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DES MOINES — Ten Iowa middle- and high-school students spoke Thursday at a legislative hearing on legislation that would ban transgender girls from competing in girls athletics in Iowa.
Most of them girls — two of them transgender — the student speakers were as divided on the bill as the adult legislators in the room.
In the end, majority Senate Republicans lent their support to Senate Study Bill 3146, advancing it out of Thursday morning’s subcommittee hearing and then passing it in a committee meeting later that afternoon.
That moved the bill rapidly through the first two steps in the legislative process, just 19 hours after it was introduced.
“We’re talking about fairness on this bill,” Sen. Tim Goodwin, R-Burlington, said during the committee meeting. “We’re talking about fairness, we’re talking about safety, (and) we’re talking about common sense.”
Supporters of the bill say it is needed to preserve competitive balance in girls athletics, even though examples of transgender girls dominating girls sports are exceptionally rare.
Opponents of the bill say it sends a harmful message to young transgender people, who are already at risk for heightened physical and mental distress.
“These kids, they’re not bogeymen. They’re not villains. They’ll never go off and play college sports,” Pete McRoberts, with the ACLU of Iowa, said during the subcommittee hearing. “They are at risk, and the government should be there for them.”
Emily Piper, a lobbyist for the statewide organization that represents Iowa school boards, warned that if passed into law, the measure would conflict with federal law and thus force schools to choose which law with which to comply.
“The result of that is a lawsuit,” Piper warned.
$159 MILLION FOR SCHOOLS: House File 2316, which appropriates $159 million in new money to Iowa’s K-12 schools, is the first bill signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds during the 2022 legislative session. It increases general state funding by 2.5 percent.
“Fifty-six percent of the state’s entire budget funds public education alone,” Reynolds said in a statement.
In the fiscal year beginning July 1, that amount will be more than $3.6 billion with 80 percent of the education budget going to preK-12 schools, including more than $3.5 billion for state foundation school aid and nearly $29.5 million for transportation equity.
Additionally, the state’s investments in STEM education, work-based learning and registered apprenticeship programs enhance the educational experience for Iowa students.
More than $700 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds remain unused by Iowa’s public school districts for pandemic relief. Information and guidance on the relief packages are available on the Iowa Department of Education website.
EMINENT DOMAIN UNSCATHED: A legislative proposal to restrict the use of eminent domain — the practice of the government claiming private land for private business projects — did not survive this week’s legislative deadline and thus will be ineligible for further consideration this session.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said because Senate File 2160 was not moved out of committee, he does not expect the topic to be considered for the rest of the session.
“I’m afraid the bill is dead for the year,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who chairs the committee through which the bill would have passed. “I’m disappointed it did not have the support needed to move out of committee. I appreciate the amount of work and research the subcommittee did to get the issue this far.”
During a subcommittee hearing on the bill, many Iowa landowners expressed their support for the bill and opposition to the state’s use of eminent domain, especially as three carbon pipeline projects that would pass through Iowa are currently underway or being proposed.
The advocacy group Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition rallied at the Iowa Capitol to protest the use of eminent domain on the pipeline projects and to call for reconsideration of Senate File 2160.
“Iowa’s elected officials have copped out of protecting Iowans, our land and our communities from eminent domain abuse,” Emma Schmit, an organizer with the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, said in a news release. “It’s outrageous that Gov. Reynolds and our legislature would let private corporations steal land from Iowa’s landowners and farmers for their own private gain.”
NEWBORN SCREENING: Four tests would be added to the panel of newborn screenings done within three days of birth under House Study Bill 690, which was unanimously approved by the House Human Resources Committee on Thursday.
Chairwoman Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, said a subcommittee heard testimony that if the conditions had been detected earlier, lives would have been changed, health care costs reduced and quality of life improved.
The bill also codifies an advisory committee now in administrative rules and establishes procedures for adding more screenings and reviewing data collected from screenings.
HEALTH INFORMATION NETWORK: The House Human Resources Committee unanimously approved a “simple bill on paper, but appears to be a very difficult bill in practicality” to require all Iowa hospitals to contract with an entity designated by the Department of Public Health to operate the Iowa Health Information Network.
Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, said House Study Bill 723 sends “a very clear message that we want good, solid data from all corners of the state as it relates to health care.”
“It will allow better communication and transparency for our hospitals and information system going forward,” added Rep. Timi Brown-Powers, D-Waterloo.
Gazette Des Moines Bureau