Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

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Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Feb. 10, 2013.

Evansdale cousins deserve fitting memorial

Meyers Lake became forever linked with the plight of the young cousins from Evansdale who turned up missing last July.

Their bikes were found on the lakeside trail. As the last place where the girls could be placed before their disappearance, the lake area became the epicenter for the investigations that followed — as well as a natural landmark for vigils and thoughtful remembrances. That remains the case after the bodies of the girls were eventually discovered in Bremer County in December.

So it's quite fitting that the city of Evansdale will be naming the park at Meyers Lake in honor of Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins. It's even more fitting that the name will be Angels Park.

That, apparently, could be just the beginning.

There is a fundraiser under way to improve and beautify the park. The plan is to incorporate the lake's island into the park by clearing trees, adding a gazebo and building a road to it. There is talk of a program where people can donate money for rose bushes in memory of loved ones. Planning is also in the works for a concert to raise money for the project. Perhaps even statues of the girls could become a reality.

"It's a place of sadness. We want to turn that around and make it a place of beauty and a place of warm feelings where we're taking something that is sad and negative and turning it into something positive," said Dona Frickson, president of the Evansdale Chamber of Commerce.

While memorials are placed in honor of those who have passed, they have a huge impact on the living. We are heartened that the families and friends of these girls will be able to visit this area named Angels Park. Residents of Evansdale, the Cedar Valley and the state agonized during the time the girls went missing and at the time their bodies were located. The hurt will be lasting. There were amazing shows of support throughout the community and many came to feel as if they knew the girls personally.

They too, need this memorial.

A push for a memorial began almost immediately after the girls' bodies were discovered. Casey's General Stores has already raised money for benches to be placed at the park.

People can donate to the ongoing cause at First Security State Bank. Veridain Credit Union is expected to have an account set up soon. In both cases, the fund is named Angels Memorial.

It is our hope that these recent memorial announcements will give focus to wider volunteer and fundraising efforts.

Lyric and Elizabeth deserve to be remembered.

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Quad-City Times. Feb. 9, 2013.

We can live without Saturday delivery

Could you live without mail today?

A national poll last June found that 70 percent of Americans can. The New York Times/CBS News phone survey of 900 Americans showed overwhelming support for dropping Saturday and proceeding with five-day delivery.

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service listened to that feedback and announced a move to five-day letter delivery beginning in August. Package delivery will continue on Saturday.

The cuts are expected to save about $2 billion annually for an operation that lost $15.9 billion last year.

So no matter what people think of Saturday service, more cuts are coming.

We're flinching, as the cuts eliminate one day of newspaper delivery for a handful of our outlying customers still relying on a mail carrier for our daily print product.

But we'll live. We're already reaching out online to thousands of customers who prefer not to wait for daily local news.

We have to regard the end of Saturday delivery as a business decision, not a government cutback. Mail volume has declined steadily since 2000, with 2012 deliverees at the lowest level since 1984.

Those market forces contributed to a record $15.9 billion net loss for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

With rapidly declining volume and ample private alternatives, the Postal Service needs to operate differently. It needs fewer standalone offices and fewer employees to provide 21st century service far different from its historical model.

We're hearing congressional rumblings to block the Postal Service's necessary business decision. Congress is adept at rumbling. It struggles with budgeting.

Congress could keep Saturday delivery by carving at least $2 billion a year from schools, defense, disaster recovery or any other federal program.

So ignore those Capitol Hill rumbles until they come with a specific funding plan. Then decide: Is the contents of your mailbox today worth $2 billion in federal cuts elsewhere?

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Iowa City Press-Citizen. Feb. 7, 2013.

Prescription for Iowa still includes expanding Medicaid

During last month's Condition of the State address, Gov. Terry Branstad outlined three priorities for "improving the health of our citizens":

— Providing money to support medical residency programs in Iowa.

— Providing money to launch a Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program to primary care physicians and expand it to include OB-GYN and emergency medicine doctors.

— And passing a "certificate of merit" law and a cap on non-economic damages.

The governor deserves credit for his focus on ways to make Iowa more attractive for practicing medicine. But the governor missed an important opportunity to also say something about ways to ensure that low-income Iowans have access to all the doctors he is hoping to attract to the state.

Even worse, the governor remains steadfast in his opposition to the expansion of Medicaid called for in the federal Affordable Care Act. If proposed legislation to expand the program's eligibility standards were passed, 150,000 Iowans — mostly low-income, childless adults — would be added to the state's Medicaid rolls.

Branstad, however, said he doesn't trust the federal government to make good on its promise to pay the full cost of the expansion for three years — with the state gradually assuming 10 percent of the costs for the new enrollees.

We've already pointed out the unhealthy disconnect between the governor's repeated call for Iowa to become the "healthiest state in the nation" and his repeated opposition to helping more lower-income Iowans have access to health insurance.

But now it seems national experts are saying that the governor's third health-related priority — evaluating medical malpractice suits and capping the damages that juries can award — might do precious little to actually increase the number of doctors working in Iowa.

Iowa doctors do spend significant sums on malpractice insurance, but those premiums already are among the lowest in the country.

Mike Matray, editor of the trade journal Medical Liability Monitor, told The Des Moines Register that the costs of those premiums have been unchanged in Iowa since 2008, after declining in the previous three years. And many obstetricians in the neighboring state of Illinois pay much more than $100,000 per year for malpractice insurance — double or triple what their Iowa counterparts pay.

Matray's national survey does indicate that malpractice insurance in the neighboring states of North Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota is $1,000 to $7,000 less per year than Iowa doctors pay. And the governor's office points out that Iowa does have fewer physicians per capita than those states.

But the number of medical-malpractice lawsuits filed in Iowa already has dropped to the lowest level in at least a decade — without any new restrictions in place. Data from the Iowa Judicial Branch show the state saw a total of 159 such cases filed in 2012, down from 187 in 2011 and fewer than half 2002's total of 335.

And the Register reports that a 2010 study from the University of Iowa found that, out of 220 physicians who had left the state, only one doctor cited professional liability as the most important reason for the move.

Rather than push for a measure that is unlikely to gain traction in the Democrat-controlled Senate — and unlikely to make any significant improvements even if it does gain such support — the governor should spend more time reconsidering his position on broadening Iowa's eligibility requirements for Medicaid.

Given the amount of federal money that comes with the Medicaid expansion — and given the number currently uninsured people who would be able to be covered — it's time for our state leaders to start "improving the health of our citizens" by accepting the incentives that will allow the state to cover even more people.

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Telegraph Herald. Feb. 10, 2013.

Immigration reform's time has arrived

Members of the Senate preparing to take up the immigration issue agreed on a framework within which they will work toward reform. The preamble to that framework states, in part, "We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited."

That's a tall order. But it is a good mind-set to have heading into the discussion. For more than a decade, politicians have been talking about fixing U.S. immigration policy. Some states even struck out on their own with policies when they felt the federal government was failing to take action. We need an approach that is comprehensive and sustainable. And we need it soon.

Like most of the problems that have hung over Washington for years, immigration reform is complicated and divisive. We have evolved into a country in which undocumented immigrants fill a huge category of our labor force. Removing that workforce would be devastating to the economy — if it were even logistically feasible. That leaves us faced with the conundrum of rewarding undocumented immigrants while those who played by the rules are kept on the slow track.

But it makes economic and practical sense to embrace a system that would allow workers to legally come into our country when the demand for labor is there. Throwing out every undocumented immigrant in border states is no pathway to the sophisticated reform plan we need. These immigrants do not exist in a vacuum. They are spending their wages on goods and services just like American workers.

We must find a system that gives workers — who number in the millions — an avenue toward citizenship. That might include a lengthy probationary period as well as other stipulations. But the proposal floated by some House Republicans that excludes any prospect of citizenship for those who have worked hard doing manual labor in American homes and factories isn't a realistic plan.

Nor is it economically sensible. Immigrants, by and large, are good for the U.S. economy. Research shows they are 30 percent more likely to start new business than native-born Americans. They are also much less likely to end up in trouble with law enforcement than native-born Americans. Figuring done by the Congressional Budget Office shows that if undocumented immigrants had an avenue toward citizenship to pursue, what they would collectively pay in taxes would exceed what they use in services by $25 billion.

Politicians have gotten lost over the years trying to find common ground on immigration from a moral position. We need to approach this from a practical and economic vantage point. It's time Congress found some consensus on immigration.

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