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Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) was upfront about the reservations he and his Republican colleagues on the Senate Judiciary committee have about HJR 14, a resolution for a constitutional amendment to restore felons’ voting rights.

Zaun decided to pull that resolution off the committee’s agenda because the votes weren’t there.

“We didn’t have a pre-emptive bill, which really hampered the ability to move something,” Zaun said. “I’m not saying that this won’t move next year. There needs to be some conditions. Nowhere is there any conversation about victims.”

He said he told Gov. Kim Reynolds he’d bring it to his caucus. And he did, but it wasn’t something the Republicans on the committee could support.

“Because there were no conditions, that was the biggest problem with moving this bill,” Zaun said. “I was always clear with (Gov. Reynolds) from the very beginning that this would be an uphill climb. I didn’t have the votes in January and nothing has changed between now and then.”

Zaun said he did not expect a resolution without conditions. The conversation that needs to happen is far more specific than what the House did.

“Quite honestly I was surprised (the House) sent the resolution over without those conditions,” Zaun said. “Because of the deadlines there was nothing that I could do with regard to that. The only avenue that could’ve happened was a leadership bill. I have personal feelings, but I’m also responsible as judiciary chair. I did listen to my fellow colleagues. After having a long discussion as a caucus, we as a group decided we were not going to move it out of committee.”

While it means the resolution won’t pass this year, Zaun was quick to remind people the process is long.

“It’s not the end of the world here,” he said. “It takes two different general assemblies. I would assume we will have the conversation a year from now. I would assume there’s going to be a bill in regards to the conditions. It needs to be negotiated with the House. There needed to be that companion pre-emption bill.”

While the automatic restoration of felons’ voting rights was a top priority for Gov. Reynolds, Zaun said it’s important to examine everything the legislature has done in terms of her agenda.

“I’ve been down here a long time,” he said. “There have been many governors who didn’t get everything they wanted. (This) is just something that I had a philosophical different with and there are some really big opinions.”


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