My legislative clerk added a new ringtone for my number on her phone: it’s “The Room Where It Happens” from the Broadway musical Hamilton. As your Representative, I thought that every week it’d be good to share some of that “how the sausage gets made” information with you.
Week 2 at the Capitol has been a wild one. Rather than addressing the dire COVID situation in Iowa, the Republicans in power have sent down one bad bill after another at lightning speed. They are not just bad bills – they are bad governance. For example, there’s the anti-abortion amendment bill, which was passed through subcommittee only five days into the session and through committee the very next day. We already know that the overwhelming majority of Iowans support the right to choose abortion. This week, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, I have been receiving floods of emails from Iowans who oppose the bill. Yet, the House Republicans rushed the bill through during a pandemic, allowing public comment only from people who attended the subcommittee in person. And of course, it is especially unsafe to attend in person given the lack of a mask mandate in the Statehouse. Good government does not make it difficult for people to participate and does not substitute politicians’ personal beliefs for the will of the people.
Speaking of COVID, the Statehouse continues to be a dangerous place to work, and my Republican colleagues are not helping the situation. On Thursday afternoon in our first debate of the session, Democratic legislators tried to make the Iowa House safer for everybody, but the Republicans voted down every common-sense idea, including requiring masks and allowing public comment via remote connection during subcommittee meetings. This isn’t a direct quotation, but one Republican legislator said, ‘your belief that the mask stops the spread of COVID—that’s on you. Don’t force your beliefs on me.’ Friends, I was at the committee meeting on the abortion amendment, and believe me, I’m aware of the irony in that statement. The unionized workers at the Capitol are now filing a complaint with OSHA over unsafe working conditions.
On a positive note, it was wonderful to watch the inauguration of our new president and vice-president. Yes, democracy has prevailed!
Rumor has it that the photo of our former president that hung in one of the Statehouse chambers was taken from his time as celebrity host of The Apprentice. In the House we’re awaiting a new picture of President Biden.
It feels so good to say that: President Biden.
This Week’s Bills (bad and good)
The two big bills that the Republicans sent to subcommittee this week were the “strict scrutiny” gun bill and the anti-abortion bill. In a guest opinion piece that appeared in the Little Village and in the Press-Citizen, I laid out my strong opposition to both of these extreme bills.
As I’m on the Judiciary committee, I was able to speak in committee against the anti-abortion bill. Good government should defend a person’s freedom to make deeply personal decisions. It should give them options when they are struggling, not kick them when they are down. And most importantly, in a democracy, good government should not allow politicians to take away constitutional rights based on their own personal beliefs or preferences. It should listen to the will of the people. The Judiciary committee has received a flood of email comments against the proposed amendment to ban abortion. Keep them coming! The text of my comments can be found at this link. The Gazette covered the abortion bill story here.
The governor’s education bill came out this week. This is vouchers. You can find the bill itself here. The time to mobilize against this bill is now. It will damage our public education system. The Republicans tend to frame vouchers as “school choice,” and they say Iowans should have the right to send their children to schools that are not “failing.” If schools are struggling, it’s because of years of underfunding by the Republican legislature. They set them up to fail. The subcommittee meeting in the Senate is on Monday the 25th at 10:30. You can submit comments on that bill at this link. Further, another bill basically requires all schools in Iowa to offer 100% in-person instruction. The problem is that schools in different parts of Iowa have different levels of risk and different needs. This is a direct attack on schools in Iowa City, which offer hybrid instruction to preserve the safety of teachers, staff, and students. You can submit comments on this lousy bill here.
The Johnson County League of Women Voters is hosting a forum on education on Saturday at 9:30. I’m sure we’ll be discussing the governor’s education bill, among other things. A Zoom link can be found here.
I don’t want to suggest that nothing good has happened in the Statehouse this week. I do work hard to reach across the aisle when possible. This week was especially hard because of the number of controversial bills being pushed through so quickly. But please know that there is important work getting done, sometimes unanimously and often with bipartisan support. For example, in Judiciary there was broad bipartisan support for a bill to prevent sexual extortion (threatening to do bad things to people, usually women, unless they agree to sexual favors).
We also unanimously passed this microchip bill in subcommittee. It prohibits employers from forcibly implanting microchips into their employees. Creepy! When I saw this bill, my first thought was, “Is that actually a thing??” As with all bills I am assigned, I did the research. And you will be happy to know that, no, in fact, this is NOT a thing. There is no evidence this is actually happening—yet. But just in case anyone gets any ideas, we passed a bill.
Four Years Ago This Week
Four years ago, we were marching in DC and in Iowa City, facing the existential dread of the Trump presidency. And now look where we are! We’re rid of a one-term, twice-impeached, third-rate president. Bye Don!