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Subcommittee and committee work took up most, if not all, of our time during the sixth week because the end of the week is the first legislative deadline of the year, nicknamed ‘funnel week.’ This deadline requires most legislation be passed out of committee in its originating chamber – Senate bills need to be out of Senate committees, and House bills need to be out of House committees – in order to continue to be considered this session. This process ensures we can focus our time in Des Moines on priority issues.

Senate File 2129 is a bill to clarify the language of the constitutional amendment that automatically restores voting rights for felons once they complete their sentence and pay victim restitution. A concern regularly raised regarding this issue is whether all felons should automatically have their voting rights restored, or are some crimes, like rape and murder, so serious those felons may not receive voting rights back without additional requirements. SF 2129 only goes into effect if the constitutional amendment is adopted, and it requires only those who have committed the worst crimes, to contact the governor’s office to have their voting rights restored. Most other felons will have their voting rights automatically restored once they have completed their sentence and paid applicable victim restitution.

Passing legislation like SF 2129 to address the details of this issue are important to eliminate confusion if this change is implemented. Nearly 18 months after Floridians voted to eliminate their constitutional prohibition on felon voting, lawsuits and confusion are still dominating the news as that state’s primary election quickly approaches.

While the discussion of removing the constitutional prohibition on felon voting continues, the Iowa Senate is also considering a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of victims of these felonies. Iowa is known to have one of the strongest victim’s rights laws in the country. The discussion of this bill, Senate Joint Resolution 8, focuses on strengthen those laws by putting some of this language into Iowa’s constitution. It will ensure the rights of the victim are protected if the rights of the felon are restored.

The Senate also moved forward a constitutional amendment to ensure only U.S. citizens are participating in all elections conducted in Iowa. Cities like Chicago and San Francisco are allowing non-citizens to vote in their local elections, and some in Iowa have openly considered it. Voting is a fundamental and critical right granted to US citizens, and any other interference diminishes the voice of US citizens who work, pay taxes, and contribute to our communities.

Author: Brad Zaun