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Week 7 of the 2021 Legislative session was another busy and productive week for freedom. The House passed and sent to the Governor some of the strongest election integrity laws in the country. I approved for consideration HSB254, a 2nd Amendment omnibus bill that would add further protections to Iowans’ right to keep & bear arms. Also, of note this week, the Ames School District suddenly canceled their scheduled appearance before the House Government Oversight Committee in which they were supposed to explain the politically charged materials they had approved for teaching to all grades in their school district.

On Wednesday February 24th, after many hours of debate, the Iowa House passed the strongest election security measures in the country. Iowa’s election system was already one of the best in the country, and now it will be even better. Using lessons learned from Iowa and other states in the last election, this legislation bans ballot harvesting, shortens the early voting time period to cut down on the possibilities of fraud (our voting period will still be longer than many states and puts us in the middle of the pack), prevents pre-filled out election materials from being sent out, requires that absentee ballots must be received by election day in order to be counted, mandates maintenance updates of Voter ID rolls to ensure the greatest possible degree of accuracy, and creates stiff penalties for election officials who blatantly defy or disregard election law, which several auditors did in the last election. The auditors in our area do a great job; unfortunately, that is not the case in every county in Iowa.

Those opposed to this legislation called it “voter suppression.” Since all the proposed changes apply equally to all people and allow for a long voting period, one is left to wonder what opponents are truly saying when they suggest this impacts minority voters unequally. Ensuring the integrity of the vote is not voter suppression, on the contrary it is essential for the future of our Republic.

Election integrity has been one of the most often stated concerns I have heard from the citizens of Iowa in the last few months. This election security bill has been sent to the Governor for her consideration.

2nd Amendment Omnibus
HSB254, the 2nd Amendment Omnibus bill, will improve public safety; eliminate needless regulation that does nothing to make people safer; and end the need for law-abiding citizens to ask for government permission to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear arms.

Provisions of the bill:

  • Allows active and reserve law enforcement officers to carry firearms on school grounds, regardless of whether or not they are on duty. This will make our schools safer by having law enforcement at the ready in the event of an emergency.
  • Allows EMTs attached to law enforcement tactical teams to have a Professional Permit to Carry a firearm, making the EMT and the entire tactical team safer and better able to respond to unexpected events.
  • Prohibits landlords of government assisted housing from banning firearms, helping ensure that economic status does not prevent the practice of a fundamental right. This has no impact on landlords that do not have tenants on government assistance.
  • Increase providers of handgun safety training.
  • Make the Permit to Carry optional in the state of Iowa, while likely increasing the use of federal background checks required for the purchase of a firearm. This is commonly called “Constitutional Carry,” which is the law in 18 other states. Many gun owners will likely continue to renew their permits in order to be able to carry in states that have reciprocity agreements with Iowa. This has been a goal of freedom-loving Iowans for many years – under this legislation Iowans would no longer have to get a government permission slip to practice this fundamental constitutional right, but they would have the option to do so if they choose. However, all gun purchases will require a federal background check.

Ames School District Backs Out
The attorney for the Ames Community School District sent an email Monday, February 22nd to House Oversight Committee Chair Representative Holly Brink backing out of their appearance before the committee less than 24 hours before it was scheduled.  Previously, Ames Superintendent Dr. Jenny Risner, Director of Equity Dr. Anthony Jones, School Board Member Dr. Monic Behnken and Director of Education Dr. Jeff Hawkins had agreed to appear before the committee and answer questions regarding the school district’s controversial curriculum presented during Black Lives Matter (BLM) at School Week of Action which occurred Feb. 1-5.

I and other Republican members of the House Oversight Committee have been contacted repeatedly over the last month by Ames public school parents concerned about the content of the BLM Week of Action curriculum. Some of that curriculum included lessons on the disruption of the Western prescribed nuclear family. It is unclear to many parents as to why their children should be learning how to disrupt their own families.  Additionally, values held by the Black Lives Matter organization are to defund local police departments and overturn Voter ID laws.  Parents expressed alarm about why a public school is so directly engaged in pushing left-wing political messages without providing the opposing viewpoints.

Why the Ames Community School District felt it was necessary to use their attorney to contact Rep. Brink to back out of a committee meeting is unclear.  It is also unclear as to why the district needs an attorney to defend a curriculum endorsed by the school board and superintendent.  Representative Brink has rescheduled the district officials to appear on March 9th.

Why should we be concerned about what Ames is teaching to children from kindergarten through 12th grade? One of the objectives in the materials from the Black Lives Matter organization is the “disruption” of the Western prescribed nuclear family. Put this fact together with the use of the word “comrade” elsewhere in the materials, and the known political motivations of BLM founders, and the need for concern becomes crystal clear.

The University of Chicago Press says the Chinese Communist Party, from Mao to Xi, uses “comrade” as a political instrument. CCP members should “address each other as comrades, not by official rank” as an expression of equality and shared values, and this has been reemphasized by the Communist Party leadership time and again. This article shows that relations within the Party are also sometimes deliberately fraught with tension, and as a result, the word “comrade” has been used during intra-Party conflicts with the aim of creating status uncertainty among cadre ranks. This strategic use of “comrade” emerges in purges, campaign politics, and anticorruption efforts. It allows the highest leaders to consolidate their power under the linguistic umbrella of solidarity and to sew doubt about personal loyalties among Party factions.

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which is an allegory about life under totalitarian communism, Old Major is the boar who rallies his friends to rebel against the farmer.  He refers to his friends as “comrades” throughout the story.

Additionally, as anyone who lived through the Cold War knows, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Khrushchev, and the rest all referred to their countrymen as “comrades.”

“Comrades” appearing in the first of Black Lives Matter’s 13 Guiding Principles is not in my judgement an accident.  The three founders of Black Lives Matter are Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.  In 2015, Cullors said of the three co-founders, “We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on, sort of, ideological theories.”

According to the New York Post, “Cullors, 36, was the protégé of Eric Mann, former agitator of the Weather Underground domestic terror organization, and spent years absorbing the Marxist-Leninist ideology that shaped her worldview.”

My appreciation to caucus staff for their research on this important issue.

Not only did much of the Black Lives Matter material approved by the Ames School District have nothing to do with Black History or combatting racism, it was at times not age-appropriate, with one of the approved videos for 6th graders containing sexually provocative images that would have likely angered many parents aware of its contents. The materials dove into issues of gender identity and “queer affirming” information that had nothing to do with Black History Month and as a minimum should have required parents’ approval. All this information taken in total is deeply disturbing, and many questions must be answered by those in the Ames School District responsible for approving material much of which had nothing to do with Black History Month and everything to do with recruiting for political movements with objectives that many Iowans would fundamentally oppose, with no differing viewpoint offered. We intend to find answers to these important questions.

Author: Steven Holt