***The Iowa Standard is an independent media voice. We rely on the financial support of our readers to exist. Please consider a one-time sign of support or becoming a monthly supporter at $5, $10/month - whatever you think we're worth! If you’ve ever used the phrase “Fake News” — now YOU can actually DO something about it! You can also support us on PayPal at [email protected] or Venmo at Iowa-Standard-2018 or through the mail at: PO Box 112 Sioux Center, IA 51250

We are nearing the second funnel and things are heating up. Again, 9 out of 10 bills float through both chambers on a bi-partisan basis, but that doesn’t fit the “other party is evil” narrative, so take the ensuing headlines, media sound bites and social media posts with a grain of salt.

On that note, free speech is great! One of the things that is important to remember with free speech, a free press, and a sort-of free speech social media is, you are free to say and publish whatever you want, even if it may be inaccurate and uniformed opinions parading as “fact”. Most letters to the editors anymore are from party loyalists towing the party line against the “evil” opposition. Don’t be duped. I’m not saying to stop reading from your perspective echo chamber or when your activist group stirs you up to contact your legislators, but please, at least for the sake of a well-rounded argument, check in with the opposition, cross reference, put yourself in their shoes, what filters through hopefully will be close to each issue/bill and its intent.

It is both humorous and disappointing, watching people weigh in online, in the papers and in email who have no idea how the legislative process works, or even worse, pretending not to on purpose to steer the masses. Remember, with legislation there are not only two chambers’ worth of members weighing in on legislation as we meet throughout session, but the sub-committee and committee processes where there are things called “amendments”, that alter bills, so most bills are very fluid from start to finish and end up getting altered as we hear from our constituents and experts in each field. For those who do nothing but direct anger at me and my fellow legislators, the least you could do is keep up on the current state of the bill before you tell us how “disgusted” you are, and how “ignorant” we are.

Now, I’ll dive into the some of the bills we ran this last week. First, the PUBLIC Charter Schools Bill, which was its own bill, and did not include the Student First Scholarship (voucher) piece. I want to go through a list of point-by-point claims made in recent comments online and via emails about this bill and how the vote took place:

  • FALSE CLAIMS: “A “founding group” for a charter would not need to have any connection to our School Board even though it could pull funds away from our school district.” AND “The “founding group” members would not have to live in Iowa.”
    – FACT: One of the reasons charter schools have a problem opening is due to the fact that school boards do not want competition. Here’s an example, how well would it work to have Fareway required to sign-off on when, and where, a HyVee could open?
    – FACT: The “founding group” has to have a governing board. If you would look at our amendment it states that the majority of the board must be from the geographic area the charter school serves and the rest of the members be current Iowa residents.
  • FALSE CLAIM: “The “founding group” can be for-profit and can use our local tax dollars, though not publicly elected.”
    – FACT: The charter school is a nonprofit. It has to be. If you read the bill, it goes through a very rigorous application proposal that requires evidence of community support, among many other things. Again, the governing board is local and Iowans. The founding group doesn’t get paid. If parents didn’t want to send their kids to this school, it wouldn’t be able to be approved, and therefore unsuccessful. However, if this is what the parents want for their children and if this is a better fit for their children and family, why is this a problem?
  • FALSE CLAIM: “The “founding group” meetings would not be subject to the Iowa Open Meetings laws.”
    – If you read our amendment, we subject the governing board to Chapter 21, which is open meetings.

Charter schools do not operate like private schools. If you read the bill, you will see the schools must accept everyone, adhere to civil rights code, provide special education, and the list goes on. A charter school is a nonprofit. They cannot accept tuition. They are not making money. They are educating children in a way that best fits them. Another bogus claim is “there is no accountability”, try checking out all the accountability provisions in the bill. Financial audits, the state board has to make reports on the charter schools, not to mention a whole section on Oversight. Bottom line, if the charter school isn’t successful the state board will shut them down. If a public school isn’t successful, it continues to operate and continues to receive taxpayer money. Which one is the real tragedy?

Also, a couple of misleading headlines after we passed Public Charter Schools were, “passed in the late night” or “in the middle of the night”, which are hilarious, as it is well known that the minority party controls the clock. So, we get blamed for being there late, when they are the reason we are there late, even when we’ve started debate in the sunshiny afternoon. Got it. Another headline hinted at there not being any public comment. This bill has been out there, in some form, since January. Passed sub-committees (that have public comment) in both chambers, and it has been amended, in part, because of the public weighing in over the past few months. Myths busted.

I’ve had some folks ask, “how do parents fight back locally against Critical Race Theory in schools?” First, visit: SchoolhouseRights.org – the organization supports civil rights litigation in defense of students’ freedom of conscience in public education and the rights of parents to guide and direct the upbringing of their children. Also, local school Board meetings and elections are an important place for parents and concerned citizens can get involved as well.

As for the Amendment to restore felons’ voting rights, Iowa is one of only two states that doesn’t have a legal process to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions. This passed unanimously through the House and we passed two bills this week to lay out that process so that when certain felons have repaid their debt to society, they can get their voting rights back. But we also clarify what type of felons may be exempt from that and what the process looks like for certain felons to regain those rights.

I hope to be running our Broadband Grant Program bill sometime next week. This week Rep Thompson ran the Broadband Forward/Telecommuter Forward/Dig Once bill I put through our Economic Growth Committee. Last week the IT committee heard a presentation from Connected Nation who holds the contract for creating the map of broadband service in Iowa. As we know, accurate mapping is the key to eliminating the Broadband Deserts across the state and the OCIO uses this map to identify which areas of the state that lack broadband internet service. Connected Nation has also overlaid a map of the state with FCC data and information from internet providers in the state identifying where they offer service. The map can be viewed at https://connectednation.org/iowa/interactivemap.

IDALS has launched a new database that allows Iowans to apply for or renew their hemp licenses online for the 2021 growing season. Applicants can find the link to register at iowaagriculture.gov/hemp. The deadline to apply for the 2021 growing season has been extended to May 1.

We may still disagree and that is fine, if you disagree with me most of the time, vote for the other person next time around. If you only disagree with me on an issue or two, hopefully, I can still earn your vote. Like President Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”

Author: Ray Sorensen