Health Care

Health care affects each and every one of us in deeply personal ways, which I learned firsthand at an early age. When I was only eight years old, my mother Terry was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. As she lost more and more strength, I had to grow up fast and shoulder more and more responsibility. I also learned that even though it often didn’t feel like it, we were the lucky ones. My mom Terry had health insurance through the University of Iowa, so we had access to high-quality health care. Even in her weakest and most painful moments, she never let me forget how lucky we were to have health insurance.

I believe access to quality health care is a human right. Just like it didn’t feel fair to have a parent trapped in a wheelchair, it isn’t fair that for so many Iowans, the quality of our health care comes down to how “lucky” we are. Getting treatment should never be a question of luck. Our state absolutely must do everything we can to guarantee that right for all Iowans.

Unfortunately, however, there are so many health care challenges facing our state, it’s hard to keep track of them all.

My priorities include:

  • Mental Health CrisisIowa ranks dead last among the fifty states with only 64 public psychiatric beds in the entire state or about two beds per 100,000 people in our state. To give you a sense of how inadequate this is, the Treatment Advocacy Center says that each state should operate a minimum of 40 beds per 100,000 people. On top of this, Iowa is facing a mental health crisis and our rural communities are experiencing climbing suicide rates. We have to stop closing these facilities and we need to expand access to mental health services, especially in rural Iowa. MORE ON MENTAL HEALTH >>
  • Opioid EpidemicThe research is crystal clear: Iowa is being hit hard by our nation’s opioid epidemic, and we have to do more at every level of government to fight back. (Public Service Announcement: If you or a loved one needs assistance, please call 1-866-242-4111 to access a 24/7 hotline or find a treatment center online.) Since 2000, heroin overdose deaths have increased by nearly a factor of ten and are continuing to rise. This is a major issue and Iowa needs to be proactively taking steps to turn this epidemic around.
  • Medicaid DisasterThe privatization of Medicaid has been an unmitigated disaster. Medicaid is the second-largest part of our state budget after education spending. We have a sacred responsibility to make sure that we are spending these funds wisely and that we are taking care of the most vulnerable citizens among us. Our state’s heritage is deeply rooted in the conviction that we take care of each other and that we work together to get through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones.
  • Women’s Health Access — The defunding of Planned Parenthood in Iowa by Republicans has affected nearly 15,000 patients and led to Iowa women having to leave our state to access the services they need. It’s wrong, and 77% of Iowans support continued state funding for Planned Parenthood. I strongly support restoring full funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • Rural Access — Iowa’s rural hospitals are experiencing many challenges as more and more of our state’s residents, and especially our young people, move into more urban areas. Further, rural care centers tend to take care of folks who are lower income and older, which means any cuts to Medicaid and to Medicare make it much, much more difficult for them to stay open. That’s why rural Iowans would have been absolutely crushed by Trumpcare — had it passed. Thankfully it did not.
  • High Prices and Premiums — In 2017, Iowa nearly became the first state in the country without an insurance company selling plans on our state’s exchange. Further, even though Iowa Republicans supported President Trump early and often in the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump personally intervened to spike our state’s “Stopgap” proposal. Mr. Trump’s inability to present a straightforward plan for moving American health care forward makes our whole system more unstable and drives up costs for everybody.
  • Prescription Drug Prices — The high and rising cost of prescription drugs is a major issue for many Iowans of all ages. Even though this is typically thought of as an issue for folks in Washington to deal with, there are steps our state lawmakers should be investigating to bring down the prices of prescription drugs.
  • And even more — And frankly, there’s a whole lot more that we can’t fit onto this page.


Iowa public schools taught me most of what I know. I attended elementary school, junior high school, and high school in the Iowa City Community School District, and I am a proud graduate of the University of Iowa. Our public education system transforms children into citizens and is supposed to make sure that every Iowan has the chance to pursue the American Dream.

As a proud product of Iowa public schools, I was appalled by Republican cuts to both the K-12 growth rate and the slashing of tens of millions of dollars from our higher education system.

My priorities include:

  • Innovative Education — Exploring new approaches to innovation for the twenty-first-century economy.
  • Affordable Tuition — Fighting to keep tuition affordable.
  • College Readiness — Making sure all Iowa high school graduates are college-ready and prepared to complete their studies.
  • Universal Pre-K Education — Universally accessible preschool is a critical part of protecting equal opportunity for all Iowans.
  • Don’t Arm Teachers — I almost can’t believe I have to put this on my website now, but here we are. Forcing teachers to carry firearms in their classroom will make school shootings worse, not better.

Instead, Republicans are focused on preventing our K-12 system from growing and are raising the price of tuition, which will put hopes of attending a four-year college out of reach for many. Further, I will oppose voucher programs, education savings accounts and other attempts to privatize our public school system that shortchange Iowa teachers and students.

We have a moral responsibility to make education better and more accessible.

Workers’ Rights

Our economy is fundamentally broken for many, many people. Look at the chart below. The dark blue line – “Productivity” – shows the growth of our economy’s productivity since 1948. The light blue line – “Hourly compensation” – tracks how wages have changed for production and non-supervisory workers in America. For twenty-five years, as our economy became more productive, wages went up for everybody, including workers. And then, starting in the 1970s, something went wrong. This trend accelerated during the Reagan administration and has since exploded.

Since 1973, total productivity has grown by around 75% — and hourly wages for production workers has gone up by 12%. Put another way, since 1973, as our economy has gotten more productive, the boss gets $5 for every $1 non-supervisors get.

Does that seem fair to you? You can find more information like this at the Economic Policy Institute.

My priorities include:

  • Collective Bargaining Justice  One reason why productivity and wages became unlinked was because of the all-out war against organized labor. This fight came to Iowa after Republicans won in 2016 and gutted collective bargaining rights for state workers here in Iowa. Public sector unions are one of the last, strong vestiges of organized labor in our entire state. Making sure they can bargain effectively is critical in order to raise upward pressure on wages for all Iowans and to set a baseline of standards for occupational safety and support. Solidarity matters.
  • A Living Wage for All Workers — Another reason hourly wages aren’t keeping up is obvious: we aren’t giving workers a raise. In 2015, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018. After the 2016 elections, Iowa Republicans specifically targeted Johnson County and passed a law to roll back our county’s wage increase. This is only the latest example of Republicans supporting “local control” only when they like what’s happening. We need to reverse that law, get the minimum wage back on its path to $10.10 as quickly as possible, and continue to increase the wage as the cost of living goes up.

For more information, check out the charts and analysis I posted on Medium.


Natural Resources

Before my speech to the Iowa legislature turned me into the literal poster child for same-sex marriage in our state, I was a civil and environmental engineering student at the University of Iowa hoping to work in either renewable energy or environmental protection. I believed then, just as I believe now, that climate change is a generational struggle that will affect not just every Iowan, but every American, and every living person on this planet for generations to come.

Iowa’s natural resources are unique. They established our state as an international leader in agricultural productivity and Iowa farmers feed the world to this day. However, this has often come at the cost of the very same resources that make our state productive.

My mom Terry grew up on a family farm in Northeast Iowa. She’s shared a lot with me about her responsibilities on the farm. Her chores included feeding the cattle and cleaning the hog barn. She learned that when she made a mess, she had a responsibility to clean up after herself. The same is true for all of us, and we owe it to future generations of Iowans to take care of our state’s natural resources.

The environmental challenges facing Iowa are intersectional, impacting everything from the health of our citizens to our state’s economy. We need a new approach to resource management that values the health and prosperity of our communities and makes sure future generations have the same opportunities as past generations.

My priorities include:

  • Water Quality — Republicans just passed a $280 million water quality bill. That sounds like a lot. But the experts I’m speaking with believe this is a $4 billion problem at least. The Republican plan is a drop in the water quality bucket. In 2014, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that 80% of our water bodies could be impaired and in need of clean up under the Clean Water Act. A better water quality plan should establish a dedicated funding source for larger investments without taking the money from our schools and other infrastructure projects, include monitoring efforts to track water quality progress, and foster partnerships within Iowa watersheds to encourage Iowans to work together toward a cooperative vision for cleaner water.
  • Climate Change — There should be no doubt that climate change is among the greatest threats facing future generations. Iowa will become even warmer and experience increased frequency of extreme weather events like the floods that devastated our community in 2008. These events will impact our agricultural productivity, economic development, and public health. To address these threats, Iowa must help communities identify their climate-change vulnerabilities, invest in infrastructure improvements that promote preparedness and resilience to extreme weather events, and maintain our position as a national leader in wind energy production while expanding that leadership to solar energy production as well.
  • A Cleaner, Healthier Iowa — Today, far too many Iowans worry about the levels of nitrates in their tap water or rely on private wells that may be contaminated with bacteria or arsenic. Many others live near concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and fear health effects from the air they breathe. Iowa needs a stronger DNR for reliable oversight and enforcement of environmental protections. We also need more dedicated resources for smaller water systems and private well owners to improve access to clean and safe drinking water at every tap. To overhaul the process for CAFO siting and permitting, we need to use the DNR’s Master Matrix to better integrate environmental protections and address the concerns of affected communities.

Natural resources are a critical pillar of Iowa’s social foundation — the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil with which we grow our food. We must balance our obligations to feed the world with our responsibility to future generations. We have a responsibility to do better. A renewed foundation starts with adequately funding water quality efforts, ensuring that we’re prepared for climate change, and continuing to invest in wind and solar energy. Clean, renewable energy is both good for environment and our economy.

It’s our state, and it’s our responsibility to take care of it.

Gun Safety

The shooting in Parkland, Florida — and the subsequent response by the surviving students — is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring. I am proud to be supporting local efforts by Iowa City Community School District junior high and high school students to prevent continued inaction on gun safety reform. Compared to the rest of the country, Iowa’s gun laws are relatively strong, but I believe we can do better.

I grew up shooting rifles, shotguns, and revolvers in the Boy Scouts, and I have several family members who hunt and shoot recreationally, so I’m no stranger to firearms. The Second Amendment isn’t going anywhere, and so those of us who favor strong gun safety reform need to make sure that we are proposing meaningful solutions that are also constitutional. Our nation’s Declaration of Independence promises: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That should be an all-of-the-above statement, not either-or.

I’m also honored to be a Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate.

My priorities include:

  • Reverse “Stand Your Ground” — the research is clear: Stand Your Ground laws don’t work.
  • Expand waiting periods — Iowa’s current waiting period for handgun sales is three days, we should expand it.
  • Register handguns — Several states require the registration of handguns with the state, and Iowa should, too.
  • Long gun permits — Iowa already has “permit to acquire” requirements for handguns, and we should consider expanding these to long guns as well.
  • Any good, constitutional idea that will keep our children safe — Based on what I’ve heard so far, I don’t believe arming teachers is a sensible approach to protecting our school children. If you have an idea that actually makes sense, please send me an email with your suggestion at

When local students led a walkout on Monday, February 19, 2018, I listened as an eleven-year-old junior high student recounted the fears of her eight-year-old brother about going to school because he feared for his life. We cannot go on like this.

Immigration – Welcoming Every Iowan

I oppose raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, like we saw recently in Mount Pleasant because of the damage they do to our communities and because of the message they send to immigrants, including both those who are here with and without papers. Our state and our political leaders must do everything we can to protect our community members, including those who choose to become Iowans. There are many things we can do and that I am committed to doing if elected as your next state senator.

First, we must repeal Senate File 481, the attack on local cities and counties trying to protect their community members. This bill has no place on the books of Iowa law. And in fact, when it was being passed, it was stridently opposed by state law enforcement, which leads to my next point.

Second, we must oppose the deputization of local law enforcement by ICE. Deputization creates distrust of local police officers, which makes effective community policing all the more difficult.

Third, we must make sure that immigrant communities are engaged and that their interests are heard. Our state will not be able to continue growing without immigration, and we must be conscious of the messages we are sending with both the legislation we pass and how we communicate.

Finally, we should celebrate every Iowan. While I am proud to come from a long, long line of Iowa families, my mom Terry L. Wahls still has an old portrait of John Frederick Wahls — the German immigrant who in 1850 came to Iowa seeking a better life for his family amid the Revolutions of 1848. (Sound familiar?)

We are blessed with thousands of immigrants and their families in our community — Sudanese, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and many, many more. No matter who you are or where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.