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During the ninth week of the legislative session, much of our time was focused on floor debate in the Senate chamber.

This week, Iowa ranked number one in the country for opportunity according to US News & World Report. This rating specifically measures affordability, economic opportunity and equality. Expanding opportunities for all Iowans continues to be a priority, whether it be career opportunities, opportunities in education, or the opportunity to make Iowa home.

The Senate continued to work on opening up job opportunities for Iowans this week. Senate File 424, allows apprenticeships to all occupational licenses regulated by the state that do not currently offer them. Apprenticeships prioritize on-the-job training, allowing workers to earn a paycheck while seeking licensure. Expanding apprenticeships will increase employer investments in the state and create more work opportunities. This will also address the state’s need for skilled workforce in the trade and vocational industries and is another step in easing burdensome licensing requirements in Iowa.

This week, I was the floor manager of a bill regarding private instruction and parent-taught driver’s education, SF 546. This bill matches legislative intent (and the DOT regulations) that all homeschoolers may use parent-taught driver education. It ensures that both parents, together, can teach the program and provide the driving, not just one or the other. It also makes clear that the DOT cannot add a requirement for a “preapproval process” beyond how the legislature defines a “teaching parent.” The Code defines a teaching parent—one meets the definition or does not.

The main complaints from parents who do use or would like to use the parent-taught option are that the logged driving hours of 40 hours is twice what other parents must do and that the “classroom hours” numbers make no sense and do not fit in a system of online classes like those used in other code sections or under COVID guidelines. This bill reduces the number of hours of street or highway driving from 40 to 30 and the number of nighttime hours required from 4 to 3. It also strikes the time requirements for certain areas of instruction, but still keeps the requirement that they be taught. The addition here of a qualified instructor also means a parent may hire an instructor to provide the actual driving component, or at least part of it.

The first function of government is to protect the people it governs and their property. It is the principal rationale for individuals to organize themselves into governments. If the government breaks that agreement, it violates the social compact and comes with major consequences to the government itself and the population it governs.

Furthermore, protection of life and property are fundamental tenets of economic growth. People are hesitant to work and invest in communities without protection of those fundamental rights. These concepts are not new and are outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Protecting the lives of Iowans and their pursuits of happiness are the reason the Senate advanced a number of bills this week commonly referred to as “Back the Blue” bills.

SF 479 would deny state funding to cities that defund their police. This bill provides justifications for cities with one-time expenditures, decreases in population, or other possible routine reductions in a law enforcement budget.

Another bill, SF 476, codified a concept known as qualified immunity. This concept, initially established by the US Supreme Court, gives law enforcement officers certain legal protections as they work in completely uncontrolled and frequently dangerous environments. It does not give them total immunity to act with disregard for the law or behave in a punitive manner. The bill also expands the Peace Officer Bill of Rights and protects personal information of law enforcement and officials on certain records.

Finally, SF 534 addressed the violent riots in Iowa and in several other parts of the country. This bill covers a number of problems uncovered in last year’s riots. One specific issue this bill addressed was criminalizing the act of purposefully shining a laser pointer into the eyes of law enforcement officers, potentially seriously damaging their eyesight. This bill does not impede anyone’s First Amendment right to protest, but it does protect innocent Iowans whose lives, homes, or businesses are threatened or destroyed by rioters.

Supporting our law enforcement is crucial to keeping our communities safe and ensuring they can do their jobs to the best of their ability. These bills protect Iowans exercising their First Amendment right to protest, Iowa law enforcement officers doing their job, and the community from property destruction.

This week the United States Congress and Senate passed a “COVID relief” bill totaling some $1,900,000,000,000 ($1.9 TRILLION) in a party line vote. This travesty of overspending is mislabeled as COVID relief and brings with it additional spending that is a means to fund personal pet projects, also known as pork barrel spending. The bill also rewards several states and cities who have mismanaged their budgets with continued, reckless tax and spend policies due to legislators who have overpromised and underdelivered.

The increasing national debt is a danger to both our economy and security. Back-to-back stimulus spending bills could have serious economic consequences leading to price increases on the goods and services we buy, interest rate increases on the cost of our money, tax increases, and budget cuts. At some point, this borrowed taxpayer money the federal government continues to spend beyond its ability to pay will require payment to cover the deficit spending.

Iowa continues to be diligent with taxpayer dollars and is heading again to another year of a balanced budget living within our means.

Author: Craig Johnson