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Focusing better on new Iowans

Oftentimes the topic of immigration reform stirs up heavy debates and preconceived notions about what it means to be an immigrant in the United States. Reality about immigrants, their occupations and contributions to the economy can be misunderstood.
But here in Iowa, we know immigrants are important to our state and our economy. There are 120,000 documented and undocumented immigrants contributing both as workers and as employers. Most immigrants came to find jobs so it shouldn’t be surprising that most are of prime working age, and are working.

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What are U.S. workers missing?

Visiting other counties can mean drinking coffee in cafes, museums, night life and relaxing next to the sea. The best trips also include conversations with people from these lands.
I just taught a class in Romania and then visited Scandinavia to see friends and relatives. In both places I talked about work and family life. The first issue that always comes up is paid vacation, which America does not require.

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Watching Iowa jobs: Don’t miss the deficit

Iowa’s up-again, down-again job picture is looking up again, at least for now. The May numbers from the state show an increase of 6,200 jobs. Coming on the heels of a 3,700 increase in April, this marks the first two-month gain since the end of last year, and the increase is the largest since last October.

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Free-range concerns with hog confinements

A funny thing happened at the public meeting to consider the expansion of a hog operation in eastern Johnson County near West Branch. The operator withdrew his request for a permit.
Residents had been expressing their concerns because of quality-of-life conflicts they see coming if an existing large farm operation is permitted to create a second 2,500-head hog confinement, expanding the operation to nearly 4,900 hogs at that location.

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Update: The States and Medicaid Expansion

A quick update on where the debate over Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act stands in some of the states still debating what should be a "no-brainer":

Radical Right-Wing Tax Plans Run Into Trouble

Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.

On Marriage Equality, Eight Years = 180 Degrees

Eight years ago, progressives were recovering from an Election Day that saw a full 11 states ban same-sex marriage at the polls. The environment in early 2013 could not be more different. Coming off of historic successes at the polls in four states in November, momentum behind marriage equality efforts continues to grow in state after state in advance of what is likely to be a landmark Supreme Court decision on the issue this term:

Anti-Union Bills Still Percolating in Midwest

From Missouri to Pennsylvania to D.C., anti-union "right-to-work" laws are still being proposed and debated. Michigan workers continue to fight their law in the courts weeks before it is set to take effect, while workers in nearby states remain prepared for similar legislation to emerge. Meanwhile, an "anti-right-to-work" bill moved forward in Vermont — legislation that would require all workers who receive benefits thanks to a union to pay their fair share.

Opposition to Obamacare Shows Signs of Weakening

With a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election now come and gone, conservatives in many states seem to be having second thoughts about their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, progressive lawmakers in Iowa and Michigan signaled they were set to introduce legislation on Medicaid expansion:

Conservatives Confused as State Minimum Wage Attacks Fail

Legislators in Arizona conceded defeat this week in an attempt to gut the state’s minimum wage law. House Majority Leader Steve Court admitted that the law, enacted in a landslide 2006 ballot initiative with 65% of the vote, is still unassailable. Court’s decision wraps up a rough couple of months for legislators and lobbyists intent on rolling back minimum wage laws.