Des Moines Register. June 2, 2020.

Intolerance and inaction will no longer be tolerated

Can you hear us now?

The death last week of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and the passing of days before the officer’s arrest sparked protests in cities across the country, including Des Moines.

Most are peaceful. They are emotional. They are justified.

They capture the power of Americans who come together.

They capture the rage that is about much more than the latest death of a black man in police custody. It is about years of racial injustice, inequality, dismissal and brutality.

The protests capture the desperate need for leaders to take action. The Iowa Legislature must finally ban racial profiling by law enforcement. Gov. Kim Reynolds should immediately use an executive order to restore felon voting rights. Banning felons from voting disproportionately disenfranchises minorities.

Can you hear us now, Iowa leaders?

The images from many of the gatherings in Des Moines will remain in our collective memories.

A young blond girl carrying a sign and walking with her father on a recreational trail toward downtown. A rally at Union Park. A march on University Avenue. City police officers taking a knee before a crowd. State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, who has been hit with both a projectile and a brick, working in the thick of large gatherings to encourage conversation and peaceful protest.

Unfortunately, some of the protests became destructive after nightfall.

Windows were smashed in many downtown Des Moines buildings. Court Avenue businesses working to get up and running amid the novel coronavirus pandemic were hit particularly hard.

On Sunday evening, a crowd gathered around Merle Hay Mall, blocking traffic on and off for hours. Police threw tear gas, which also enveloped cars essentially stuck at an intersection. People sprayed graffiti and looted the mall. Police brought in K-9 units. Windows were broken at Price Chopper, Shoe Carnival, Five Below, a cellphone shop, Hardee’s, Aspen Dental and Target, among others.

Retail and restaurant workers — masked and already stressed because of the virus — were sweeping up glass and boarding up windows on Monday.

Two people were killed in Davenport, and a police officer was shot. Police there responded to over 20 shots-fired calls.

Such incidents bring sadness to all of us, and particularly to those organizing and participating in peaceful protests. Abdul-Samad attributed the violence to a handful of individuals.

“We are all in this together, and we are not going to let you hijack our babies,” he said during a news conference Monday. “We are not going to let you hijack our message. You need to take that out of Iowa.”

Those few disruptive individuals undermine the message of equality and justice. They leave sympathetic people unsettled and angry.

Protesters are right to be angry. They should march. They should yell. They should demand reform. And they should vote out of office local and federal leaders who refuse to take meaningful action to bring about significant change. Each rally should include voter registration tables.

The people of this country will not stand by while a police officer puts his hand in his pocket while pressing his knee on the neck of a dying black man. Such violence and abuse of power will not be tolerated.

That is what the protesters are saying to leaders.

Can you hear us now?

__ Fort Dodge Messenger. June 6, 2020.

Biodiesel tax incentive should become law

A bill heading to Gov. Kim Reynolds would support Iowa’s soybean growers and biodiesel plants while also helping to reduce air pollution. We urge the governor to sign it as soon as it hits her desk.

The measure would extend a fuel tax incentive for diesel sold in Iowa that contains at least 11 percent biodiesel. That tax incentive was put in place in 2015.

Called the Fuel Tax Differential, the incentive is a 3 cents per gallon reduction in the tax on fuel that contains 11 percent or more of biodiesel.

According to the Iowa Biodiesel Board, the tax incentive has led to a threefold increase in the number of retailers selling biodiesel.

About 47 percent of the diesel fuel sold for over the road use in Iowa contains biodiesel at the 11 percent level or higher.

Soybeans are the primary raw material of biodiesel, so a tax incentive that results in more biodiesel being used benefits farmers.

Farmers can sell their soybeans to one of the 11 biodiesel plants in the state. Those plants produced about 345 million gallons of biodiesel in 2019, the most in the nation.

The plants employ Iowans, providing good jobs in rural parts of the state. A study by ABF Economics, cited by the Iowa Biodiesel Board, shows the industry supported 3,875 full-time jobs in 2019 and adds $489 million to the state’s gross domestic product annually.

Those are all impressive numbers.

Any incentive that leads to the sale of more biodiesel helps farmers and workers at the plants that make the fuel. Those farmers and workers in turn support their communities with their spending.

And everyone should remember that biodiesel is a clean-burning fuel made from a renewable resource.

The economic and environmental benefits of biodiesel make it clear that this extension of the tax incentive should be quickly signed into law.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. June 5, 2020. Iowa figures out safe way to vote in record numbers

Iowans learned some things in Tuesday’s primary election, and not just whose names will be on the November ballot.

It became clear that there’s more than one way to run an election.

Voting in the 2020 June primary didn’t look much like voting ever has before. In Dubuque County, fewer than 1,800 of the nearly 70,000 registered voters went to the polls. Nearly 10 times that number found another way to exercise their right to vote.

More than 17,000 voters submitted absentee ballots via mail or did curbside voting in advance of Election Day in an attempt to avoid contact with others during the pandemic.

A push toward absentee voting came from both the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office as well as county elections officials. The effort was effective: More absentee ballots were cast in the local primary than in any general election.

Iowa’s effort followed April elections in Wisconsin during which voters stood in long lines waiting to vote, risking their own health and potentially that of poll workers. Dozens of cases of COVID-19 were traced back to Wisconsin’s election day.

Thanks to early and absentee voting and heightened awareness, Iowa’s experience was visibly different. Dubuque County limited in-person voting to nine polling places in the county, down from 35. That way, far fewer poll workers were required. The TH observed that, at many locations, there was rarely more than one voter inside at a time Tuesday.

Statewide, Iowa recorded a record turnout for a primary election, even with far fewer voters going to the polls on Tuesday. More than 410,000 Iowans voted absentee this year, compared to just 38,000 in the 2016 primary election.

A virtual high-five to Iowa voters who helped keep each other safe, protected poll workers and still managed to cast a record number of ballots. It’s a good example that sometimes trying out a new way of doing things leads to positive change.

Another thing Iowans decided it was time to change gets even more acclamation — Western Iowa voters finally sent the message that U.S. Rep. Steve King does not represent Iowa.

It was particularly fitting that this week, when the nation is immersed in conversation about racial inequality, voters in the state stepped away from the nine-term Republican congressman who has voiced some of the most blatantly racist comments ever uttered by anyone in public life.

King’s hits list includes questioning why “white nationalism” and “white supremacy” are offensive phrases and asking what any other group besides white people has ever contributed to civilization. He once said, “What does this diversity bring that we don’t already have? Mexican food, Chinese food, those things — well, that’s fine. But what does it bring that we don’t have that is worth the price? We have a lot of diversity within the U.S. already.”

After years of bigoted comments that showed no understanding of or appreciation for cultural equity and inclusivity, King at long last was stripped of his congressional committee assignments last year. It was a move long overdue.

Likewise, to have a bigot as one of Iowa’s few representatives on the national stage for 18 years was a legacy that went on too long. King has caused the state enough pain and embarrassment. We’re glad the people of western Iowa have finally taken away his position of influence.

Last week in this space we warned readers not to toss out that prepaid Visa card if you get one in the mail because it just might be your federal stimulus aid.

One week later, elected officials on the state and national level are making an effort to assist those who might have done just that.

At the federal level, Iowa Reps. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne were pressing the U.S. Treasury to waive fees that citizens would incur if they needed a replacement card. Additionally, the lawmakers hoped to increase the amount a taxpayer can transfer to a bank account.

Their message was heard.

The IRS announced it would waive the $7.50 fee for the replacement card and increase the limit on the amount a taxpayer can transfer to a bank account from $1,000 per calendar month to $2,500.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office also worked on behalf of Iowans to ease the process.

Miller said his office had taken hundreds of calls from consumers needing assistance with lost or discarded cards. That led the state to install a live customer service telephone line. To replace a lost card, Iowans can call 800-240-8100, press “2” when prompted for a lost or stolen card and enter the last six digits of their Social Security number.

Credit to these elected officials who helped Iowans navigate this unusual problem.