116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Our Golden Dome of Wisdom is opening for business once again on Monday. And the best we can hope for is that Republicans who run the joint won’t make their worst impulses into laws.
Take Gov. Kim Reynolds, who told a Fox News audience in April she wants to sign a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating school sports. She argues targeting these Iowans is a matter of fairness, contending transgender athletes will have a competitive advantage. That hasn’t been a problem in Iowa, but the governor is eager to put another culture war notch in her Red State Trailblazer gun belt.
Some GOP lawmakers also are talking about removing “gender identity” from protection under the Iowa Civil Rights Code. It would be an unprecedented and spiteful retraction of civil rights, subjecting transgender Iowans to all forms of discrimination.
Or take Senate President Jake Chapman and Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Zaun, who in November came out in favor of creating a new felony penalty for schoolteachers and staff who make books available in school libraries the lawmakers see as obscene. Most of titles they’re targeting are written by LGBTQ authors and people of color. They mention sex.
The threat of jail time should do wonders for our worsening teacher shortage.
With the U.S. Supreme Court appearing ready to toss women’s reproductive rights on the scrap heap, Republicans could move to further restrict access to abortion, or perhaps ban the procedure.
And there’s a move underway among GOP lawmakers to ban businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated, and not just against COVID-19. Business owners would be barred from asking about a worker’s vaccine status or keeping any employee medical records. They also would be prohibited from requiring customers to wear masks.
“I can’t think of a greater civil rights issue than this,” said Rep. Jon Jacobsen, R-Council Bluffs during a recent news conference, according to the Des Moines Register. “Think about it, if you … are coerced to lose control of your autonomy over your very body itself, you’re not in an employer-employee relationship, you’re in an indentured servant/slave relationship there," he said.
Taking women’s bodily autonomy away, no problem. Banning Iowa school students from being taught about institutional racism, no problem. Ban books, fine. Trying to protect the health and safety of employees and customers during a pandemic? Basically slavery. There’s being out of touch and then there’s being completely untethered from the surly bonds of reality.
Republicans are also talking about eliminating the individual income tax, which pays for more than half of Iowa’s general fund budget. That’s public schools, universities, public health, safety and the courts, to name a few core state functions. No word on whether lawmakers will ban schools from teaching budgeting.
These are truly lousy ideas.
Local school officials who know these kids and the state associations that know and set the rules for athletics can handle issues with transgender sports participation. We don’t need lawmakers stepping in to require genital checks. And denying these athletes a chance to play denies them the educational benefits sports can bring.
The tiresome argument that transgender civil rights are a problem is being advanced by the same people who told us allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children would be harmful, that adding gender identity and sexual orientation would result in a barrage of lawsuits and that marriage equality would destroy traditional marriages. All wrong. Why does anyone still listen to them?
Schools already have processes for handling parent complaints about books and curriculum. And is there a school librarian anywhere in Iowa who would deny parents information about what’s on the shelves? This is another instance of if you want to make things worse, just add lawmakers.
Eliminate the income tax? The math simply doesn’t work, even with a $2 billion budget surplus. It’s merely a dream until Republicans actually explain how the state will replace lost revenues or what agencies or programs the state will stop funding.
And just because the Republican Party in Iowa has welcomed in anti-vaxxers, mask-burners and other various COVID conspiracy theorists with open arms, that doesn’t mean Iowans should be required to run their businesses according to these dubious denials of medical reality.
But a funny thing has happened in recent days as the new session approaches. Republicans have been taking a few steps back from these incendiary plans.
A “ban” on transgender athletes has been rhetorically transformed into providing helpful “guidance” for school districts. A felony for teachers has been reworked as greater library “transparency” for parents.
Abortion? Well, let’s wait to see what the Supreme Court decides. Ditto with vaccine mandates, which are currently caught up in federal court battles. What’s the rush? Chill out.
These dance steps could mean a couple of things.
Maybe cooler heads are prevailing. That would be good news. Generally pro-Republican business and economic development organizations have strongly opposed bills targeting transgender Iowans. Throwing teachers in jail might sound great to a minority of Iowans yelling at school boards but could make for lousy politics. Waiting for the courts to weigh in would be prudent.
Or maybe, as we’ve seen before, this rhetorical softening is basically a maneuver to keep Iowans and organizations on the other side of these issues off balance. That makes it easier for Republicans to jam awful bills through the House and Senate at lightning speed before opposition can mobilize.
Hey, do you remember that time legislative Republicans filed their bill disemboweling public sector collective bargaining and passed it in a week, after playing coy and talking about “tweaks” for months? I bet you do.
Hope for cooler heads. But always expect secretive skulduggery under the Golden Dome, now with far less wisdom.
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