Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers
Posted August 28
Des Moines Register. August 25, 2017
Lawmakers should make 'adjustments' to licensing boards
Iowans should not need a state license to earn money interpreting sign language or painting fingernails. Entire state boards should not have been created to oversee interior designers and barbers.
Yet some professionals should be licensed and regulated in the interest of protecting public health. People who perform heart surgery or root canals, for example, are rightly required to meet educational standards and are subject to ongoing oversight by a board. So are chiropractors, allowed under Iowa law to treat patients by making adjustments to "neuromusculoskeletal structures." State oversight of health care workers makes sense.
What does not make sense is the Iowa Board of Chiropractic's failure to take public disciplinary action against Elizabeth Kressin.
The Spencer chiropractor agreed in 2015 to pay $62,349 to settle allegations that she defrauded Medicaid and violated the federal False Claims Act. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General determined she repeatedly and improperly billed the government health insurer for services performed on children to treat problems including bed wetting, colic and ear infections.
In March of this year, Kressin consented not to be paid by Medicaid for three years as part of an agreement with the inspector general. A few weeks later the Iowa Department of Human Services formally notified her of that prohibition.
Yet as of last week, the state chiropractic board, composed mostly of fellow chiropractors, had not publicly disciplined Kressin. If paying tens of thousands of dollars to settle allegations that you fleeced taxpayers isn't enough to prompt board action, telling patients she could treat bedwetting should be.
There is a reason Medicaid has determined chiropractors should not be reimbursed for treating many conditions, including ear infections. These practitioners are not trained in medical or nursing schools. State law does not allow them to prescribe drugs, including antibiotics, or perform even minor surgical procedures.
The chiropractic board, like all state boards, has broad authority to revoke or suspend licenses. It can clearly do so if a licensee knowingly makes misleading claims or engages in unethical conduct.
Why hasn't the board taken action against Kressin?
Perhaps because she is the former head of that board.
Perhaps because she and the current board chairman practice chiropracty in the same office in Spencer, own properties together, and obtained a marriage license in 1980.
Perhaps because licensing boards are sometimes more interested in protecting those they are supposed to oversee than protecting the public.
A report issued this year by the Iowa Office of Ombudsman provides a glimpse of the secrecy and conflicts of interest plaguing state-sanctioned licensing boards. Findings included weak investigations into complaints about workers. In one case, a board member did not recuse herself from a meeting about a complaint made against her.
Last legislative session, Iowa lawmakers finally took an interest in reining in overzealous licensing laws, but did not pass what was ultimately a flawed bill. Next session, elected officials should address the flawed board structure that allows industry insiders unchecked authority to shield current members, former members, friends and spouses from sanctions.
The chiropractic board is the latest reminder of problems. Lawmakers should muster the backbone to adjust the law.
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. August 25, 2017
Facing race issues on campus
University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook didn't waste any time in addressing incoming students on the thorny issues of race that are currently gripping the nation.
Before classes even began, Nook noted this academic year starts "under the shadow of violence, racism and hatred that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., and the University of Virginia."
"As a university community, we cannot look away from these tragic events and pretend that they don't affect us at UNI or that they can't happen here," he emailed students, faculty and staff.
"These racist acts of terrorism were intended to intimidate and silence others. We can never allow such acts to occur without a response, especially when those acts come under the guise of free speech," he added.
We're relieved to see him step up so quickly. It's a sign of leadership; the type of leadership that is needed on our nation's campuses - where emotions regarding social issues can run high.
In recent years, UNI students have raised concerns about the treatment of minority students. Nook's comments were reminiscent of an episode in 2014, when an anonymous comment with racist overtones on the social medium Yik Yak surfaced. Yik Yak is a mobile phone app that allows users to post and talk anonymously with other users in a 1.5-mile radius. It had been reported among the comments were, "I chose UNI because I didn't see a single black person on my visit that day."
The university president at the time, Bill Ruud, was recovering from a surgery. However, UNI interim provost Michael Licari, who had assumed responsibilities as acting UNI president at the time, quickly stepped up.
Upon learning of the comments, Licari sent a campuswide email, in which he urged those posting the comments to "understand the impact of your actions and stop." He added that the comments hurt the UNI community, but "your thoughtless attempts to undermine the very fabric of our community when you speak hate under the cloak of anonymity will fail."
In another recent incident on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, a picture was posted to Twitter of three men standing next to the Black Engineering Building sign with an inappropriate, racially sensitive caption.
In that case, a male freshman was identified as posting the caption. He had quickly deleted the post but not before someone had taken a screenshot.
"It's definitely a lesson learned for me and everyone," he said. "I'm not racist at all. I was just trying to be funny and it turned out to be not funny. Just manage your social media account and don't do stupid stuff, it sucks."
The freshman's advice, albeit realized after the fact, should still be considered by all. In this era of heavy social media usage, a person's thoughts aren't that far away from documentation for the world to see.
Let us all realize the University of Northern Iowa has played a large part in introducing and maintaining a modicum of diversity into the Cedar Falls community for generations and will continue to do so for generations to come. The same goes for Iowa's other public universities.
As always, we hope the values of respect and common sense prevail.
Fort Dodge Messenger. August 24, 2017
Foster care helps children thrive
When youngsters lack a loving and supportive home life — even if that is just a temporary circumstance — they are put at an enormous disadvantage. All too often, the result can be a journey to adulthood that does not afford the child the type of environment necessary to thrive.
One of the options for such young folks is placement in a temporary home with a caring family — foster care. Nationwide more than 400,000 young Americans are part of the foster care system. Here in Iowa, the Department of Human Services recently chose two agencies — Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive Family Connections and Lutheran Services in Iowa — to manage its foster and adoptive children and families services. Four Oaks handles these programs in four of the five service areas and LSI in one of them. Four Oaks leads this important effort in Webster County.
According Bambi Schrader, a recruitment and engagement leader with Four Oaks, the need for foster families is especially acute in three Iowa communities.
"Webster County, Des Moines and Waterloo are the three highest that need foster parents," she told The Messenger last week. "We need foster parents. A lot of people don't know there's a great need. Our kids need to stay in our community."
It is crucial that this call to action be heeded. Nothing is more important to the future of any community than cultivating future generations.
The Messenger urges area residents who have an interest in helping youngsters in difficult situations by becoming foster parents — or who wish to support this vital work in other ways — to learn more about how to do so. That process can be started by visiting the www.fouroaksfamilyconnections.org -the Four Oaks website.
Dubuque Telegraph Herald. August 25, 201 7
Our opinion: Level the field among retailers — even online
While you are reading this very sentence someone in the tri-state area is making a purchase online.
And not paying sales tax on it.
We're confident in that statement, considering that nearly four out of five American consumers say they made at least one online purchase in the past month, roughly half say they prefer online shopping and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, they spent $111 billion in e-commerce just in the second quarter of 2017.
Obviously, the rising volume of online buying increases the pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers. The major players promote their own sales websites, but smaller retailers are at a disadvantage on several levels. One of those disadvantages is that they must charge their customers sales tax, while online retailers, by and large, do not. That can put a local store at a 6 or 7 percent disadvantage right off the bat.
Under current federal law, retailers only need to collect sales and use tax for the states in which they have a physical presence. The major players — think Amazon — have a limited number of facilities, so they rarely charge sales tax.
If the online seller has no physical presence in a state, then it is the obligation of the purchaser to voluntarily pay the tax directly to the government.
Brick-and-mortar retailers in the tri-states are the ones that provide employment, pay local taxes and contribute to United Way and your organization's annual fundraiser. Not only do they operate at a competitive disadvantage, state and local governments are missing out on revenue they used to derive from retail sales.
President Trump has alluded to that a time or two, sending out tweets targeting Jeff Bezos, the founder of online retailing giant Amazon and owner of The Washington Post. In June, Trump tweeted "The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!"
Trump confuses and conflates some facts on various issues, and he did it here. But there is a valid nugget in this complaint. While he routinely labels unflattering news coverage and commentary as "fake," with the Washington Post a frequent target, note that the newspaper is owned separately by Bezos, not Amazon. The president's reference to "internet taxes" in the same tweet he mentioned "fake news" is ironic: Three years ago a satirical post about an internet tax went viral on social media. The original post — as well as the tax itself — were both fake.
But we know what the president meant, he was referring to collecting sales tax on e-commerce purchases. There, Trump is onto something.
Congress for years has had before it legislation to require online sellers to collect sales tax from their customers, the same as brick-and-mortar shop owners do. The behemoth retailers' contention that to do so is too complicated is laughable. But thus far they have prevailed. If Amazon can monitor your shopping searches, track your purchases and deliver that tube of toothpaste to you the next day, it certainly knows how to collect sales tax, even for 50 states and U.S. territories.
Government is constantly trying to come up with the money to fund all sorts of initiatives, including better roads and bridges, social services and maybe even a border wall. Yet it continues to leave billions in potential revenue on the table.
It's not government's job to pick winners and losers in business, including retailing. But it should be its job to keep the playing field level.