Much has happened in the Iowa House since I was last able to write a newsletter. This session has proven to be one of the most challenging and demanding of the eleven years that I have served the people of Western Iowa. Expectations were high after the November elections, and the intensity of those expectations have not diminished. The expectation being that business as usual was not acceptable and Iowans expected us to take on big issues and be bold in our legislative endeavors. My colleagues and I are working hard to meet and exceed those expectations on a daily basis.
Since the beginning of session we have tackled many issues, some more complex than others. Some bills have taken days to debate, while others only a few hours. We have been adhering to the standard legislative process of introducing legislation, sharing the different legislative proposals with our constituents, making appropriate changes where necessary to address concerns, and in the end crafting good public policy. Some of the bills we have passed through the House have already made it to the Governor’s desk, while others are still being considered in the Senate.
Some of the proposals we have accomplished or are still working on include:
• Collective Bargaining Reforms – These reforms are for the benefit of all the parties involved in the collective bargaining process: the employee, the employer and the taxpayer. This issue garnered a great deal of public input and participation, and multiple changes were made to the legislation to address the concerns that legislators were hearing from their constituents back home.
• School Flexibility – This proposal will allow for the necessary flexibility that school districts need on a local level. Currently, school boards and superintendents have their hands tied when it comes to how some of their local funds may be spent. This proposal will untie their hands and allow them to make decisions on a local level that best fit the educational needs of their communities.
• Election Integrity – My colleagues and I are committed to ensuring the integrity of our elections. With the passage of the election integrity bill Iowan’s will have confidence that a person who casts a ballot on election day is who they say they are, and that they are duly registered to vote in that precinct. For those Iowans who do not have an accepted form of voter ID, they will be issued one free of charge before the next election.
• Budget – The budget this year is proving to be extremely challenging. The revenue estimating conference recently met, and once again downgraded the revenue projections for not only FY17, but also for the coming fiscal years as well. This downgrade for FY17 is roughly $110 million and is in addition to the reduction the legislature dealt with near the beginning of this session. This reduction will mean that we have to tighten our belts even more, not only in this fiscal year, but in the out-years as well. Looking at the FY18 budget the projections show only a modest amount of new revenue that will be available for ongoing programs. This means that in order to cover the growth in Medicaid, as well as the increased investment in education funding, we will have to find cost savings within the current budget. To put it simply, there will be many tough decisions before the legislature in the coming weeks.
• Protecting and Enhancing Second Amendment Rights - The House has passed the most monumental piece of Second Amendment legislation this state has ever seen. This has been something I have been working on since first taking the oath of office in 2007. There are provisions I would have liked to incorporate into this bill, however, the legislative process is about the art of the possible. What we achieved with this bill absolutely provides more freedoms, individual responsibility and protections for law abiding citizens and their Second Amendment Rights. Some of the main provisions in the bill are listed here:
Streamlining Permit to Carry: This provision streamlines the issuance and renewal process for a permit to carry weapons, and clarifies and enhances the safety training process in order to retain a permit. The effect of this streamlining will move us as close to constitutional carry as we have ever been.
Parental Rights Restoration: This provision will allow for a parent to directly supervise and teach their child under the age of 14 how to safely handle handguns. Current law prohibits a parent from doing this and unduly restricts their parental rights.
Permit Confidentiality: Currently in the state of Iowa individuals with a permit to acquire, or permit to carry, are subject to having that information be made public. The proposal will make all personally identifiable information on permits to carry and acquire private. This will not prohibit law enforcement from checking on the validity of an individual’s permit.
Firearms Preemption Enhancement: For 27 years Iowa has had a preemption law on the books that prohibits political subdivisions from creating ordinances that restrict the carrying of firearms by law abiding citizens. This law was enacted to prevent inconsistent firearms regulations from being created across the state. Since the law’s enactment some locations have tried to create firearms prohibitions in violation of the law. The preemption reform provision in this bill establishes legal standing for an individual citizen to challenge these violations of the law without first having to be arrested. If an individual proves they are adversely affected by these restrictions they can then have them removed or overturned.
Stand Your Ground with Immunity Protections: This provision allows for a person to stand their ground and defend themselves or another from an aggressor without first having to retreat. The bill is clear in establishing civil and criminal immunities for someone who is justified in the use of reasonable force. Law abiding citizens should not have to try and run away from an aggressor before they exercise their inalienable right to self-preservation. Some of the critics of this provision claim that this will allow for someone to shoot first and ask questions later or to exact vigilante justice. These claims are an inaccurate misrepresentation of what the provision actually does. Nothing in this provision allows for someone to unreasonably use force and be justified in doing so.
There are other provisions and nuances to the omnibus firearms bill that enhance Iowan’s freedoms so I would encourage anyone who is interested in the bill to read it. It can be found by clicking here, Firearms Omnibus, or by typing in HF517 in the bill search tab on the legislative website. My hope is that this bill will finally make it to the Governor’s desk this year and be signed into law before the end of session. I would like to personally thank the thousands of Iowans who have contacted me over the years and who have helped advance our Second Amendment Rights in Iowa. A great deal of time and effort goes into crafting a piece of legislation of this magnitude and we would not be where we are at today without the help of organizations like the National Rifle Association, and especially the Iowa Firearms Coalition. These two organizations have worked tirelessly to help educate Iowans on the need for the changes in this proposal, and they have been at the Statehouse on a daily basis advocating for this bill and helping move it forward. While this is a huge step forward there is still much work yet to be done.