7 million people marking ballots. It was an impressive turnout in Iowa — with 76 percent of Iowa’s eligible voters taking part. There were no allegations of election fraud or polling place shenanigans in Iowa. No one suggested people from cemeteries were casting ballots in our state. Randy Evans
STRAY THOUGHTS

Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

Rural areas face challenges in COVID vaccine rollout

Across the Midwest, the rollout of COVID vaccines has been spotty. Lots of people are having a trouble with online signups. And vaccine demand far exceeds supply. That’s made the process challenging, especially in rural areas. For years, the Girls State Training School in central Iowa has sat mostly empty.