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Now that the first month of the Legislative session has come to a close our attention turns to next week’s funnel. In the Iowa Legislature, a funnel week is a deadline by which bills have to be voted out of their committees. This, effectively, kills bills without enough support and rushes others onto the floor for wider debate. This session I have seen bills that disrespect our teachers, our students, and our childcare workers among others. Some of those bills including a particularly distasteful bill requiring cameras in classrooms died in subcommittee this week.

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Book banning

I spent the snowy Martin Lurther King Jr. weekend reading banned books. In light of Republican attempts to keep these books out of our schools, I thought it was important I read them so I could understand what Republicans think is so dangerous they want them removed from the classroom. The books I read were:

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Hey, Kiddo, by Jarrett Krosoczka
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

Each of them deals with difficult topics such as poverty, addiction, racism, and gender identity. I believe it is important to read books that challenge me. Empathy is the foundation of my service, which is why I am disturbed by the continued attacks on struggling Iowans launched by Republicans this year.

I would recommend those who are interested read any of these books, my favorite was The Hate U Give. If at all possible, support your local bookstore and public library! No doubt, all of these books challenge us in ways we may not have been challenged before.

Several bills on this issue have already survived the funnel:

  1. Senator Chapman’s bill to find teachers and schools criminally liable for books he finds objectionable.
  2. A redundant bill that requires each school district to have a reconsideration committee and have their card catalog online.
  3. A bill to require manufacturers of electronic devices to have a filter to protect young Iowans from objectionable material.  (Subcommittee on February 14)

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Trans athletes

House File 2309 passed a House subcommittee this week. It would require students compete athletically with students of the gender they were assigned at birth. Currently, the Iowa High School Athletic Association, the NCAA and the Olympics all have policies regarding transgender athletes. Extracurriculars are important to all students. It is often what keeps them engaged in school. This bill would have a damaging effect on Iowa’s transgender students.

One trans athlete, Gavy Smith of Decorah, spoke against the bill in subcommittee. She participates in volleyball, bowling and track and field:
“Through my transition, the best thing to look forward to at the end of the day are those sports. They help me make new friendships and keep the old ones.…If I were told I couldn’t play the sports that I want to and for the gender that I identify as, I would feel less about myself, like I am being forced to feel different about who I am.”

House File 2309 will go to the Education Committee this week and must pass to survive the funnel.

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Quick updates:

  • The bill requiring public schools to live stream classrooms died without a subcommittee hearing.
  • The bill (HSB 508) to require low-income Iowans applying for food assistance to sell all their household assets before qualifying, appears to be dead. There is a new bill, which will codify what DHS is already doing.
  • Three abortion bills moved forward this week:
    • Overturns the FDA rule which would allow women to get an abortion medication through a pharmacy;
    • Requires physicians to give their patients unscientific information about the possibility of reversing a medical abortion;
    • Vastly expands data collection on abortions including what the gender the fetus was. Most of the information does not have a public health benefit and would be used to hurt women who are seeking a legal and safe medical procedure.

Republican leadership is aiming to investigate the conduct of District Judge Kurt Stoebe’s preferential behavior during an interview process for an open judgeship. The basis for this investigation is dubious; Iowa already has a process in place to investigate this form of misconduct. The resolution passed the House on Thursday evening and gives the Judiciary Committee the authority to do this investigation.

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