The Exchange: Refugees, Voter ID Laws, and Funding the Arts

Feb 9, 2017

The executive order barring immigrants from seven countries has directly impacted people in our community. On this edition of The Exchange, we talk with Ryan Dowell Baum, the pastor of Sioux City's First Congregational UCC about a Syrian family he had planned to welcome to Siouxland this past week. 

For immigrant families who have made the move to Siouxland, one of the major difficulties faced is the language barrier. An inability to communicate can make trivial interactions seem impossible, and it can make important situations frightening. The Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake is using new technology to bridge the language gap, allowing those in need access to health care via an app. We talk with Katie Schwindt to learn more. 

While the President claims that this past election saw millions of cases of voter fraud, Iowa's Secretary of State Paul Pate fears such fraud is possible here. He has given our state congress a bill that would require voter IDs at the polls. The Iowa Association of County Auditors has opposed  this bill as have civil rights advocates. We talk with ACLU of Iowa's Daniel Zeno about his group's opposition to the bill. (We contacted Paul Pate, but he was unable to talk with us before air-time). 

Also being considered by the Iowa legislature is a bill that will prevent collective bargaining by some state employees. We hear from teacher Betsy DeGroot and Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew.

Many of the issues discussed today, and in past weeks, stem from major cuts in the Iowa state budget. Representative Chris Hall tells us that the cause of the budget shortfall is a corporate tax giveaway put in place in 2013. The effects of the shortfall are hitting the state's investment in the arts. Lawmakers are draining funding from the Iowa Cultural Trust. Sioux City Public Museum director Steve Hansen says that this is happening just when the trust is beginning to make a difference in small communities. And state senator David Johnson tells us that past investments in the arts have brought exponential dividends for his northwest Iowa district. Janine Calsbeek, the executive director of Orange City Arts Council, tells us, however, that though the Iowa Arts Council and Iowa Cultural Trust have benefited her organization, she doesn't think state cuts will affect it just yet.