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DES MOINES - The Iowa Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would deny high-tech companies future state and local tax breaks if they were found by a court to have illegally stifled speech or certain viewpoints on social media platforms.
'The sad reality is that we have liberal executives in the Silicon Valley dictating what Iowans are going to be fed through social media platforms,” said Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, lead sponsor of Senate File 580.
The bill, approved on a 30-17 party-line vote, could impact hundreds of millions of dollars - more than $1 billion by one senator's estimate - in state and local tax incentives for Big Tech corporations like Facebook, Google and Microsoft if a court finds they have violated the free speech rights of Iowans.
Republicans who touted the bill - which now goes to the Iowa House - called it a strike against 'tyrannical propagandists” who must be challenged, given that social media has become the modern town square.
Democrats dismissed the measure as a 'political” document that will hurt Iowa's image among businesses and in the world at large.
'We have to confront this here and now. Big Tech is a real threat to the freedom and future of what America stands for,” said Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City.
'This handful of people have the wherewithal to silence whoever they please,” he told his Senate colleagues. 'They have dominion over what we're allowed to see, to hear, to read, the power to tell us what we're allowed to think. No tech CEO in Silicon Valley should have that kind of power.”
However, Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, called the bill an 'anti-jobs, anti-tech, anti-business, anti-growth” measure by 'radical” majority Republicans 'drunk with power,” that is giving Iowa's reputation a 'black eye” in the business community and scaring away development prospects.
'I wish Gov. Reynolds would have stepped up to tell you that this bill is bad for business because now, even if she vetoes this bill, the damage is going to be hard to repair,” Petersen said.
Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, said the bill takes Iowa 'to the land of backward thinking” and 'demonstrates delusions of mediocrity.”
Noah Herring law
Also Wednesday, senators voted 47-0 to approve legislation which would make it a crime to fail to disclose the location of a dead body with the intent to conceal a crime.
Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, said the bill, Senate File 243, was in response to events following the drowning of Noah Herring at the Coralville Lake in the summer of 2020.
Noah Herring, 15, drowned April 7. 2020, in Coralville Lake. Three teens and an adult were present when Noah died, but the Johnson County Sheriff's Office said none of them called 911, and they withheld information about Noah's whereabouts. His body was finally recovered April 11.
At the end of the investigation, the only applicable charges - misdemeanors - related to theft and destruction of property. Those present when Noah drowned didn't face any charges for failing to alert authorities because such charges didn't exist.
Under the proposed law, anyone who witnesses someone else 'suffering from imminent danger of death or risk of serious injury” and fails to contact authorities would be committing an aggravated misdemeanor. Additionally, if someone abuses a corpse and fails to disclose its location to conceal a crime, he or she would be committing a Class D felony.
'This really hits home because it happened in my community,” Kinney said. 'This is a bill about Noah Herring who passed away. His family came to me, and was up in arms about what could be done. We worked through this. And all the Herring family wanted was so this did not happen to another family.”
The bill now goes to the Iowa House.
Another bill heading to the Iowa House for consideration is Senate File 529, legislation that says Iowans who are victims of assisted reproductive fraud would be able to seek legal damages and perpetrators would face felony criminal charges under a 'fraud in assisted reproduction act.”
The legislation, which passed 47-0, seeks to address cases where those seeking fertility assistance are instead victims of fraud, specifically cases where the physician misrepresents the sperm donor's identity.
The bill classifies the new offense as third-degree sex abuse, a level included on the sex offender registry.
It prohibits a person from providing false information to a patient related to assisted reproduction treatment and prohibits a physician from using human reproductive material for assisted reproduction other than that agreed to in writing by the patient.
In addition, the legislation ensures that any health care provider or facility may have its license revoked for violating the law; a patient or family member could sue anyone who violates the law for compensatory and punitive damages; and any physicians who use their own human reproductive material in the assisted reproduction procedure would be guilty of third-degree sexual abuse when the physician uses their own human reproductive material in the assisted reproduction procedure.
And finally, the Iowa Senate voted 30-17 along party lines Wednesday to send to the governor's desk legislation that says cities cannot prevent landlords from rejecting potential tenants who use government housing vouchers to pay rent.
Before giving final passage, senators approved a House amendment that would move the implementation of Senate File 252 to Jan. 1, 2023. Ordinances affected by this bill are in effect in Des Moines, Iowa City and Marion.
Backers said landlords should have the freedom to decide if they want to accept so-called Section 8 vouchers. Democrats countered the ban will hurt low-income Iowans, including veterans, elderly and disabled Iowans who get government housing assistance.
'This takes you out of a home and puts you in a car,” said Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, noting the bill was intended to shame low-income Iowans who take government help at a time when some Iowa farmers got 39 percent of their income from federal subsidies.
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