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Iowa Republican lawmakers are experts in ignoring experts
One of the biggest losers during the just-completed 2023 Iowa legislative session was expertise, along with its close family members knowledge, experience, research and evidence.
They all took it on the chin from majority Republicans, most of whom are not doctors, water quality researchers or professional educators. They just play those parts under the Golden Dome of Wisdom, now redder than ever.
Much of the Republican “education” agenda was built on the idea that professional public school teachers, administrators and librarians can’t be trusted to educate the state’s children. So lawmakers decided to spend billions of public dollars over the next decade sending kids to private schools. They set up a system for banning any book in school libraries that depicts an “explicit” sex act and prohibited teachers from using even age-appropriate curriculum discussing LGBTQ issues in grades K-6.
Republicans did all this in defiance of educators, while chanting the mantra of “parents’ rights.” Those rights only apply to parents who are their political allies. See Moms for Liberty. The rest of us have no right to make sure our children receive a full education not subject to the politicized whims of conservative crusaders.
Lawmakers simply know more than professional educators.
A series of experts lined up to warn lawmakers that bills targeting transgender kids would do considerable harm. Requiring school staff to inform parents if a student starts using a new name or pronoun would isolate already marginalized kids, cut off a support system at school and raise an already outsized threat of suicide, abuse and bullying.
Prohibiting the use of bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity would leave them at high risk of sexual assault and violence, according to research provided to lawmakers. Katie Imborek, co-director of the University of Iowa Health Care’s LGBTQ+ Clinic and Dave Williams, chief medical officer at UnityPoint Health told lawmakers a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender kids would ignore guidance from the American Medical Association, the American Pediatric Association and the American Association of Psychiatrists.
The care is provided with parental consent, they said, and helps with emotional and behavioral issues, thoughts of suicide and depression.
Most Republicans voted in favor of the bathroom ban and a ban on gender-affirming care anyway. They just simply know more than the people who actually care for these kids. And what Republicans know is manufacturing fear of transgender students is great politics.
Republicans ended the requirement that public schools educate students about the HPV vaccine, which can prevent life-threatening cancers. Health professionals sounded the alarm, but what do they know?
Then there was Gov. Kim Reynolds’ 1,600-page bill reorganizing state government.
The state’s consumer advocate no longer must be a “competent lawyer,” who can advocate for utility consumers in court in disputes with the Iowa Utilities Board. They will only have to please GOP Attorney General Brenna Bird, who can now fire the advocate at will.
The governor-appointed director of the Department of Administrative Services will pick the state librarian instead of the state Commission of Libraries. What do library professionals know?
The state Board of Health, which was an 11-member board with seven members specializing in health care fields, will be eliminated. It’s replaced by a nine-member board with just one member working in a health care field. Seems smart. I bet it won’t ever criticize the governor’s public health decisions.
County attorneys no longer need to request help from the Attorney General’s Office on local cases. Instead, the bill clarifies that Attorney General Bird can grab any local case she wants with no input from the county prosecutor. What does the elected county attorney know, anyway?
Republican lawmakers voted to curtail the power of the state auditor to obtain records while conducting investigations. Sure, a bipartisan national group of auditors argued against the change and analysts in the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency warned the state could lose billions of dollars in federal funding by kneecapping the lone Democrat holding statewide office, but who cares what they think?
This past week, lawmakers passed a budget for state universities that bars them from spending money on new Diversity Equity and Inclusion programs, training and hires. Republicans have apparently become experts on DEI. Well, at least they’re experts on identifying anything that might make white people defensive, uncomfortable or, God forbid, introspective.
Lawmakers also approved a budget that eliminates funding for a network of river and stream sensors measuring pollution flowing into streams and waterways, mostly from farming operations. Researchers wondered how the state would measure its progress, or, lack of progress, cleaning up Iowa’s dirty water. Silly experts, that’s what Iowa Department of Agriculture news releases are for.
Republicans cracked down on Iowans getting food assistance. But the fact is there’s very little fraud and the crackdown will cost taxpayers more. Trust us, these children, disabled Iowans and elderly people are resting in hammocks. Something must be done.
So why are Republicans so hostile to expertise, research and evidence.
When support for your policies relies on propaganda, hokum and conspiracy theories, having a bunch of experts around to present reality is the last thing you want.
You can’t accept the conclusions of experts when you’re contending that Iowa’s water really is clean, being transgender isn’t real, books by authors of color and LGBTQ writers need to be removed from school libraries, teachers are practicing liberal indoctrination, there are litter boxes in school bathrooms, the 2020 election was rigged, COVID vaccines are deadly, masking is child abuse, radical socialists want to destroy America and the government will control our electric cars.
You can’t own the libs if you’re going to let a bunch of facts get in the way. Do your research.
So long as voters keep handing these people power, we can expect more public policy based on prefabricated nonsense, much of it shipped in by conservative think tanks and bill mills funded by a handful of rich conservatives. If you want an uninformed, dishonest and callous government, this was the legislative session for you.
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