As we all know, because of the pandemic, we stopped the session before it was finished and just recently, re-called session to finish up the General Assembly. We officially adjourned sine die on Flag Day, June 14th. There are a few items that grabbed the headlines and here’s a reminder that its a building of constant compromise. The Senate and House have two completely different makeups. In order to get some of our priorities off the ground, it takes negotiating and compromise. Just because we voted aye or nay on a bill or amendment, it doesn’t mean it was the greatest thing ever or the worst thing ever, it’s often the product of compromise.
Another quick point– welcome to another election year, where the political parties send out scary emails and action points to people who don’t have time to read or understand what was voted on and trust wholeheartedly the headlines they read. The benefit is that you care to start engaging in the process but I implore you, rather than going deaf in your preferred party’s echo chamber, read the legislation, and both party’s analysis. For every email we receive against an issue, I assure you we receive as many in support… it comes down to negotiating the best route using the collection of your voices as we caucus. I know most of you that reach out, and you in the silent majority as well, and I know you all possess the ability to analyze whatever legislation you’re interested in and come to your own conclusion.
First, on the absentee ballot bill and voting bills. The House Republicans and Democrats worked together on an all-encompassing voter bill that of course passed the House with full support but when sent to the Senate, was amended to include some things that we in the House were never going to vote for. That’s where the negotiating began. In the end, they wanted to some more security on absentee ballots so we whittled down the amendment to something we could support. We did not and will not suppress votes. If you believe asking those who’ve either incompletely or incorrectly filled out their absentee form, and then to simply verify— A) that they asked for a ballot and B) that they are who they say they are —if you can make the mental gymnastics to construe that as voter suppression, then I guess welcome to the world of partisan hacks that will stop at nothing to get their party elected. You can request absentee ballots, just like you’ve always been able to, there is no suppression.
With the life amendment. All we voted on was a 24hour waiting period before you can get an abortion. That’s it. We didn’t make it illegal. Just a day’s wait. In Iowa code, there already exist waiting periods for life-changing decisions. In fact, you have to wait 72 hours for a marriage license or to adopt. You have to wait 90 days for a divorce. We are matching the US Supreme Court’s 1992 decision that ruled a 24 hour waiting period was not an undue burden. One more thing on this, there was a recent Kaiser poll that indicated 2 out 3 people across the country support a 24 hour waiting period.
We also passed a COVID liability bill. This bill limits the liability of businesses, schools, churches, county fairs and other legal entities. It includes a safe harbor for compliance with regulations, executive orders, or public health guidance. For example, a restaurant following guidance by limiting capacity and spacing tables, cannot be sued by a customer claiming to have gotten the coronavirus at the restaurant. However, if the restaurant provided masks to employees made from an old tennis net, that would be considered reckless, and not covered under this legislation. It also limits the liability of health care providers and provides protections for health care workers who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our friends, families, and communities safe and healthy. Lastly, it limits the liability on products produced and used in response to COVID-19. Again, this does not protect bad actors. This provides coverage for our honest entities who are ready to get back up and running.
Last, but certainly not least, our Justice Reform bill. It was an incredible example of listening and cooperation, to respond with some “first steps” legislation to not only recognize injustices but be able to prosecute and weed out the bad apples. We brought protestors to the table, as well as, our law enforcement community. Like most legislation, it doesn’t slam dunk the issue and solve all our problems, but it is a start and a message that we hear both the protestors and our law enforcement. I firmly believe in justice and peace.. but you cannot achieve that without honest law and order.
Those were some of the bills that happened to grab headlines as they passed. If you’ve been keeping up with my short statehouse career you know how much I’ve been working on connecting us all to a reliable broadband internet connection. I was able to get most of my priorities passed out of the House with bipartisan support. Like the broadband grants, Empower Rural Iowa and cell siting. But a few, like my IXP and Dig Once/Certifications bills, they made their way to the Senate and found their temporary graveyard.
One that really bothers me, was my IXP bill. For those who need a refresher, an Internet exchange point (IX or IXP) is the physical infrastructure through which Internet service providers (ISPs) and content delivery networks (CDNs) exchange Internet traffic between their networks. The impact of an IXP is dynamic and can be instrumental in developing the local Internet ecosystem. IXPs can attract a range of local and international operators, which then can trigger innovation and more business opportunities.
Experience shows that access speeds for local content can improve as much as tenfold with an IXP in place because traffic is routed more directly. IXPs can also improve the level of stability and continuity of access.
Now to the part that doesn’t sit well with me. All I was asking for in the above-stated legislation, was data. That’s all! A simple study by the OCIO on the timeline on construction, maintenance, upgrades, and optimum number of exchange points and their costs and report on the economic impact it will have on the state. That’s it! Now how that was spun to the TelCo’s across the state, was that I was tapping into the ICN to compete with private business. Bull crap! All that says to me is—who is afraid of the study and resulting data that will come back? I’ve heard from a couple of TelCo’s personally, thank you for reaching out and understanding my intentions. To those that misrepresented myself and this legislation, I will not forget it.
Beyond that, we ultimately had to decide the budget. Usually, each budget runs their bill. In the House, as the Economic Development Budget Chair, I would’ve ran that budget bill on the floor. In the interest of time in the special session and our pandemic circumstances, we combined them into one bill for our Approps Chair, Rep. Mohr to run. The budget bill appropriates $7.7785 billion in Fiscal Year 2021 for departments and agencies funded through the General Fund. This would be an increase of $26.5 million over the FY 2020 revised budget. It provides the status quo funding for the vast majority of General Fund line items for Fiscal Year 2021 and also provides corrections to bills previously passed by the Legislature this session. In another area of compromise, we were able to negotiate the Senate up more than they were able to negotiate us down on the budget. We felt, as House Republicans, that with a healthy ending balance and our reserves full, we could afford to be at least status quo if not more, to make sure were properly funding our priorities. Where other states have failed, Iowa is in a good place budget wise, considering the pandemic.
For those of you who have bills we worked on, but didn’t make the final cut, let’s get to work on them before January so we can get them drafted and submitted again. If they need some work, lets figure out where that compromise exists.
If you know me, you know my heart and passion for my country, my state and you all in my district. If you’re interested in supporting my campaign visit: VoteBubba.com and click the donate button. Thank you all for your support and if you have a great place for a campaign sign, let us know! Sorensen.For.Iowa@gmail.com
I am honored to represent House District 20 at the Capitol. Reach out at Ray.Sorensen@legis.iowa.gov with any questions or concerns. To you folks in Adair, Guthrie, Dallas and Cass Counties, thank you for allowing me to serve you and be your voice here in Des Moines and remember… Our Liberties We Prize And Our Rights We Will Maintain!