With planting season upon us, the legislature has been working on a compressed schedule the last couple of weeks so that our legislators that farm can get their planting done. We have also passed our 110 day mark for the session, so our clerks and pages are no longer with us, and legislators no longer receive the per diem support. However, we have more work to do, we will continue to work until we cover the priorities for Iowa.
From the many emails and phone calls I’ve received, it’s clear that Iowans want their medical freedoms protected and their healthcare information to remain private. That’s why House Republicans this week passed House File 889, a bill to ban vaccine passports in Iowa. This bill prohibits state and local governments from issuing any sort of identification card that identifies a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status. This bill also states that businesses can’t require proof of vaccination from customers, clients or others and those businesses will become ineligible for state contracts or grants if they do. However, it grants exceptions for health and long-term care facilities. This exception does not aim to allow any health or long-term care facility to deny anyone care or entry, but it is intended to allow these facilities the flexibility to tailor their protocols to the individual depending on their vaccination status. The legislature will monitor this issue in the coming months and respond accordingly if any abuses occur.
Iowans are fortunate to live in one of the safest states in the nation. A big part of that is due to our peace officers who work night and day to protect citizens and ensure criminals are stopped. This past year has pushed our officers to their limits. Riots, assaults, looting, and destruction of public and private property have made an already difficult job nearly impossible. House Republicans have always supported law enforcement, and Iowans echoed that support by rejecting Democrats calls to defund the police in the November election. Listening to the concerns and needs of everyday Iowans and law enforcement led to the creation of SF 342. This bill, as amended by the House, addresses problems faced by both peace officers, business owners and the public. The bill increases penalties for a variety of crimes, provides better administrative protection for law enforcement, and ensures laws are enforced across the state.
When laws are passed Iowans expect them to be enforced. Unfortunately, some cities have been actively discouraging and even prohibiting law enforcement from doing their job. Division 9 of the bill stops this practice. If a city or county enacts a policy that prohibits the enforcement of laws, they risk the loss of state funding. This division sets up a system to file a complaint with the attorney general and for the investigation of these complaints. Language is also added to reiterate that race, skin color, language spoken, or national origin shall not be considered while enforcing laws.
Blocking roadways has become a favorite tactic of lawless protesters, including here in Iowa. This has put countless Iowans in immediate danger, created traffic safety issues, and terrified families caught in these crowds. SF 342 adds penalties for those who illegally block a roadway. The charges range from a serious misdemeanor for blocking a roadway and causing damage, to a class “C” felony for those who block a roadway and cause serious injury or death to another. The bill also protects a driver who is exercising due care but injures a person who is illegally blocking a roadway. This language will protect drivers and families who inadvertently end up in the middle of a chaotic mob blocking a roadway.
Everyone has seen the violent footage out of cities like Seattle, Portland, Kenosha and Minneapolis. Business have been destroyed, property damaged, with riots spinning out of control. That type of lawlessness is not acceptable in Iowa. SF 342 increases penalties on rioters, those who disturb the peace, damage public and private property, and harass law abiding Iowans. These increased penalties may not stop those who choose to break the law, but it will ensure they will face the consequences for their actions.
Legislative Democrats have chosen to side with violent protesters and against law enforcement. Their failure to condemn lawless riots is effectively an endorsement of them. That stance was decisively rejected in November when Iowans voted in favor of law and order and against lawlessness and defunding the police. Furthermore, during debate on the bill, one Democrat even appeared to threaten a lawsuit to get this law thrown out should it eventually become law. The ferocity with which legislative Democrats have chosen to defend rioters is surprising. Members of law enforcement and law-abiding Iowa families can count on House Republicans when it comes to public safety.