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Wednesday I spoke in favor of Sen. Amy Sinclair’s First Amendment rights-in-education proposal (Senate Study Bill 1205). The bill applies to both K-12 public schools and public universities in our state. This is a very important and much-needed bill.

The bill does a number of things, including making sure that university and public school employees understand freedom of expression. Over the years, issues have repeatedly popped up concerning freedom of speech on campuses and a lack of diverse opinions at schools. Colleges and universities are supposed to be places to learn and hear all points of view, and it is clear this isn’t always happening.

Among its specific provisions is a requirement that schools that provide mandatory training for staff or students ensure that the training does not include race or sex stereotyping. Prejudice is wrong, no matter who has it or who receives it. It also requires school districts to establish policies that protect students and faculty from discrimination based on political bias. SSB 1205 ensures that our most important constitutional freedoms are protected at elementary & secondary schools and at higher education institutions.

Although I’m speaking in committee, and during floor debate, when I have knowledge and passion about an issue, as a freshman legislator, I do more listening than talking when we gather in the Senate chamber. It’s a learning process and I’m building relationships with my colleagues. My goal is to be both principled and effective at the Capitol.

The seventh week of session was busy as many bills moved out of committee. Next week is the first funnel week of this legislative session, meaning all Senate policy bills need to be out of Senate committees in order to be considered for the rest of the year. This deadline ensures we are focusing on the bills with enough support to advance through the process. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments on the legislation and issues in the Legislature. I am honored to serve you and be your voice at the Capitol. We have worked on a lot of important issues already this year, and I look forward to seeing what the coming weeks hold.

The Senate has been discussing interesting bills of value to many Iowans. One of these bills was House File 260, which allows a person or program providing childcare in someone’s home for five or fewer children. It also would allow six or fewer children if at least one of the children is school-aged. Currently, a childcare home providing childcare to more than five children must register as a child development home. Finding affordable childcare in Iowa, especially in rural areas, has been difficult, and even more so this last year. This legislation is one step we can take to help families looking for childcare in their area and provide more options to working Iowans.

Improving the Administration and Security of Iowa’s Elections

The Senate debated Senate File 413 this week, making a number of improvements to Iowa’s election law to make it clearer, stronger, and more secure for election officials across the state. Over the years, Senate Republicans have been making improvements to election law in Iowa like requiring a voter ID to vote and request an absentee ballot. Each time a bill comes before the Senate, opponents throw wild accusations claiming the new laws will suppress voters or make it harder to vote in Iowa. Democrats continued this lie and tried to deceive Iowans this week in debate, again throwing accusations this legislation would suppress voters. In every election since these reforms began, Iowa has had record voter turnout. In 2018 Iowa had record voter turnout for a non-presidential year, and again in 2020 more Iowans voted than in any previous election, even amid a public health emergency. The claims of voter suppression are simply and obviously not true.

The bill would strengthen Iowa’s elections after the vulnerabilities found after this last election cycle and standardize election law across the state and across every county. It changes the signature requirements of candidates seeking state and federal office to a uniform benchmark, brings our state more in line with the national average for early voting days and return deadlines, and standardizes the times polls close in Iowa instead of it varying for different elections. Iowans will have three weeks to vote in an election, which provides time for informed voting and reduces voter remorse.

We heard from many county auditors with concerns about one section of the bill that adds new penalties for auditors who refuse to follow the law. This legislation will not punish auditors who simply make mistakes. This legislation will only punish those auditors who openly defy the election law as written by the Iowa Legislature. Auditors found to be intentionally violating state law are subject a fine up to $10,000 from the Secretary of State and the county attorney will be notified to investigate possible election misconduct.

This legislation does not inhibit any voter from requesting and voting by absentee ballot. Iowans will still have all avenues to request an absentee ballot as they did in previous elections. Request forms can be found on the Secretary of State’s website, at the county auditor’s office, or even by mail if a campaign, organization, or political party decides to send them out or if a voter requests one from their auditor.

SF 413 continues the legislature’s work in bringing more integrity to elections in Iowa, ensuring it will always be easy for Iowans to vote, but hard to cheat.

Author: Jeff Taylor