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Sunday Talk: Guth Outlines the Past Legislative Week

Week seven of the legislative session became a historic one for me when the Senate passed SF 2095 (RFRA). After first pursuing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in the December of 2016, I continued working to advance it every year. Why do we need such a bill?  The First Amendment to the Federal Constitution protected our freedoms well until a Supreme Court decision in 1990 limited the application of the Freedom of Religion. Congress was very concerned about this and passed the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. In 1997 the Federal Supreme Court ruled that the Federal RFRA only applied to federal laws. So, states began to pass their own versions of the bill. Twenty-five states, both conservative and liberal, now have a version of the bill.

With the passage of SF 2095 this week, Iowa is on track to join those states in protecting our freedoms. This bill does not legalize discrimination, it just gives a person just cause to take their case to court. It does not do many of the things predicted by opponents of the measure. Furthermore, with laws like SF 2095 on the books in so many states, the alleged boycotts and economic impact of the legislation have been demonstrated not to exist.

The bill says the state must have a compelling interest (the highest legal burden) to intrude on an Iowan’s religious expression. If the state does have a compelling interest, they must use the remedy with the least possible impact on the free exercise of religion. Ultimately, this bill simply gives people who believe their free exercise of religion has been impeded a day in court. I believe this restores the original intent of those that founded this country.

We spent most of the week debating a number of bills on the floor. One of those was SF 2096. This bill ensures that Iowa can have and appoint the most qualified applicants, regardless of being male or female, for a position on a board. In the past we have preferred to seek a balance between genders, but we have done such a good job of balancing them that women can be excluded because the board already has women filling half the spots. Not only is this requirement no longer necessary and obsolete, but a federal judge ruled earlier this year ruled as unconstitutional Iowa’s law requiring a judicial nominating panel be gender-balanced. Eliminating this law ensures government at the state and local level has the best, most qualified people on our boards and commissions.

This week the Senate also passed Senate File 2204, giving Iowans more information about who owns Iowa’s farmland and helping us protect one of our greatest resources. Senate File 2204 requires nonresident aliens, foreign businesses, and foreign governments to register their farmland with the Secretary of State. It also requires them to include their legal name, address, nationality, and authority to purchase agricultural land. The bill requires these things: a statement of purpose for conducting business in the state, why they are interested in owning the land, a listing of all landholdings across the United States totaling more than 250 acres by a parent corporation or its subsidiary, and the legal name and address of a parent corporation or its subsidiary when registering with the state.

I will have two town hall meetings coming up. On March 1 I will be in Forest City, Salvorsen Hall at 2:00. On Saturday, March 2 I will be in Webster City at the Chelsivig Build on the Iowa Central Community College at 11:00 AM.

One verse from Psalms came to mind frequently this week:

Let my cry come before Thee, O Lord;
Give me understanding according to Thy word.
Psalm 119:169

Senator Guth visits with Farm Bureau members from District 28
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