This week, for the first time, I was able to participate in the process of a Senate committee approving a bill of mine. SF 151, which would re-establish a cold case unit within the Division of Criminal Investigation, was approved by the Judiciary Committee. When the unit existed for three years, a decade ago, some cold cases as far back as 40 years were solved. I would like to see criminals brought to justice, as well as hope and closure brought to families, if not the victims themselves.
We’ll have to see if funding can be found in the Appropriations Committee for two new full-time employees at DCI. If you’d like to encourage such funding, you can contact my colleagues Sen. Julian Garrett (Justice Systems Budget Subcommittee chair) and Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink (Appropriations Committee chair). Their emails are [email protected] and [email protected].
The eighth week of this year’s session is known as “funnel week” in the legislature. This week is the first legislative deadline of the year. All Senate policy bills must have passed through committee in order to be considered for the rest of the year.
Because it was funnel week, subcommittees and committees worked diligently to move bills through the process. One of these bills was Senate File 304. Iowa’s teacher diversity has room to improve and SF 304 addresses that need by updating the Teach Iowa Program to help recruit minority teachers to Iowa and bring qualified teachers into other areas of need. The Teach Iowa Program currently provides awards of up to $4,000 a year, for up to five years, to qualified teachers to teach in designated shortage areas. The awards are prioritized to teachers renewing from a previous year, followed by recent graduates. SF 304 increases the yearly grant maximum to $7,500 and adds a new section in the priority list: applicants who are minorities. Adding this new prioritization level is important because studies show low-income minority students perform better in school when they have even one teacher with a shared ethnic background.
Another bill passed out of committee this week was Senate File 402. Throughout the past several years, social media has become a place for billions of users to voice their own opinions and thoughts and has become the public square of this century. Recently, more and more people have been concerned about these monopolistic companies censoring conservative voices and points of view. The bill stops tax breaks or other financial incentives from Iowa taxpayers to large social media companies if they censor protected speech of Iowans.
Passing Constitutional Carry for Iowans
This week, SSB 1232 passed out of the Judiciary Committee. This bill makes a number of changes to Iowa’s gun laws, the most important being allowing Iowans to carry firearms without a government permission slip.
This bill says a person no longer needs a permit to lawfully carry or transport a dangerous weapon, either open or concealed, including a loaded firearm. It also allows a buyer of a pistol or a revolver to have either a permit to acquire or a permit to carry, or a satisfactory national instant criminal background check, and creates the crime of carrying firearms on school grounds, making it a class “D” felony. A number of exceptions are created with it, including people specifically authorized by the school, peace officers, or any person carrying in a vehicle where the weapon is unloaded in a fastened case or is inaccessible to the persons in the vehicle.
Additionally, the bill allows EMS personnel to acquire a professional permit to carry if they are attached to a law enforcement tactical team, requiring law enforcement-level training and certification, and requires the Department of Public Safety to adopt rules expanding available training opportunities and licensing.
During the committee process, a question was brought up: What problem does this legislation solve? The Constitution protects individual rights from undue infringement by the government. This bill limits the infringement on that constitutional right of Iowans. Senate Republicans have always taken constitutional rights seriously, whether it is protecting freedom of speech on campuses and in classrooms or ensuring future infringements on the right to own a firearm are reviewed with the strictest form of judicial review. We are again taking up legislation to protect rights granted by the Constitution and take down barriers often standing in the way.