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In her opening remarks at Thursday’s subcommittee on a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution that essentially makes the document neutral on abortion, State Sen. Claire Celsi (D-Polk) said something that caught my attention, and it evidently wasn’t lost on State Sen. Roby Smith (R-Scott) either.

“This is the one and only time that public expression of opposition or support to a Constitutional amendment will be allowed,” she said.

Celsi was upset because the notice of the meeting, which she said met the 24-hour notice, handshake agreement the legislature has, wasn’t done through the normal channels due to technological malfunction.

She asked to move the meeting, but that request was refused.

“It’s a sad day for us when we have four large public meetings for sports betting at the Capitol and only one poorly noticed public meeting in a small room for such a consequential one here today,” Celsi said.

But for anyone who knows how the process of amending the Iowa Constitution works, they would understand Iowans would have far more chances to sound off.

Smith took the words out of my head and eliminated the need for a column.

“Let’s talk about the process,” he said. “This meeting is not the only time for citizens to have input on this.”

Smith noted last year’s subcommittee and committee meetings last year.

“The normal route takes 13 steps,” he said.

Legislation has to advance through a subcommittee, a committee and the full chamber of both the Senate and the House. Proposed amendments must be passed by two general assemblies, which means those six things have to take place again after an election.

“The people have a say at the General Election,” Smith said. “One-hundred-twenty-five legislators of 150 will be on the ballot. They can vote all 125 out of office if they like.”

All that said, there’s one final part and opportunity for all Iowans to weigh in. The People get to vote.

“The People will have the final say at the ballot box because the vote will go to the People,” Smith said. “This is neutral language. If you want to look at it, it’s a way to look at it as the People are going to decide. Should five unelected judges have the final say in the judicial branch? Or is it going to be the 150 duly elected representatives and senators and the executive branch? Who is going to have the final say?

“There’s a reason the preamble of the United States Constitution’s font size of We The People is so large. It’s not because they started writing it and went, ‘Uh oh, we might run out of ink or run out of paper.’ They did it on purpose. They put We the People so large to send the message that they have the final say. This Constitutional amendment empowers the People of Iowa and gives them a voice on this critically important issue.”

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Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall