With the first funnel deadline come and gone, we have started to debate priority bills on the floor. This week was spent debating House Files that don’t have companion legislation in the Senate. This ensures that the bills we pass in the House have enough time to be considered in the Senate before the second funnel deadline.
While controversial issues tend to grab the news headlines each year, the vast amount of work we do in the Legislature is widely bipartisan. Over the last three years, about 90% of the bills we pass are either supported by members of both parties or unanimous. Republicans and Democrats have disagreements on policy. But overall, we do a great job of working together and finding common ground.
This week, I want to highlight a couple of bills that passed the House that are very important to Iowans:
House File 2383 – Retaining Health Care Professionals in Iowa
The first bill I want to highlight will help Iowa retain health care professionals in the state after they graduate from dental or medical school. We face a shortage of health care providers across the state, particularly when it comes to primary care, specialty care, and mental health care. Easing this shortage and attracting health care providers, specifically to rural communities, has been one of our top priorities over the last several sessions.
We can start to address a shortage of providers by keeping our best and brightest right here in the state. House File 2383 aims to do just that by requiring the University of Iowa Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry to prioritize Iowa students over out-of-state students. This legislation requires at least 75% of admitted students to be residents of Iowa or to have completed their undergrad here in the state.
House File 2383 will help Iowa retain health care professionals to practice here after graduation. Students with previous ties to the state are more likely to stay in Iowa, work in Iowa, pay taxes in Iowa, and raise their families in Iowa. There is no guarantee that students from New York or California will remain in the state following graduation. The University of Iowa is a taxpayer-funded institution and exists to serve the State of Iowa and the citizens of Iowa.
House File 2339 – Protecting Free Speech and Reducing Frivolous Lawsuits
Another important bill we passed this week deals with SLAPP lawsuits. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation and these lawsuits are intended to silence bad press and suppress free speech by dragging people through costly and lengthy court fights.
The bill was in response to a situation that occurred in 2017 when a small family-owned newspaper in western Iowa published a story about a local police officer’s sexual relationship with a teenager and other previous questionable actions. This story ultimately led to the resignation of the police officer, who was under threat of termination. The ex-officer then sued the paper for libel. The newspaper ultimately won the lawsuit but was forced to incur thousands of dollars in legal fees, simply for exposing the truth.
House File 2339 provides individuals with a new avenue to have frivolous SLAPP lawsuits reviewed by a judge in a timely manner, so they can be dismissed early in the legal process. This legislation ensures that freedom of speech is protected and that when someone’s bad actions or misdeeds are brought to light, they are held accountable.