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We have finished week 8 of the session, known as “Funnel Week”.  The funnel is the date when our individually filed bills must have passed out of committee to remain alive. This week is marked by a more vigorous committee schedule and less debate on the floor than previous weeks.

One bill we did debate and pass on the floor was Senate File 364, the COVID Relief Bill.  This bill provides relief for Iowa taxpayers and businesses affected by COVID-related issues. This bill provides $128 million in tax relief to Iowans by exempting pandemic-related grants and unemployment benefits from state income tax. Since it was government that forced shutdowns which led to job and income loss, House Republicans firmly believe that taxing pandemic relief money is not the right thing for Iowa.

A significant bill that passed out of the Judiciary Committee was House Study Bill 237 – Protecting Free Speech in Schools.  There have been numerous incidents that have occurred that have highlighted the need for greater protections for freedom of speech for students and staff, particularly at our Regents schools. House Republican members had instances brought to their attention where a student’s right to practice free speech had been violated at Regents schools and where professors tried to enforce their personal ideology. In each case it was conservative viewpoints that were being stifled.  It has become increasingly clear that these are not isolated instances, but a systemic problem of the Regents and many K-12 school districts. A school’s role is to educate, not indoctrinate students into a certain political ideology. The Board of Regents put together recommendations for campuses to adopt to address this issue and protect free speech on college campuses, and the  Judiciary committee drafted a bill similar to those recommendations to ensure regents and K-12 school districts take proper action. It’s a simple bill to ensure schools have policies and procedures in place to protect First Amendment rights as well as report and address violations.  This bill contains new policies, additional education training, restrictions and penalties for teachers and administrators First Amendment violations. The bill has passed out of committee, but discussions are ongoing regarding improvements to the bill before it is brought to the floor for a full vote.

Another significant bill that passed out of the House Public Safety committee was the Second Amendment Omnibus Bill, House Study Bill 254. 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, eliminate needless regulations, and reassure law-abiding citizens that they do not need the government’s permission to practice their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  The bill simplifies the right to concealed carry a handgun by removing the requirement to have a firearm concealed carry permit in Iowa.  Of course, this only applies to law-abiding citizens, not persons restricted from possession such as convicted felons.  The option of obtaining a permit remains for those that wish to travel out of state or for use in purchasing a firearm.

Also this week one of my bills, House File 216, a bill that creates a program for demolition of abandoned school buildings, passed out of the Economic Development committee.  This bill seeks to use a portion of the growth in the SAVE fund meant for school infrastructure to fund the demolition of these old dilapidated school buildings that dot our landscape. These buildings are a hazard and an eyesore, we must face facts and finally deal with them.

Author: Dean Fisher