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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 17, 2014 at 9:01 am •  Published: November 17, 2014
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Quad-City Times. Nov. 15, 2014.

U.S. leads with China climate agreement

Global leadership requires international agreements, and the carbon emission deal reached by the U.S. and China appears to be a good start.

China and the U.S. are very different places, and the new agreement reflects that. Our developed nation already has diversified domestic and international power sources and restricts harmful emissions to protect Americans. By 2025, the U.S. agreed to reduce carbon emissions by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels, but without further restricting power plants or vehicles.

Much of China remains undeveloped while manufactured smog chokes residents of major cities. The agreement allows China's emissions to grow until 2030, when they will be capped.

Some stateside observers are squawking, saying China gets a free pass. We disagree. China finally has agreed to set an end date on reckless pollution that is harming its own people and damaging the global environment. To comply, the nation must begin aggressive energy diversification like the Iowa initiatives backed by the last three governors.

The White House analysis states: "It will require China to deploy an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030 — more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States."

Detractors say the U.S. shouldn't spend a nickel on clean air while other nations and natural forces continue to pollute the atmosphere. That thin argument might stand if the only consideration is economic. But the U.S.-China agreement is as much about public health and safety as the economy. China had to shut down 800 Beijing region factories to literally clear the air before this summit was held.

Our own nation still requires close regulation to curb industrial emission violations like the chronic pollution Muscatine's GPC dumped into our region's air. The company in March accepted a $1.5 million fine and agreed to spend at least $15 million to comply with existing rules it had ignored. Credit the victory to a Muscatine citizens' group — not government regulators — who pushed state and federal officials to enforce those rules.

Their lawsuit called Muscatine's air the worst in the state. Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping didn't need to don masks when he visited Muscatine, like many Chinese wear in Beijing every day.

Critics still disputing global warming science are missing the point. Our nation's commitment to clean air should never be predicated on perceptions of others' compliance. That's not leading.

This agreement puts the world's most powerful nation and economy first in protecting its citizens and shows China how to follow. It creates partnerships for American leadership to lead China to diverse energy and effective regulation.

We've seen what unfettered emissions cause in the U.S. and China. Still, some seem content to condemn U.S. leadership on this issue because China might not comply. To them we advise: Buy your own breathing masks.

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Iowa City Press-Citizen. Nov. 12, 2014.

Confusion over voting rights continues

Back in April, the Iowa Supreme Court added itself to the long list of people and government entities who aren't exactly sure who is and isn't — should be and shouldn't be — allowed to vote in Iowa.

That list also includes:

— The Iowa Secretary of State.

— County auditors.

— Clerks of court.

— County prosecutors.

— As well as nearly every Iowa adult resident who has ever been convicted of some crime at some time.

On the other side the ledger, there seem to be only one in the state who is absolutely certain what constitutes enough of an "infamous crime" to warrant lifetime disenfranchisement: Gov. Terry Branstad, who — on his first day back in office in 2011 — decided he must personally approve the re-enfranchisement of any and all felons who leave prison in Iowa.

The once, present and future governor's predecessors/successors — Democrats Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver — had decided by executive order that Iowa would follow the lead of the majority of states and automatically restore voting rights to felons upon completion of their prison and parole terms.

Branstad's executive order not only set Iowa in the wrong direction historically, but it also set up a more complicated, confusing system in that ex-felons had to know who was governor when they left the system — regardless of what they were told at the time of their conviction — to know whether their rights had been restored automatically or whether they needed to go through the lengthy application process to appeal directly to Branstad.

When Kelli Jo Griffin was convicted of a nonviolent drug offense in 2008, for example, she was told, correctly at the time, that she would have her voting right restored automatically when she got off parole in 2013. Not knowing about the change in policy under the Branstad administration, she voted in a 2013 local election. Afterward, she was charged as part of the state's overblown voter fraud investigation. Although the jurors clearly saw through the prosecutions misguided case — it only took them 40 minutes to acquit Griffin — the Iowa mother trying to turn her life around remains illegible to vote under current Iowa law.

As such, Griffin's case seems an ideal one to open further the window that the state Supreme Court cracked slightly earlier this year.

In that April ruling, the court clarified that to make an Iowan ineligible to vote, the state constitutional language of an "infamous crime" indeed must rise to the level of a felony. But the ruling then further muddied the already muddied waters by opening up the possibility for future lawsuits seeking to clarify whether all felonies should count as such "infamous crimes."

Justice David Wiggins, as the lone dissenter from the plurality and concurring decisions, summarized the confusion that will be the likely result from the court offering no clear standard about what rises to the level of infamous crime.

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