The View From Here
The legislative session for 2021 begins on January 11 and promises to be unique in many ways. We will be gathering in person, but will have many adjustments to make to limit the number of people in one space and allow for social distancing.
After every election all the committee assignments are updated. I remain the co-chair of the Administration and Regulations appropriations subcommittee, which also means I have a place in the full Appropriations Committee. I am also on the Labor Committee, Local Government Committee, and this year I am also on the State Government Committee.
In almost any year, the first real business of the session is to set state aid for K-12 schools. Schools need to know what they are getting so they can set their budgets and since schools get nearly half of all state funds, we need to get that level set before working on other budgets. This year there is much demand to take a close look at allowing more parental choice in education. The good news is that Iowa’s revenue is healthy, thanks to actions taken in the last four years to reduce the growth of spending, implement sales tax on internet sales and stimulate business. Because of those actions, Iowa’s economy is rated as the most Covid-resistant of all fifty states. That is something to be proud of!
Speaking of Covid, I’m pretty sure there will be discussion about supporting struggling business sectors and limiting the governor’s emergency powers. As the Covid vaccines become available to more people, I feel it will be important to keep vaccination voluntary. With only two months of testing under these new vaccine technologies’ belt, we have no information on long term safety or things like: infertility consequences, possibility to cause cancer, inducing new onset of chronic diseases, etc. Additionally, the vaccine was shown to possibly diminish symptoms for some, but has not yet been proven to stop transmission of the virus. Some may be concerned about the use of fetal tissue during development.
An issue we passed in the Senate last year but failed to pass in the House is the Life Amendment. This is an amendment to the Iowa Constitution stating that there is no right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution. It does not limit abortion itself, but it takes away the ability of the court to strike down legislation that limits abortion. A constitutional amendment must be passed in two separate General Assemblies and then come before the people for a vote. I expect this will pass fairly quickly this year due to the larger Republican majority in the House.
It seems our universities continue to have issues with restricting free speech on campus and even in the classroom. A university is supposed to be a place of learning and open debate. It is not a place to attempt to force students to comply with particular standards, rules and legalism. I like the statement by Dr. Everett Piper, president of a small university, which says, “This is not a day care. This is a university.” This should apply more broadly in our society as well. Forced unity is not really unity. That is a contradiction. If it’s forced, it’s compliance, not unity. When we require a unity of opinions, the result is tyranny. As a conservative, I expect to invest much time this session fighting for openness that provides for unity without mandating compliance.
I will be personally working to update our agricultural drainage laws that are getting quite aged. I will strive to remember that the purpose of these laws is to help facilitate improvements when all the private parties cannot agree. We have a real opportunity to improve both our water quality and the profitability of agriculture in the process.
I’ll also be working to protect animal owners when there is a charge brought against them that later turns out to be unfounded. Too often animals have already been destroyed and an innocent owner deprived of his property.
Finally, I have become aware that Iowa has money invested in Chinese companies that may not have our best interests in mind. I think we should have discussions about how appropriate that is for our security.
As I think back over this past year, with election fraud, Covid and the government’s reaction to it, I can easily agree with J.R. Tolkien’s Frodo (The Lord of the Rings): “I wish none of this had happened.” I find his friend Gandalf’s response helpful to my focus: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
May God grant us wisdom and courage “for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)