Bret Richards is a Republican running for Congress in the Fourth Congressional District.
During a time of crisis, it’s important we support each other. Check on your family, call your neighbors and stay positive because this too shall soon pass.
Particularly in this moment, we should listen to the guidance of our state leaders. Thankfully, Governor Kim Reynolds has approached this situation in good faith, balancing the lives of our fellow Iowans and the rights of each individual. I thank her and her team many hours of work they have put in.
The same can’t be said for some Democrat governors auditioning to be Biden’s VP pick. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear tracked worshippers’ license plates who dared defy his mandate. In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly went so far as to make it an arrestable offense to attend church. And in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s wide-reaching stay-at-home-order brought thousands of in-vehicle protestors yesterday to the capitol.
The overreach from some governors is plain to see but the potential for abuse is at hand almost everywhere.
When this crisis fades, we need to take time to learn from our government’s response. We need to ask not just how we make our hospitals better prepared, but open a conversation on the proper role of our government no matter the situation.
Should a governor be able to suspend our rights wholesale to protect against a 10 percent death rate (like they had in Italy)? How about 1 percent? 0.5 percent?
Which rights can be taken away? All of them? For how long?
These are the questions that must be answered, but without our representatives in session to make it official, I think it’s best before the next pandemic or major disaster hits that we open discussion on which rights are truly unalienable.
A few days ago, I thought I’d start reading how much authority we’d already handed over. I picked up the Iowa Code (specifically section 29C) and what’s in there will shock you.
With the kids being homeschooled, this should look familiar. Let’s practice a multiple-choice question:
In times of emergency, can the Iowa governor
- Ban the sale of alcohol
- Shut down roads
- End commerce entirely
- Administer by force a new vaccine
You might have already guessed…it’s all of the above.
I appreciate the fact that the governor has been self-imposing limits on her own power. In press briefings, she’s made clear that she “can’t lock the state down” so people need to use their best judgement and “be responsible for themselves.”
That’s the kind of person liberty-loving Iowans want calling the shots. But imagine the consequences of having someone in the Governor’s Mansion who’s a little less interested in what We the People think.
They might first look to implement the most expansive definition of state power, which allows the governor to prohibit “such other activities as the governor reasonably believes should be prohibited to help maintain life, health, property, or the public peace” (§29.C3(4)h).
Let that sink in: We’ve already given a blank check to some future officeholder to suspend any rights they believe violate their interpretation of “the public peace”.
Consider a grocery store owner closing up shop to keep enough food for his own use. Is he disrupting the public peace?
Imagine a farmer speaking up loudly against a shelter-in-place order. Is he disrupting the public peace?
If any essential worker (and who really knows this term’s full scope?) decides the risk of infection is just too high, can the governor force them back to work? Seems like it.
At what point, in times of trouble, do all these workers become servants of the state?
This kind of license could get dangerous.
For those who’ve already forgot, Democrat Senator Kamala Harris ran for president last year. God forbid if she was elected, she said she’d declare gun violence a “national epidemic and public health emergency”. Using the powers we just went over, she and her Democrat allies would shred our Second Amendment rights faster than Pelosi did Trump’s State of the Union.
So, even in Iowa, the playbook is there for any overzealous executive to take up. At the next possible moment, the legislature needs to reconvene, re-examine these broad emergency powers, and decide which of our rights cannot be infringed.
I bet you’ve been talking over these same questions with your friends and family as well. They’re important to have answers to now so we’re not blindsided when the wrong person gets in charge. Because while we can take some comfort in this temporary safety, we know our God-given liberties must endure.