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Sen. Herm Quirmbach (D-Ames) said Senate Study Bill 3178 is just one way to allow discrimination against “black and brown people” during a Local Government committee meeting on Thursday.

The bill prohibits a county or city from adopting or enforcing an ordinance or regulation that keeps a person who has the right to lease, sublease or rent out a dwelling unit from refusing to lease or rent out the unit to a person because of the person’s source of income used to pay rent, including a federal housing choice voucher.

“We have a lot of people who have problems finding housing these days,” Quirmbach said. “Housing in a lot of areas in the country is unaffordable. It’s not as bad in Iowa as it is in San Francisco, but there are still a lot of people who have trouble. Allowing landlords to discriminate against people who use federal housing vouchers is a way of discriminating against poor people. It’s a way of allowing landlords to discriminate against black and brown people. That kind of discrimination is illegal under state law, but if you give landlords the ability to refuse people because they have a housing voucher, you open a back door for them to discriminate against people of racial minorities.”

Sen. Jeff Edler (R-State Center) addressed those allegations right away in his closing comments.

“Poverty knows no color, no bounds,” he said. “To try and say this is discriminating on a black or brown basis, I really resent that comment. I really discredit that comment.”

Edler said the bill is simply not forcing a private entity to partake in a contract that they had no choice in.

The bill passed on a 7-4 vote.