The debate in the Iowa Senate

Tod Bowman
Iowa State Senator, 29th Dist.

     Last week, the Senate passed a rushed and disastrous tax bill that would compound the State’s deficit and severely damage essential state services. Senator Randy Feenstra, the bill’s principle writer and floor manager, even acknowledged that “we’re not forecasting any economic growth in this bill.” At a public forum last week, Republican Representative Andy McKean expressed that “as a House Republican, I want to tell you the Senate bill is indeed dead on arrival…I think it’s an amazingly irresponsible piece of legislation.” I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House chamber on a tax bill that is more thoroughly considered, treats all Iowans fairly, and protects the services Iowans depend on.

     Our legislative leaders began this session saying their biggest priority this session was job creation, as it should be. Instead, here is what they put on their agenda this week:

     • Senate Republicans passed Senate File 2282, which would require a supermajority of five (out of seven) Iowa Supreme Court Justices to declare a law unconstitutional, as opposed to a simple majority of four. I take serious issue with undermining judicial independence and see this as undercutting the crucial separation of powers in our state.

     • Senate File 2346 would make the first name on any ballot in a partisan election the nominee of the party that received the most votes in the last general election. At this time, Republicans would be placed first on the ballot. I don’t believe this should be partisan-based at all, especially since studies show voters are more likely to choose the first listed candidate. Many states have randomized ballots, or have candidates draw lots to determine whose name is placed first or second. Some states have several different versions of the same ballot with different orders to account for any random bias towards the first listed candidate. There are many more fair and unbiased ways to determine ballot order than party.

     • Senate File 2311 deregulates public utilities like gas and electric throughout the state, and removes oversight on emissions and energy efficiency. I agree that Iowa’s energy and utilities policy needs to be reworked. However, any redesign must treat consumers fairly, and offer incentives for Iowans and energy companies to emphasize efficiency and sustainability.

     This isn’t to say we haven’t made progress on some big issues this week. We further amended our school emergency plan bill (SF 2113), which requires all Iowa schools to have emergency action plans in the case of an active shooter. We added private schools to the requirement, included provisions that require Department of Education best practice recommendations be used in formulating the plans and require teachers to conduct at least one drill in the school building per year. I proposed an amendment that would have included the participation of school psychologists and social workers, who work directly with children in our schools. However, this amendment was voted down by Senate Republicans.

     The Legislature has roughly one month left in this General Assembly, and there’s a great deal left to do. We haven’t fixed our state’s scattered mental health resources. Privatized Medicaid is still failing thousands of Iowans who need it most. I’m still waiting for the majority party to come out with the bills that will balance next year’s budget.

     Iowans expect action, especially on the issues that matter to them, but the agenda at the Statehouse right now is not coming from Iowans. Iowa doesn’t want tax policies that are fiscally irresponsible. Iowans didn’t ask for unnecessary power-grabs from our independent judicial branch. I’m committed to working with all my colleagues on what Iowans want: to grow Iowa’s economy in a fiscally responsible way.


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