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There is no other way to describe the dysfunction on display as the 2022 legislative session is supposed to be wrapping up this week. This is the fourth year I have been at the Capitol to cover session, and it has been by far the most disappointing.

This isn’t to say it hasn’t delivered a few key victories — tax reform and protecting women’s sports — to name a couple.

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But, last time I checked, Republicans control the Senate 32-18 and the House 60-40. Republicans also have a governor who has been willing to take on some controversial issues.

Yet here we are watching a dysfunctional Iowa House refuse to pass the education bill proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds and passed by the Iowa Senate. The key proponent of the proposal is 10,000 Education Savings Accounts that would be made available to Iowa families.

It is a very limited, modest ESA proposal. It’s one that doesn’t excite me that much, to be honest, but I also recognize it is a start.

And, considering the House failed to pass ESAs last year and appears to be struggling to find the votes this year, I guess it’s the best we can hope for.

Right now the reality staring folks in the face is the Republican legislature did nothing to address the incident that took place at the Pella Aquatic Center where a teenage biological female went topless because she identified as a male.

A bill to remove gender identity from the civil rights code as introduced, but it was killed by Rep. Steve Holt. It was a bill introduced by Representatives Dean Fisher, Skyler Wheeler, Mark Cisneros and Sandy Salmon.

And it never even received a subcommittee hearing.

Why do Iowans have to pay for sex-change surgeries? Because gender identity is protected in the civil rights code. Why do Iowans have to send their children to public schools where their students are forced to share bathrooms and locker rooms with students of the opposite sex? Because gender identity is protected in the civil rights code.

Why? Because this bill doesn’t advance in a Republican-controlled House. And, as one state representative told me, they have no interest in removing gender identity and/or sexual orientation from the civil rights code and neither do the majority of Republicans in the Iowa House.

Nothing has gotten across the finish line that addresses the obscene material and pornographic material in Iowa school libraries — and it doesn’t appear anything meaningful on that topic will.

Nothing has gotten across the finish line that really addresses transparency in education — transparency in advance, not after the fact.

After the last two years, with everything we’ve seen happening in Iowa schools, this is shocking.

Again, if Republicans wanted to address these things, there is not a single thing Democrats could do to stop them.

And now, during the campaign cycle, we’re seeing supposed “conservatives” endorsing candidates who quite frankly are moderate Republicans at best. Perhaps this is due to problems with the personalities of other legislators, but when we put personality in front of policy the result isn’t typically a good thing.

At the end of the day, if roles were reversed and Democrats had the trifecta, we know they would push their radical liberal agenda as far and as fast as possible. Yet Republicans aren’t willing to get their agenda out of neutral.

They’re still just coasting out of the driveway.

Why?

Perhaps the most concerning thing has been the utter lack of urgency when it comes to addressing the most pressing issues. Either not enough elected Republicans think these things matter or not enough support taking action, I’m not sure which is worse.

Well, it is possible not enough elected Republicans think these are things that need to be addressed or should be changed — which I guess would be worse. I suppose they may not have a problem with them. They may even support them.

This year, more than any other at the Capitol, has taught me there really aren’t 100 individual legislators in the Iowa House. There’s really just a couple of teams — or parties. There are about a dozen real conservatives in the House, but even some of the conservatives at the end of the day will simply dive on the grenade and “protect the caucus” when push comes to shove.

Very few of them will actually go out on a limb and cross the leadership — or the caucus.

If Iowa House Republicans do not have the votes for Education Savings Accounts, that is fine, just put it to the floor for a vote. Let us know which Republicans do not support parental choice in education.

That’s all. We can live with an honest disagreement, but we shouldn’t be expected to stomach voter suppression in terms of information like this for a second straight year.

Overall, it seems politics to most politicians — even at the state level — is more a job than a duty. Decisions are made based on “numbers” and “the caucus” and “re-election” and “maintaining the majority.”

And if the choice is letting Iowans know where their colleagues stand or protecting their colleagues, they choose to protect their colleagues.

It’s backward.

It isn’t representative government. It’s representative government run amuck.

Yet it is what we have.

I say all this knowing it’s easy for me to say it when I’m not in the caucus and I don’t understand just how difficult it is to get 50 other people on board with an issue or an idea. But I also know that it’s going to be difficult to get 50 other people on board when you keep protecting people who aren’t on board with those issues or ideas.

And at this point, this is a black eye not just for the House Republicans who refuse to act on these critical issues, it is a black eye on all House Republicans who continue to support the leadership that allows it and provide protection for the RINOs who need it.

There are Republicans in the Iowa House who do a great job at sharing conservative words and conservative speeches. But delivering conservative legislation is seemingly a struggle.

And it is a vicious cycle. It’s hard because they keep protecting the weak-kneed Republicans.

At some point, a conservative in the Iowa House would say enough is enough and demand votes whether 51 members support it or not. And if the votes aren’t given, then they’d demand new leadership.

In closing, they’d do something. They would not continue with the same strategy and expect different results. That’d be insane.

Unfortunately, far too few Iowa House Republicans are actually conservative. They talk a good game. But when the time comes to walk the walk, even their conservative knees get a little weak.

Let’s hope some progress is made in the coming days and weeks when it comes to tackling these issues that matter so much more than biofuel mandates or the policy on returning cans and bottles.

Author: Jacob Hall

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