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The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee on Monday unanimously dismissed an ethics complaint against 28 Republican senators who voted for House File 847, which contains language prohibiting schools from requiring students or employees to wear masks.
Erin Dahl filed the complaint alleging the senators discriminated against Iowans with disabilities in voting for the bill that prohibits school boards from ordering masks to be worn to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Senators ignored the extreme risk posed to disabled and medically vulnerable students and their families,” she said. The spread of the coronavirus is “making every place in Iowa an unsafe place.”
Their actions, Dahl added, are consistent with public officials dismissing Iowans with disabilities “as irrelevant, unimportant and simply collateral damage.”
The Senate panel of three Democrats and three Republicans voted to dismiss the complaint because it didn’t have jurisdiction, according to Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.
For the committee to have jurisdiction, Jochum said, it would need “some kind of proof of a campaign contribution or promise of a contribution in the future in exchange for a vote. Certainly there is no such proof of such action or behavior taking place.”
“I really feel for the parents,” she said, “but this is something that needs to go to the courts.”
A federal judge Monday issued a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the ban until the court issues an order for a preliminary injunction.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, agreed the courts are the proper venue for Dahl and anyone else concerned with the application of a law. Absent a conflict of interest, voting on legislation is not a violation of ethics rules and simply disagreeing with legislation is not the basis for an ethics complaint, he said in a written response to her complaint.
“Dismissing these complaints does not prohibit (an) individuals from taking another course of action,” he said, but that the Ethics Committee is not the proper venue to voice concerns about the application of a law.
He also pointed out HF 847 “certainly does not prohibit anyone in the state of Iowa from wearing a mask, should they voluntarily choose to do so.”
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