The movement of legislation through the process is now in full swing as we finish the second week of the session.
Parental choice in education is one of the big themes getting attention from the governor and the legislature. We have heard from parents across the state that they are not being heard when it comes to their child’s educational needs. The first step in this process has been the introduction of a bill on January 21 that gives the decision-making power over in-person or online learning instruction to the parents, not the school.
One of the issues in parental choice relates to open enrollment. Some school districts, including one in Waterloo, are able to overrule a parents decision to send their child to another school. My legislative district is affected by this issue because Waterloo has implemented this ban on open enrollment, preventing families from open enrolling into the Union School District which includes La Porte City, part of my legislative district. This traps these families into one choice for their child’s education. I have been aware of this issue and I have for several years now filed legislation to eliminate this loop-hole in the Iowa Code, and I’m delighted that the issue is finally being supported by both chambers and the governor who raised it in her Condition of the State address. As is often the case, sometimes ideas like this take time to take hold, but this session it has already passed a House subcommittee as House Study Bill 64.
Democrats in the Iowa House have responded to the proposal to increase parental choice as a “warfare with our public schools” and called the requirement of a 100% in-person learning option “a one-size-fits-all solution”. However, it’s the parents and students in many districts that have been presented with a one-size-fits-all solution when they are told they can not have in-person learning. Republicans simply want to expand family’s choices.
This week, the Judiciary Committee advanced a constitutional amendment to re-establish the fact that no right to an abortion exists in the Iowa Constitution. The amendment reads “To defend and protect unborn children, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.” This amendment will correct the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2017 decision that went far beyond its purview and declared abortion a constitutional right in Iowa. The court’s error threatens any reasonable restrictions on abortion, such as restrictions on the heinous practice of late-term abortions and taxpayer-funded abortions. We can not allow unelected judges to re-write our state’s Constitution, amending the Constitution is up to the people of Iowa, not the court.
Also, this week the Public Safety Committee that I sit on passed a Constitutional amendment, known as the Freedom Amendment, that will ensure our right to keep and bear arms. This amendment passed both chambers in 2019 and needs to pass both chambers this year or next in order to appear on the ballot for a public vote during the 2022 election. The amendment reads “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign stat of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” The “strict scrutiny” language in the amendment requires the court to hold this right to the highest standard. I am honored to have been able to once again vote to pass this amendment in committee and look forward to voting for it on the floor of the House. Iowa is one of only 6 states that currently have no language in its Constitution that protects this fundamental right.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you during the session. I’ve usually signed off on this newsletter by inviting you down to the Capitol, but I’m less enthusiastic about those visits given the pandemic. The Capitol is open for visitors however, we’ll just have to social distance.