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Week 5 in the Iowa House was busy and productive on many fronts. This week, I will highlight the passage of K-12 Education funding in the House, a rare House resolution to authorize an official investigation into the actions of a sitting Judge, and legislation to protect girls’ sports in Iowa.

K-12 Education
This week, the Iowa House passed a bill to increase Supplemental State Aid for K-12 schools by $159 million. This means the State Cost Per Pupil amount increases from $7,234 to $7,412, a $178 increase per student. The House plan also includes additional funding to address the state cost per pupil inequity, as well as a transportation equity increase to help rural schools with their transportation costs.

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House Republicans also passed a bill appropriating an additional $19.2 million for schools to help pay for para-educators, substitute teachers, bus drivers, support staff and any other expenses that have increased due to high-inflation, bringing the total increase for K-12 schools to almost $200 million. It should be noted that K-12 education funding has increased by almost a billion new dollars over the last 10 years, as Republicans continue to make the education of our young people a top priority.

Protecting the Integrity of our Judicial System
In October of 2021, District Court Judge Kurt Stoebe chaired the District 2B Judicial Nominating Commission that interviewed applicants for an open judgeship. Following the submission of the nominees to the Governor’s office, concerned commissioners involved in the process notified the Governor’s Legal Counsel of serious concerns with the conduct of Judge Stoebe. He was accused by the commissioners of rigging the process in favor of certain candidates. Additionally, he was accused of making unprofessional comments about some of the candidates, and even going as far as to falsely claim that one applicant had withdrawn their application when they had not. After these allegations were made, the Judicial Branch announced that Judge Stoebe would no longer sit on the nominating commissions. However, he continued as a sitting Judge on the bench.

These allegations are extremely serious. If true, they call into question Judge Stoebe’s integrity, and in turn, the integrity of the bench for those who must appear in his courtroom. If the allegations are true, Judge Stoebe violated at least two provisions of the Judicial Code of Conduct, and his actions may well fit the definition of malfeasance, an impeachable offense under the Iowa Constitution.

Attempts to learn more about what happened have proven unproductive, as the Judicial Branch, partly due to confidentiality requirements in Iowa Code, has refused to provide additional information. In order to fulfill the oversight responsibilities required of the Legislature by the Iowa Constitution, I introduced a resolution on Thursday, which was approved by the full House, that empowers the Judiciary Committee to conduct an official investigation into the actions of Judge Stoebe. This resolution will allow the Judiciary Committee to administer oaths, issue subpoenas, and if necessary, cite for contempt.

We all believe in this basic American principle of justice: innocent until proven guilty. The investigation approved by the House is a pursuit of information to determine if an impeachable offense has occurred. Whether the information found exonerates Judge Stoebe or confirms the allegations, answers and the actions that follow can only help ensure trust in the Judiciary, compared to a lack of information that can only breed uncertainty, doubt and an erosion of confidence.

Protecting Girls Sports
The issue of biological males playing in female sports is a concern that members in every legislative district are hearing about from Iowans. Our constituents have been asking us to take action to protect girl’s athletics, and sports organizations and school districts have been asking for guidance from the state on this issue. This week, the House took steps to address these concerns.

Recently, a young female Iowa athlete named Ainsley Erzen wrote about her experiences in an open letter to the Iowa Girls Athletic Union that was published in the Des Moines Register. I would encourage everyone to search for it on the internet and read it.

Ainsley explains that her time in the 800-meter hurdles of 2:06.52 was the fastest female time in state history. It earned her a national championship and broke the Iowa state record. Yet, during the same season, her time was beaten by eighty-five boys just in the state of Iowa alone. She goes on to point out that numerous women’s Olympic records are beaten by hundreds of male high schoolers every year. Her point was clear; action must be taken to protect girls’ sports.

Under legislation introduced in the Iowa House that moved forward this week, only athletes assigned as female on their original birth certificates will be allowed to participate in school-sponsored girls’ athletics.

Girls deserve equal opportunity in athletics and to compete on a level playing field. The fight for female sports took generations to arrive at the point it is today. The purpose of this legislation is to protect girls’ opportunities to participate in sports in a fair way and gain all of the important life skills that come with that experience.

Under this proposal, every athlete has an equal opportunity to play sports. It does not tell any child that they cannot participate in sports. It simply says that they must participate in the sport under the gender found on their original birth certificate. This is not only fair; it is logical, and it follows the science.

In my next newsletter, I will share the stories of two wonderful young ladies I met this week that are advocating for victims of domestic violence, and in support of a bill that I have introduced in the Judiciary Committee to help these victims.

Author: Steven Holt

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