From Sen. Brad Zaun’s newsletter:
I was honored to floor manage Senate Joint Resolution 18 this week, this legislation is the first step in placing the right to keep and bear arms in the Iowa Constitution. Iowa is one of only 6 states in the country to lack constitutional protections for this fundamental right and this policy will take Iowa off that ignominious list.
The language in this legislation is nearly identical to the Second Amendment in the US Constitution with one important exception. It requires the Iowa Supreme Court to use the strictest evaluation on legal restrictions to the right of Iowans to keep and bear arms. This language is important because, as was illustrated in 2008 when legal challenges came to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, only one vote on the US Supreme Court separated law-abiding citizens from their constitutional right.
Adding this language to the Iowa Constitution provides a layer of constitutional protections at the state level for the law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. This legislation also passed the Iowa House on Wednesday. In order for it to be added to the Iowa Constitution, it must be passed in the same manner in the next General Assembly and then passed by a majority of Iowans in a statewide vote.
Also, this week, the Iowa Senate passed important reforms to how judges are picked in Iowa. Senate File 237 makes a number of changes to judicial nominating commissions in order to give the people of Iowa more of a voice, increase accountability, and brings balance to commissions across the state.
Senate File 237 proposes the state nomination commission to contain eight individuals who will continue to be appointed by the governor, while the remaining eight are appointed by legislative leaders: two by the Senate Majority Leader, two by the Senate Minority Leader, two by the Speaker of the House, and two by the House Minority Leader. The bill does not include Senate confirmation, as we’ve often seen appointees fall victim to the other party’s politics on Senate floor. This way the minority in the legislature always has a say in the process.
When it comes to our district nomination commissions, they will continue to be made up of five people appointed by the governor and five people selected by the Iowa Bar. The bill does take out senior judges as chairs on the commissions and instead allows members to appoint their own chair of the commission.
The courts will still get to appoint a member on the commission. Additionally, the bill expands the judicial applicant pool by only requiring a person to live in the district upon their appointment and standardizes the processes for nomination commissions all over the state.
I’d like to reaffirm that with these changes, Iowa will continue to be a merit-based system and it does not move our state towards electing judges or require any kind of Constitutional amendment. We are simply changing how the commissions are put together in order to give Iowans more of a voice and trying to bring more accountability those who select our state’s judges.