The View from Here
A few months ago Iowa’s economy was rated as the nation’s most COVID-19 resilient. This week US News and World Report ranked Iowa number one for opportunity. This rating is based on affordability, economic opportunity and equality. Expanding opportunities for all Iowans has been a priority for the last four years and I am proud to see our efforts recognized nationally.
Week nine of the legislative session saw the Senate shift its emphasis from lots of sub-committee work on new bills to floor debate involving the whole chamber. Here is a quick rundown of a few bills that might interest you.
In the arena of opening up job opportunities, we passed SF 424, which introduces apprenticeships to all occupational licenses that don’t already have them. An apprenticeship emphasizes on-the-job training and allows a worker to earn a paycheck while seeking to acquire a license. This will make obtaining a license more achievable for some while helping to address the state’s need for skilled workforce in the trades and vocational industries.
The purpose of government is to protect the people’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Law enforcement is a major part of delivering on that goal. Recently, there have been many attacks on law enforcement, to the point of leaving them feeling unappreciated. When I held a Back the Blue town hall late last year, I was saddened to hear that none of the over twenty law officers in attendance said they would encourage a son or daughter to pursue a career in law enforcement. This week we passed three bills that will show our public servants they are appreciated.
SF 479 would deny state funding to cities that defund their police without justification. Justification includes a decrease in population or finishing a one-time project. SF 476 puts qualified immunity into state code. This concept was initially established by the US Supreme Court and recognizes that law officers need some legal protection as they work in uncontrolled and dangerous environments and must react very quickly. It does not give complete immunity allowing a disregard for the law or punitive behavior. This bill also expands the Peace Officer Bill of Rights and protects personal information that might endanger the families or property of an officer.
SF 534 deals with some of the problems encountered during last year’s riots in Iowa and around the country. One specific issue is criminalizing the intentional shining of a laser pointer into an officer’s eyes, potentially damaging their eyesight. This bill would not impede anyone’s First Amendment right to protest, but it does protect innocent Iowans and their property from harm. Protection of life and property is the foundation of societal stability and economic growth. People are hesitant to work or invest in communities where they do not feel safe. When we support law enforcement our communities thrive.
SF 555 would prohibit an employer from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for their employees. This week I received a very encouraging email from a Mayo Clinic trained doctor regarding this bill I introduced. This doctor, who is also a past president of the Iowa Medical Society, called this a very reasonable position until we have much more data and experience with this experimental vaccine. He stated, “We must prove the vaccine works and is safe before implementing regulations that will obviously be coercive, at the least, if not frankly punitive. [This puts] . . . serious pressure on employees to choose between an experimental vaccine that has no long term safety data and continuing to work. With appropriate PPE still required, the addition of the vaccine will provide little additional protection of vulnerable patients, but puts the employee at an unknown risk. This is not appropriate.” I look forward to seeing SF 555 come to the floor for debate in the coming weeks.
I will be having a virtual public meeting with the Kossuth County Conservation Board, March 19 at 11:30 a.m. I will be holding in-person town halls in Winnebago County, March 26. I’ll be in the Mills Theater, Lake Mills, at 9 a.m., and the Heritage Town Center, Buffalo Center at 1 p.m. I hope to see you at one of these events.