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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

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Quad-City Times. July 17, 2014.

Lt. Col. Ernst can handle campaign fire

Kudos to Joni Ernst, who suspended her participation in Iowa's U.S. Senate campaign to serve her nation.

Now let candidate Ernst and her campaign staff be as tough as Lt. Col. Ernst.

Ernst is an Iowa National Guard leader training for two weeks in Wisconsin. Her service supports our military, and is campaign gold in her quest for U.S. Senate.

But her service doesn't end the campaign. Competing outside groups are buying ads for Ernst and her opponent Bruce Braley throughout her deployment. Ernst's staff used the opportunity to recruit Sen. John McCain to politick on her behalf, condemning Braley supporters for "cheap political attacks against her while she is in uniform and unable to respond or defend herself."

The McCain statement shows Ernst, her campaign and outside supporters to be plenty capable of campaigning while she's on manuevers.


The Des Moines Register. July 16, 2014.

State needs to address EMS service problem

In 1966 researchers at the National Academy of Sciences concluded "ambulance services are as much a municipal responsibility as firefighting."

Fifty years later, however, Iowa's local governments do arrange for firefighters to respond if your house is burning, but they are not required to provide emergency medical services if you have a heart attack.

Volunteers, private ambulance services and hospitals are not filling the void, particularly in rural areas of the state. It's long overdue for state officials to step in and help map out a solution or solutions to fill this gap.

A new Des Moines Register analysis of data from the Iowa Bureau of Emergency Medical Services found that 29 of Iowa's 99 counties have no ambulance inside their borders or only one that can provide around-the-clock response to emergencies. More than 420,000 Iowans live in those 29 counties. At least 11 EMS "agencies" in Iowa consist of only one person. In response to a 911 call, will the person provide help to the patient or drive the ambulance?

These recent findings are in addition to problems uncovered during a 2013 Des Moines Register investigation. The newspaper found that EMS workers were never disciplined for providing poor care, background checks were not performed on new EMS workers and little public information was available about ambulance response times.

After much coverage in this newspaper over the past 15 months, the question before state leaders now is this: What are you going to do?

Gov. Terry Branstad has opposed studying the EMS issue. He vetoed a provision in legislation in 2013 that would have created a task force to study ways to improve the quality of emergency services across the state. The $10,000 the task force would have cost was not an "effective use of taxpayer dollars," Branstad wrote in his veto message.

(Yet the governor has no qualms about spending $500,000 in taxpayer money for legal bills as part of his effort to force Iowa Worker Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey out of his job.)

An interim study committee of lawmakers formed to examine problems and propose improvements has not made any recommendations. One of the reasons for a lack of progress is the inability of lawmakers to obtain needed information. They are victims of a law that prohibits the state from publicly disclosing ambulance response times.

But Iowa's elected officials must not give up on this issue. And they should not automatically dismiss potentially controversial steps like requiring local governments or hospitals to provide EMS services.

Though Iowa has 118 hospitals, fewer than half of them provide ambulance services now, according to the Iowa Hospital Association. Why don't all of them? The hospitals are located in every area of the state and already employ trained medical staff who could respond to ill and injured Iowans and help transport them safely to hospitals.

That is not the only potential solution. There may be better ones. But as Iowa's rural population continues to drain away, the challenges facing Iowa's EMS agencies are only going to grow.

It's a fundamental obligation of the state to examine the state's EMS system and find more reliable ways of getting the sick and injured to hospitals. Whether an ambulance is available should not depend on where you live or what time of the day you have the heart attack or are in an accident.

Elected officials are sometimes expected to address difficult problems. This is one of those times.


Telegraph Herald. July 16, 2014.

Ruling paves way for solar energy growth

Score one for the future of renewable energy in Iowa

The Iowa Supreme Court's recent ruling in favor of Dubuque-based Eagle Point Solar allows the company to sell solar energy "output" to the city of Dubuque from a panel array atop the city's public works building. The decision opens the door to further expansion of solar energy, and it's time Iowa capitalize on that opportunity.

While Iowa already is a national leader in the production of wind energy, this ruling gives momentum to a push for solar power. Now, any non-taxable entity — churches, schools and municipalities, for example — can use solar panels that will allow them to purchase renewable energy. It's good for the environment and makes economic sense. Iowa ranks 16th in the nation for solar power potential, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab.

In states where solar is growing fastest, as much as 70 percent of all projects have been done through third-party arrangements. Such is the case with Eagle Point Solar. A local bank served as the third party in the deal between Eagle Point and the city of Dubuque. Alliant Energy argued the arrangement violated Iowa law, infringing on its territory as a public utility. The Iowa Utilities Board in April 2012 ruled in favor of Alliant. A Polk County District Court reversed that, and then it was Alliant's turn to appeal. Here we are today with an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that is likely to expand renewable energy resources in Iowa.

Had the ruling favored Alliant, it would have had a devastating impact on the future of renewable energy — a key area in which the state is trying to grow and become a leader.

Iowa hasn't led the way so far: Already, 21 states have legalized third-party power-purchase agreements to encourage the development of renewable energy. Iowa does not have statutory language that specifically allows for agreements that provide for third-party supply of on-site renewable energy generation. Without such a rule change, schools, universities, municipalities, churches and any other tax-exempt organization would effectively be shut out from enjoying the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy.

Credit to Eagle Point Solar's Barry Shear for sticking with this battle to contest the state's long-standing policies that favor behemoth public utilities. Following the lead of the Supreme Court, the Iowa Legislature should look at regulations and remove obstacles that stymie renewable energy growth and instead promote legislative policies that stimulate growth.


Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. July 14, 2014.

Sadness remains as two-year mark passes in cousins' case

As most citizens of the Cedar Valley are well aware, July 13 marked two years since the disappearance of cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook-Morrissey of Evansdale.

The passage of time provides some semblance of healing, but the sadness, particularly around anniversaries, is still tough on this community.

For the families and others who were close to the girls, there will probably never be complete closure.

"A lot of what we are trying to do is put our lives back together, me and Heather and the kids," said Drew Collins, father of Elizabeth.

"All of that becomes harder and harder as time goes. Holding your marriage together, holding your family together. It's hard on marriage; it's hard on day-to-day life. All around, a tough situation."

In the time since their daughter's abduction and murder, the Collins parents have lobbied to speed up public notification in child abduction cases and campaigned to raise money for missing children groups. The couple is still part of Team Hope, which counsels parents whose children have disappeared.

"I hope the scenario isn't that they do it again and get caught," Collins said. "That's my biggest fear; that they'll do it to someone else."

We wish the families and friends of the girls all the support they need in their continuing struggle to cope with such devastating losses.

Meanwhile, we hope for the day when there can be some closure to the legal case. There is still plenty of work going on in that area.

"The case is not cold. We are continuing to develop more leads," said Chief Kent Smock of the Evansdale Police Department.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has an agent assigned to the case full time. Tips are generated continuously.

The authorities have tapped into the FBI's behavioral analysis unit to produce profiles showing the type of people likely to be behind the crimes.

We appreciate the diligence of all the law enforcement personnel who are involved with this case. Outside of family members and close friends, no one wants to see the capture of this person, or people more than them.

Local law enforcement did a tremendous job of keeping the public informed during the search period and the days when the fate of the girls was unknown. Now, the priority lies with the continuing investigation.

We wish them a fruitful ending to all of the hard work they are putting into this case.

For now, all we can do is hope and await the day when the person or persons responsible for these acts meet justice.


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