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Senator Rocky DeWitt (March 24, 2023)

The eleventh week of the legislative session focused on floor debate before another major legislative deadline next week. One bill debated this week was Senate File 547, known as the “hands free” bill. This bill is designed to keep Iowa roads safer from the dangers of cell phone usage while driving. SF 547 would update the law, making it illegal to use electronic devices while driving unless it is used in a voice-activated/hands free mode. The bill passed in the Senate on Wednesday with bipartisan support. Hands-free legislation is supported by law enforcement and has been shown to reduce traffic deaths and injuries in states with similar legislation. Senate File 315 also passed the Senate this week with bipartisan support. Senate File 315 allows for the sale of fresh, or unpasteurized, milk and dairy products for small producers with 10 dairy animals or less directly to consumers. The bill would allow for the legal selling of fresh milk but establishes regulations to ensure consumer safety. Products with fresh milk will be required to be labeled as such and fresh milk producers must have animals examined by a veterinarian annually. Fresh milk may only be distributed directly to consumers through individual orders and cannot be distributed in areas such as restaurants or grocery stores. This kind of dairy market is growing, and this bill allows for small producers to safely produce in this niche market.Parental Bill of Rights Advances  Since the onset of the pandemic, many parents have become more aware and involved in the content taught to their students and the materials available to them at their school. Ensuring parents are part of their children’s education has become a nationwide conversation from Virginia to Iowa. Some parents have routinely described explicit materials available to their young students. They naturally are unnerved by that content and believe the delicate topics of gender and sexuality are best taught in the home. Sexual development and sexually explicit content are properly determined to be issues explained in the context of the moral and religious beliefs of Iowa families. SF 496 was a bill introduced by Governor Reynolds to address and enhance parental involvement in their children’s education. This bill, which the Senate passed on Wednesday, has no book bans, no implementation of speech codes, and the wildly exaggerated claims of censorship also do not exist in this bill. SF 496 simply implements common sense. It is completely reasonable for sexually explicit content to be unavailable to elementary students in their taxpayer-funded school. It is completely reasonable to ensure parents are informed of their children’s activities in school, especially on an issue as sensitive as gender identity. It is also completely reasonable to prohibit discussions of gender identity and sexual activity to kindergarteners and elementary students. A Democrat on the floor of the Senate said, “There are some things parents shouldn’t have access to.” This statement as well as any other describes the difference between the supermajority in the Iowa Senate and the superminority. Instead of hiding information from parents, in SF 496 Senate Republicans have enshrined the concept of parental rights into Iowa law. The principle has appeared in state judicial rulings for nearly a century, and it is now one step closer to being in Iowa law. Succinctly, parental rights is the concept that parents bear the ultimate and fundamental responsibility for the upbringing of their child. Students are not mere wards of the state and parents must have the ability to guide their education, moral and religious upbringing, and the preparation for their future.

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