SUNDAY TALK: Guth on the Ag Gag Bill and Water Quality

Week eight in the 2019 legislative session is the end of all bills that have not passed out of committee in either the House or Senate. Up to this point, we have been considering too many things to actually accomplish them all. This deadline forces legislators to focus on high priority bills that have a reasonable chance of passing.

An important bill coming through committee this week was SSB 1227. This bill makes it a criminal offense to falsely gain access or employment at an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, if the intent is to cause physical damage or economic harm. The first offense would be considered a serious misdemeanor and a repeated offense would be an aggravated misdemeanor. The legislation would protect livestock producers from malicious activists who seek to destroy animal agriculture with negative media coverage and false accusations.

Private property is key to the United States’ exceptionalism. Several issues before the Senate dealt with this vital aspect of our country’s success. We are considering how wind turbines affect neighboring property and local government placing caps on property rental.

Perhaps the most misunderstood debate came over Senate Study Bill 1221. There were claims that this bill would end the purchase of land by government entities. In reality, it only ensures that private entities cannot obtain subsidized loans to bid on land when private individual cannot obtain the same subsidies.

In 1989, a state fund for water quality and drinking water projects was established to provide very low cost loans to local government to improve their infrastructure. These funds were never intended for use by a private organization that sometimes competes with farmers or private individuals for purchase of property. I have been contacted by a young farmer in my district who complained of this very thing. SSB 1221 does not inhibit any practice underway that permits conservation boards, local governments or the DNR from purchasing land for water quality or conservation. It does bring fairness to all parties competing for the purchase of land in this state.

SF 502 is a bill I will be presenting on the Senate floor in coming weeks. The intent of this bill is to protect a state employee who reports a violation of law or mismanagement of funds or authority. If we pass this bill, he cannot lose his job or be treated unfairly. If the whistleblower loses his job, he could seek reinstatement, back pay, and civil damages equal to three times their annual salary.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed out of committee this week. There has been a methodical movement to squash religion, especially Christianity, across the nation.

Examples of this are:

  1. Vice-President Pence was attacked when his wife went back to teaching art at a Christian school.
  2. Houston’s mayor subpoenaed pastor’s sermons.
  3. Memorials with religious symbols are being removed.
  4. An Iowa State University professor was black balled for writing an article on Intelligent Design.
  5. The University of Iowa discriminated against two campus student groups, Business Leaders in Christ, and Inter-Varsity.
  6. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission shut down Dick & Betty Odgaard’s business when they refused to celebrate a same sex marriage.

There have been claims this bill would damage business. It has proven to be more noise than fact in other states that have passed the same bill. It is because of this freedom that many come to America from all over the world. They come not only to realize their dreams but to live out the convictions of their heart. Religious Freedom is not some malicious threat. It is stabilizing, allowing for the freedom of thought with a variety of opinions. If we give government, companies, or people the right to invade our thoughts and convictions, have we not become like slaves? This is not freedom of thought. We should not be swayed by the threats of companies that have bowed to special interest groups rather than pursuing freedom for all. Persuasion is more effective than coercion when it comes to building a healthy society. All Iowans should be able to live and work according to their beliefs. Every generation must step up to defend freedom in their time. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is our opportunity to do that.

Human nature evermore publishes itself. The most fugitive deed and word, the mere air of doing a thing, the intimated purpose, expresses character—Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is an honor to serve you in the Iowa Senate. I will have a town hall meeting March 16 in Algona at 10 AM at the library. Please feel free to call or email with your comments or concerns.