From Rep. Wessel-Kroeschell’s newsletter:
This week the legislature voted for a second amendment on steroids and voted for a bill that gutted the first amendment. The gun rights amendment that was approved Wednesday evening has the potential to eliminate all laws regarding firearms: permits, gun-free zones, education, and age restrictions. This amendment must be passed in the next General Assembly (2021 or 2022) and then approved by Iowans in a general election before it will be added to the Iowa Constitution.
The House debated SF 274, a bill that (all but for one sentence) protects the freedom of speech on college campuses. That sentence gave student groups the right to legally discriminate; it guts Iowa’s Civil Rights code and university nondiscrimination policy.
In simpler terms, as the president of the College Democrats at Iowa State University, Taylor Blair, put it in an interview with the Iowa State Daily, “the first amendment is interpreted to protect an organization’s ability to be prejudiced in an active and exclusionary way towards historically and currently marginalized groups.” This means that a university sponsored and funded organization may prohibit a person from even running for leadership within the organization if that person’s personal views differ from the organization’s.
One of the proudest days of my tenure in the legislature was the day I floor managed a bill to add gender identity and sexual orientation as a protected class to the Iowa Civil Rights Code. This bill overrides that effort and undermines equality in the state. An amendment to the bill that was offered but rejected could have easily fixed this by removing that one sentence. The bill in its entirety did good work to protect free speech, but this one sentence flew directly in the face of those efforts.
The Iowa State University Student Government recognized the importance of this distinction when they unanimously voted to approve of the bill except for the one section in question. The students who will be directly impacted by this issue understand and value the diversity that a variety of ideas brings to their organizations, and the harm that such a restriction can inflict upon their fellow students.
Another bill of interest: a bipartisan plan to extend funding for school infrastructure improvements was approved. This was done through a program called SAVE, which was created by Democrats a decade ago to help schools keep their infrastructure up-to-date and keep schools safe. This plan will help Iowa students by allowing funding for schools to purchase new equipment and facilities in order to keep up with the changing job market.