The thirteenth week of the 2021 legislative session was spent primarily in floor debate passing bills. It may surprise many of you that the vast majority of our work is passed with bipartisan support.
One of the bills that passed without opposition is HF 744, which protects free speech at Iowa universities and K-12 schools. This bill protects the person who files a complaint about restrictions on protected speech. It also requires each district to establish policy protecting students and staff from discrimination based on speech. It would trigger a hearing with the Board of Educational Examiners if a school employee violates the First Amendment rights of a student. There have been repeated offenses reported over the last few years. I hope this will encourage the open discussion of diverse opinions without negative repercussions.
House Joint Resolution 5 met with considerably more debate and dissent. HJR 5 is titled the “Protect Life Amendment” and would amend our state constitution. This purpose of this amendment is “To defend the dignity of all human life, and to protect mothers and unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the day of birth, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution shall not be construed to recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or to require the public funding of abortion.” Once this language passes in two General Assemblies, it must be approved by the people of Iowa in a general election. Then any policy on abortion will be determined by elected representatives of the people instead of an unelected court.
Since Republicans began driving tax policy 5 years ago, we have passed tax cuts and limited the growth of government. This year we have passed legislation to phase out the state inheritance tax, established a specific time when further tax cuts are triggered, and this week, we passed legislation to provide property tax relief.
SF 587 will take the funding of mental health off of property taxes and place it in the state general fund. This will eventually provide over $100 million in property tax relief and will provide $60 million of state funding to mental health the first year. $125 million will be provided in the second year and the bill also sets up sustainable and predictable growth in the future.
In exchange for this decrease in property tax the state will phase out the backfill we have been funding since 2013. The backfill was the state’s effort to keep local government’s budgets whole when we reduced corporate property taxes in 2013. The backfill will be phased out over 4 or 6 years, depending on a county’s economic growth since 2013.
This bill increases state funding for mental health services, simplifies the tax code, and provides more certainty for Iowa families and small businesses. While doing this, it provides real property tax relief and makes owning a home more attainable for new homeowners, and for seniors facing rising property assessments. I am proud of what this bill does and look forward to seeing the House move these critical reforms forward.
An issue of vital importance to me is prohibiting vaccine passports. A vaccine passport would limit access to travel, large entertainment events, public parks, and even shopping based on your immunization status. Once such a system is set up, it is very easy for government or big tech to begin to choose who gets access to different services based on personal history. That history can easily be expanded to track where you have been and with whom you have been in contact with. The consequences of not behaving in the “approved” manner could include exclusion from social media, exclusion from services like PayPal, an increase in your credit card’s interest rate, and much more.
I was pleased to hear the governor speak against this invasive intrusion on our privacy this past week. I am working to get legislation passed that would prohibit vaccine passports and similar efforts to limit our freedoms.
Benjamin Franklin said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Ronald Reagan expanded on that.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it to them with the well fought lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same. And if you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free. – 1961
Students from Lake Mills
Top row: Tristy Behrens, Emna Hoffman, Christina Carter
Bottom: Olivia Schoonover, Ysneidi Albino Vazquez, Makenna Hanson
One of my most enjoyable jobs is hosting visitors from my district. This week I had over forty students from Lake Mills visit the Capitol to learn about state government. While they were waiting to go through the Secretary of State’s office in small groups, I volunteered to take six seniors to the top of the dome. It’s a lot of steps and a little scary, but they made it and have a memory they won’t soon forget. Thank you to the school and Charise Schwarm for making this happen.