What happened to 'smaller, smarter' government?

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Steve Corbin, guest columnist

In college I read George Orwell’s novel 1984. Never did I dream it would become Amazon’s best-seller 50 years later, and for a good reason.

The book is about living suppressed under a totalitarian regime, similar to Iowa’s GOP-dominated legislature. Iowa’s 29 Republican Senators and 59 Republican House of Representatives have taken on the role of Big Brother, the main character of George Orwell’s novel.

I’m sure all these Big Brothers espoused the familiar mantra of working for “smaller, smarter” government while they were campaigning last fall. Once elected, however, legislators left no question they think state control supersedes local control. A number of bills we saw are direct descendants of ideas from Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, Bob Vander Plaats’ The Family Leader, Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, Iowa Farm Bureau and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Legislators undermined collective bargaining for 183,000 Iowans. They expanded gun access to toddlers, authorized a shoot-first mentality, removed the ban on weapons in state buildings and prohibited counties and the Board of Regents from enacting firearm restrictions. They defunded Planned Parenthood even though 77 percent of Iowans support funding for the organization’s non-abortion services and legalized fireworks over the objection of law enforcement, veterans and medical professionals.

In other highlights, GOP legislators:

1. Limited workers’ compensation benefits, despite testimony from John Burton, a Republican economist and workers’ compensation expert, that there is no need to change Iowa’s current law.

2. Passed a Voter ID bill despite objections from county auditors who called it unnecessary, expensive and discriminatory.

3. Barred cities and counties from enacting locally approved minimum wage increases.

4. Attempted to dissolve the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) despite 90 percent of voters wanting to keep DMWW as is.

5. Considered Iowa’s nickel deposit on beverage containers, prima facie evidence that GOP legislators are dancing (i.e., voting) with the ones (i.e. grocery and convenience stores) who brought them (i.e., political contributions) to the ball.

6. Considered a $240 million school choice voucher initiative, spearheaded by Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, which would take money away from public schools and be given to non-public schools; a slap to the face of Iowa’s 35,000 public school educators.

Clearly, state control is in vogue; local control is extinct.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Walt Rogers have touted “Smaller-Smarter” as the GOP philosophy. Republicans have not made Iowa “smaller” in government control, but larger. Much of the GOP legislation enacted and proposed during this past session blatantly went against the will of the people. That’s not “smarter;” it’s dumber.

If you approve of your Big Brother legislators enacting lobbyist- and PAC- written bills that impose state control over local control and implement policies that discriminate, continue your support.

But if Big Brother’s political actions are troubling, let legislators know you will only support representatives who put “We the people” before their party, respecting and protecting local control.

• Steve Corbin, Professor Emeritus of Marketing, University of Northern Iowa, is one of 12 District Leaders in Iowa for the non-partisan and not-for-profit No Labels. More information: www.NoLabels.org

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