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Inside the Iowa House: Shift Session Focus to People (March 4, 2023)

When we’re all at the State Capitol, it sometimes feels like we’re in a big bubble. In today’s hyper-partisan political environment, it isn’t always easy to figure out which bills are important to Iowans and how many are just driven by the politics of the day.

To sort it all out, I try to listen to Iowans. What do I hear from folks at my forums or at the grocery store? What am I getting emails about?  What do the majority of Iowans want and what’s important to them? What are other lawmakers hearing in their own districts?

I also pay attention to some trends on social media to sort out what issues Iowans are passionate about. Of course, I use a lot of caution about what’s real on social media because they’re designed to create division and put folks in silos where they only see information that they agree with instead of hearing two sides of any issue.

With the first half of session behind us, it’s a good time to review what’s happened so far and talk about what comes next.  It’s no secret this session has been controversial and some pretty big changes have already been approved.

It started with the Governor’s voucher bill that shifts money from public schools to private schools. It was pushed through quickly over the strong objection of Iowans and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.  I’m still receiving regular emails from Iowans opposed to the bill as they learn more about it.

Over the last few weeks, most of the energy at the State Capitol has been spent on the more than 30 anti-LGBQT+ bills introduced this session. One bill introduced this week would even ban gay marriage after it became legal 14 years ago. Fortunately, Iowans spoke up quickly and killed that bill in just a few days. We had more than 70,000 petition signatures telling us to preserve marriage equality in Iowa.

Another bill offered by a Republican State Senator from Marshall County takes away healthcare from some Iowa kids, even if their parents agree their child needs it. He admitted during a meeting on the bill that it didn’t even come from one of his constituents nor was it written by anyone in Iowa’s medical community. He let a special interest group from Arizona write it and now won’t even let parents in Iowa make decisions for their own kids.

Another huge bill being considered is the Governor’s realignment bill, which is a whopping 1600+ pages. I anticipate the bill making its way to become law this session and there are some good ideas in the bill.
However, it’s clear the bill was written by an out of state company contracted by the Governor that didn’t take input from Iowans. One of the provisions makes some big changes in how services are delivered for Iowans who are blind, but the Governor didn’t bother to include them in the process. It’s obviously not a partisan issue at all and we can always do better, but changes shouldn’t be made solely on the recommendation of an out of state consultant.

With the first half of session now behind us, there’s still plenty of time left to get some work done on the issues we know are important to Iowans, like lowering costs, reproductive freedom, and investing in public schools.

To get that important work done, some lawmakers at the State Capitol are going to have to put politics aside for the next few months.  If a bill was written by an out of state special interest group instead of Iowans, it should be shelved.  If a bill is about healthcare for kids, we’ve got to get input from Iowa doctors and pediatricians and consider the implications for Iowa kids.  If the Governor didn’t take input from Iowans on her plan to reorganize state government, then lawmakers must take the time to do it.

Since the first half of session was all about politics, the second half must be all about people.

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