By the time you read this, funnel week—the first deadline for the progress of legislation– will have passed. This deadline means that more than half of all the ideas for new laws will be eliminated from the process and forces the legislature to focus on the things with the most support.
In the Appropriations Committee, we passed 19-1, the bill that would allocate $2.5 million for a therapeutic classroom in a school. The intention of this bill is to train teachers on how to deal with violent student behaviors and provide a space for violent students. Currently some schools “clear the classroom” of all other students while the problem student is dealt with. We hope this new legislation will help keep students and teachers safe and keep from total disruption of the class.
As we go through subcommittees, we often get information that changes the direction of the bill or questions the necessity for a law. This happened to me this week on a bill I wrote. Parents have contacted me about the mobile clinics hosted by some schools to provide vaccinations. They further told me that sometimes the Vaccine Information Statements (VIS), which list all of the possible side effects of a specific vaccine, are not distributed or parental consent is not required. Even worse, when a parental consent form was returned, it was marked boldly REFUSED and yet the child was vaccinated anyway.
I proposed a bill that would mandate that parental consent forms go out with the VIS papers. At the subcommittee, we heard a lot of medical groups insisting we don’t want to do anything to hinder child vaccination. However, the Department of Education (DOE) informed us that there was already a federal law requiring written parental consent and the distribution of VIS before a vaccination. In later negotiations, the DOE assured me they would act on any parents’ complaint to ensure compliance in the future. As a result of this subcommittee, a solution to the problem was found and I pulled the bill.
One bill I did not like to see die was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Over 61 percent of the population of the United States lives in a state with this type of law in place. The purpose of the bill was to restore religious freedom in Iowa to the same standard that prevailed in our country from its founding until 1990. In that same year, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the application of the First Amendment. In 1993, the U.S. Congress passed the first RFRA to restore the original standard and it remains in place today. However, in 1996 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal RFRA applied only to the federal government. Since that time, twenty-one states have passed a state version of RFRA to apply to state governments. Eight more states have ruled in court to abide by the same high standard before infringing on a person’s free exercise of religion. Iowa has lagged behind in passing this legislation, especially in today’s environment. RFRA was not brought forward in committee because there is no path to get it passed in both chambers.