Our Veterans: Who are they? https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/11/10/the-changing-face-of-americas-veteran-population/
Our Veterans are a precious minority of Americans (currently around 8% of the population). Regardless of having experienced combat or not, they all put their individual interests on hold for the greater good of the country. Our debt to many veterans is never truly repaid, but we can strive to do as much as possible to honor our obligations to them for their service.
I cared for vets in Iowa City during nursing school, and then in Puerto Rico at the VA hospital as a new RN. I remember the people I cared for graciously receiving their care, even though sometimes the VA facilities where I worked struggled to manage limited resources. The quality and availability of VA care varies throughout the nation. Vets in every area of the country should have options to get the medical and mental health care that best meets their specific needs. A couple of my siblings have received good care within the VA medical system, but it is important to also support those who would benefit more from other sources outside the VA as necessary to offer timely, effective treatment. Other concerns for vets- like education funding, and policies that protect their individual rights or their family’s economic well-being, need to be effectively promoted and funded. Not only will I champion their domestic interests, but I will be among the loudest of advocates to make sure we employ their services in only the most worthy endeavors with the resources they need to minimize risk.
Education: My son, daughter and I all benefited from attending Iowa’s great public schools as children. My life was enriched from elementary school through college (I graduated from Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids and my education includes credits from U of I, Kirkwood Community College, DMACC, and Iowa State). Iowa’s schools prepared my kids to thrive in out-of-state colleges, and they took plenty of community college credit that they had earned in high school with them.
I will be reaching out to teachers and school administrators to help develop the best proposals to address inadequate teacher compensation so that we may establish reliable, long-term economic advantages for teachers. I will work to advance federal economic incentives for states to invest and maintain more reliable funding for quality public education – a public good that benefits us all in the long-run (especially if expanded to quality early childhood education programs made more generally accessible throughout the nation).
We need to respond to teachers’ concerns about how standardized testing over-emphasis for education-quality evaluations interferes with truly effective teaching. Though I view states as playing the primary role in tackling these issues, some practical federal minimum requirements and targeted grants for nationally-recognized issues are also needed. When we later address this topic in more detail I will be excited to share with you some ideas for empowering people of all ages with more affordable, practical, and worth-while educational opportunities. Somewhat similar to healthcare- our complex and convoluted higher education payment and pricing system has to change. I endorse developing more national service options in addition to military service to that offer similar education-funding benefits for time served.
Environmental Issues: Protecting our environment has always been personally very important to me. In my daily life I am mindful of conserving energy and water resources, opting for reusable items to avoid disposables, recycling whenever possible, and supporting pragmatic environmental protections initiatives. My choice of vehicle has always been among the most energy-efficient, and I had a geothermal system installed in a home we built in 2004. Already my early campaign activities have included highlighting the efforts of environmentally-protective and health-conscious, sustainable farming practices. I have attended several “field day” events with Practical Farmers of Iowa in Collaboration with UNI’s “Farming for Public Health” program, to connect with and learn from farmers and agricultural experts in our state who are leading the way on important transitions for Iowa and the nation. In the Senate I plan to continue to promote and support their important work and achievements in order to make real progress in the areas of environmental public health and sustainable agriculture.
Subsidies that create the wrong economic incentives for the fuel industry and industrial agriculture are prohibitively costly in terms of environmental damage (with little if any significant benefit to taxpayers) and must end. We must advance renewable fuel standards judiciously, making sure that farmers have plenty of advanced notice of any regulatory or legislative change so they may prepare to adapt and plan for the future. They will likely have to anticipate more biomass alternatives soon to replace higher-input crops for fuel production. We must also keep rare bi-partisan momentum going and get the recent proposals for a carbon tax ( https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/763 ) through Congress, and I plan to fight for the most meaningful legislation on that front.
Iowa is a national renewable energy leader as a major provider of wind power and according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) it is one of only 4 states that account for more than half of U.S. wind electricity generation. ( https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=39772 ) Our wind generation has more than doubled since 2011 and during that time coal-fired electricity generation decreased from its peak (from 40 down to 29 million MWh). So as a state we took advantage of one of the best natural resources we had, complimented it with relatively low wind farm construction costs, and set mandatory program requirements. I offer this example because each state has unique contributions to offer to promote energy efficiency and protect our environment. I acknowledge scientific findings that should inspire us to urgently embrace innovative energy solutions.
Immigration: We got very close to comprehensive and critically-needed immigration reform in 2013. Let’s revive those proposals, remember the common ground, really substantiate and update the facts and current conditions that drive new solutions. We have to refocus investments on streamlining a fair and efficient process within our legal system. This can be done as we assume our obligation to the rest of the world to do our part in providing opportunities for people to prosper while continuing to protect human rights.
I spent summers in Costa Rica and Mexico as an exchange student during high school and am grateful for these enlightening, wonderful experiences. Those experiences were a stark contrast to what I observed working with a medical relief team in El Salvador 2001. There is evidence that recklessly withdrawing funding to Latin-American countries (that had been effectively limiting violence and economic hardships) in the past year or two by the Trump administration- has significantly contributed to the humanitarian crisis on our Southern border. The President also neglected to build on effective investments and what we learned from the Obama administration’s efforts to deal with illegal immigration. We clearly can do better than scrapping the previous progress we made during previous administrations and engaging in inhumane, short-sighted policies.
Preserving Our Democracy’s Essential Separation of Church and State: Simply stated, I agree with this statement from a former Secular Coalition of America executive director, Larry Decker- “Freedom means that religion should be protected, but never imposed.” When I assumed the role of an ER nurse I made the commitment to serve the general public and each and every patient in a way that respected their beliefs and decisions, not mine. This seems a reasonable obligation to expect from anyone who offers their services to the general public. Let’s respect each other’s personal beliefs and keep the practice of religion where it belongs – in our personal lives and places of worship, not as a display in public office with the intent of marginalizing others. Again- I’m always receptive to your views on this matter as we promote a peaceful co-existence with our fellow Iowans and Americans.