Each day we highlight three local news stories from the heartland that deserve some national attention.
1) Police Officers: 'We Didn’t Vote Republican To Get Stabbed In The Back'
A number of Republican-dominated states have attempted to break the public workers unions by attempting to split state and local employees into two categories: law enforcement & other first responders and everyone else. The theory is that while few voters want to mess with the happiness of their local police officers, they won't be that ticked off if the snow plow driver isn't happy with changes to his status.
The Iowa legislature is considering a bill which would strip collective bargaining powers from the majority of public workers, by splitting them into two groups: one that’s "public safety workers," and one that isn’t. But that plan is facing significant pushback from police and fire department employees, who fear this is just the first step towards a complete revocation of their collective bargaining rights:
Hundreds of helmeted firefighters have flooded the Statehouse in the last week and police officers and sheriffs have lined up at committee hearings to speak against it. They don’t trust that this carve-out for their jobs will last long, nor do many of them feel it’s appropriate to deny the bargaining rights they have to fellow workers who have also had them for over 40 years.
And several police officers and firefighters warned that Republicans’ plan to create a special “public safety” class for negotiations wouldn’t work in many cases. John Thomas, a police officer from Mitchellville, explained last week that some sheriff’s deputies wouldn’t get classified as “public safety” workers because there’s more jailers and clerks in the bargaining unit. The Republican bill only classifies workers as “public safety” employees if a majority of workers in a bargaining unit is made up of police or firefighters.
That has many police officer, who voted for Republicans in large numbers this year, particularly upset.
“It’s collective begging, that’s what it is,” Thomas labeled the bill at a subcommittee hearing. “Half of law enforcement folks I work with are Republicans. And we voted for Republicans because of conservative values. But we didn’t vote for Republicans to get stabbed in the back while we’re trying to dodge cars and bullets.”
2) ND Lawmakers Say Blue Laws Should Remain So Wives Can Make Breakfast In Bed
Some local news stories are so odd they don't require much explanation. Lawmakers in North Dakota have been arguing over whether or not to repeal the state's "Blue Law," which keeps many businesses closed in Sunday's. It's an issue that many state legislatures have tackled, but I think it's fair to say that North Dakota's supporters of the law have put forth some novel arguments for why people should stay home on Sundays:
One lawmaker in favor of keeping the law in place feels Sunday mornings should be used for your wife to make you breakfast in bed.
"Spending time with your wife, your husband. Making him breakfast, bringing it to him in bed and then after that go take your kids for a walk,” says Representative Bernie Satrom.
Another feels his wife spends all his hard earned money the rest of the week and his wallet needs a day off. "I don't know about you but my wife has no problem spending everything I earn in 6 and a half days. And I don't think it hurts at all to have a half day off," says Representative Vernon Laning
The Texas Legislature has come under fire in recent years for making a series of "cost-cutting" decisions to the state's Medicare program which has substantially cut the number of special needs children that are eligible for programs that are designed to help them with their educational and medical needs.
The Dallas News reports that a November change to the state's Medically Dependent Children Program - which provides care for severely disabled children who require around-the-clock nursing care - was passed off to private companies and hospitals in November. The result has been denied services, delayed care and endless red tape:
Amy Pratt drove her severely disabled son, Quinten, four-plus hours to Children’s Medical Center Dallas only to learn the insurance company that Texas hired to care for him had suddenly denied payment for an important procedure, one that could potentially save the 9-year-old's life.
In El Paso, 11-year-old Rudy Smith lost most of the therapy services that helped him cope with cerebral palsy and a severe form of epilepsy, which plagues him with 50 to 100 seizures a day. His mother says she’s having trouble getting prescriptions filled, and the insurance company keeps sending her incorrect or faulty medical supplies.
Arlington resident Blakley Hernandez is considering moving to another state because her son, Reid, a 3-year-old with a form of dwarfism, can no longer see specialists who were planning surgeries to fix his legs, which are bowing outward.