This week was packed with debate on a handful of key bills that were controversial. In past weeks we’ve debated as many as 25 or more bills in a few hours, whereas in some cases these bills have taken all evening to debate 2 bills.
Early in the week we tackled two bills dealing with freedom of speech and stereotyping based on race and gender. House File 744 dealt with protecting Free Speech in our K-12 schools and on our college campuses, a top priority for House Republicans this session because of broad concerns we heard from our constituents. Members had instances brought to their attention where the Regents had violated a student’s right to practice free speech in the University of Iowa School of Dentistry, and another instance of a professor brazenly enforcing her political views in her classes at Iowa State. Such political bias has been known for some time, but it has become increasingly more blatant and clear that these are not isolated instances, but a systemic problem. A school’s role is to educate, not indoctrinate students into a certain political ideology. This bill took action by providing additional free speech protections for students and staff in K-12 schools and college campuses. It prohibits faculty and staff from intentionally violating the free speech of students and allows disciplinary measures if violations occur. Additionally, it requires free speech training at all Regent universities for students and faculty. It’s a shame it has come down to having to take these measures, the freedom of speech issues are so fundamental to our society that we think education professionals should understand them without further training, but the issues arising prove otherwise. The House Republicans will continue to monitor our educational institutions to ensure the message is received and the training takes hold.
In the same vein as House File 744, the House passed House File 802 a bill to prohibit Gender and Race-Based Stereotyping in Training & Curriculum. This bill prohibits training or curriculum that present certain divisive concepts that rely on race or gender-based stereotypes as fact. It does not ban or limit diversity trainings, or limit the teaching of African American history, as the Democrats misled in debate. The divisive concepts outlined in this bill, often referred to as critical race theory, claim to be in the name of fighting racism, but they are themselves racist. It teaches to label, stereotype, and demonize people based on their race, gender or sexual identity, rather than to judge people on the content of their character. For example, teaching our students that they have “White Privilege” simply by virtue of their skin color, or that the USA is inherently a racist nation, will violate this legislation. These ideological stereotypes divide us further, teach people to hate our nation, stifle the speech of anyone who disagrees, and create hostile work and learning environments. We simply cannot fight racism with more racism. We must unite, not divide. The motivation for this bill came in part from the Ames School District’s use of highly inappropriate “Black Lives Matter” curriculum and materials.
Also this week we passed two significant firearms-related bills. House File 621 provides Clarifying Immunity for Firearms Manufacturers. This bill reestablishes that the responsibility for heinous acts relies solely on the perpetrator of the act, not on the manufacturer of the firearm or ammunition. Manufacturers would still be able to be held accountable for defective firearms or ammunition. This bill is significant not only in protecting our Second Amendment rights by protecting the suppliers of our firearms and accessories, but it also sends a clear message to firearms industry manufacturers that Iowa will be a friendly place to do business. Employment in firearms-related jobs in Iowa has seen significant growth, perhaps the highest in the nation recently, as employers realize that our state government will be a stable partner in creating and protecting these jobs from frivolous lawsuits.
Also, in a long-winded debate Wednesday evening, House File 756 was passed. This is the Second Amendment Omnibus Bill that includes numerous improvements to our firearms laws, particularly by restoring our right to concealed carry a weapon in public without first obtaining a permit. Many other states have restored this right already, Iowa may become the 20th in the nation if this bill passes the Senate and is signed by the governor. The option to have a permit is still available in case a person wants it for out-of-state travel or for purchase of a firearm. Whether you live in a city or in a rural area, your right to keep and bear arms is essential and Iowa House Republicans are committed to protecting it. This bill will improve public safety by ensuring law-abiding citizens can protect themselves immediately, tightening the loopholes on private sales, and allowing law enforcement officers to carry on school grounds regardless of if they are off-duty or not. This bill does not eliminate background checks as many are being misled to believe, background checks are required by federal law and Iowa can’t change that. This bill is actually likely to increase the amount and frequency of background checks on gun purchases because many will forego the five-year permit and subject themselves to a background check with each firearm purchase.
The Republican-led Iowa Legislature is making great strides in addressing the significant issues of our day. It’s a pleasure to be a part of that effort.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.