Suggested rules for Iowa lawmakers

Jim Walters of Iowa City and  the Iowa Songbird Project in Coralville on Tuesday, July 22, 2008.

(Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Jim Walters of Iowa City and the Iowa Songbird Project in Coralville on Tuesday, July 22, 2008. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Two rules have served me well. The golden one, which doesn’t need repeating, and an old piece of farm wisdom that a lot of folks always struggle with: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m tempted to remind Legislators of these rules because it seems like you aren’t paying much attention to them.

If there was an overriding message in politics last year, it was that many people are fed up with politicians — irrespective of party. You can “win” an election — whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat — but that doesn’t raise you much in the public’s esteem.

We hear about elections “having consequences” or being “mandates” but that discounts everyone who voted for someone else, and the large numbers who no longer participate in the political process at all. So perhaps a little humility is in order?

Lots of ordinary folks don’t think they’re “heard” (or cared about) in Washington or Des Moines. What really puts them off is how easy it is to get any special interest legislation passed (think corporate tax breaks or dove hunting), but how hard it is to get some consensus on the really important things — like adequately funding our public schools, or cleaning up our filthy water.

We’ve recently found out that most legislators were getting very special treatment on their health insurance coverage, while talking about cutting it for others. To hear more than one of you say you “didn’t know” about this special treatment was really galling — and time to remind you of that golden rule.

Likewise, the Legislature is set to consider expanding drug testing laws for the private sector. Let me ask why you would exempt yourselves? If service in the Legislature and the passing of laws is among the most important and consequential acts of being a citizen, shouldn’t the rest of us be assured that the people doing it are sober and not using illegal drugs? If anyone in this state should have to be tested for alcohol or drugs, shouldn’t it be you?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? It’s hard to imagine two more clear examples than defunding Planned Parenthood and revising Chapter 20. In both cases, the law of unintended consequences will not go away.


There has been a decades-long debate on abortion, but a clear majority of our citizens remain convinced that it should be kept both safe and legal. Attempts to circumvent that consensus (like President Trump’s executive order on funding for international women’s health care) will result in more abortions, not less.

If you want to reduce abortions, you might consider things like supporting better and more effective birth control, working for wage equality, raising the minimum wage, providing maternity (and paternity!) leave, supporting child care for families — all things that will make life more livable, and reduce the number of abortions.

Regarding Chapter 20, our governor called it “antiquated” despite it’s passage in a historic bipartisan effort and being signed by Iowa’s best Republican governor — Robert Ray. I was a Democrat back then and worked for it’s passage. I’m a registered Republican now (as are 40 percent of union members) and was able to secure my retirement because I worked under a union contract. I’m the same age as Gov. Branstad, and I don’t think I’m any more antiquated than he is.

So take some time to contemplate that Trump victory (and the challenge Bernie Sanders made within the Democratic Party). If there’s a message in plain sight — it’s that working people feel they’ve been abandoned by both parties. Any who think they can advance their agendas by continuing to beat down ordinary working people are going to be bitterly disappointed.

If the ruling majority in the Iowa Legislature can’t abide by our Iowa values of decency and fair play — let alone the Golden Rule — perhaps they should just go home and avoid further damage to our state.

• Jim Walters is a 70-year-old native Iowan, retired farmer, and registered Republican, who stands in implacable opposition to everything that Gov. Terry Branstad has done to our once great state.



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