We’ve passed the six week mark of the Iowa Legislature’s 2020 session and the first so-called “funnel” deadline paring down the list of bills lawmakers will consider this year. Bills that haven’t cleared a committee by now are considered dead, with the exception of budget and tax-related measures.
Some bills we’d like to see move ahead survived the funnel. Legislation eliminating the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, expanding Iowa’s medical cannabis program and allowing financial compensation for college athletes remain alive. A constitutional amendment restoring felons’ right to vote remains in play.
Some measures that would pare back Iowa’s onerous professional licensing laws survived, as did a bill that would level fines at drivers who “camp” in the left lane of a multilane highway.
And we welcome the fact that several bad ideas were tossed on the scrap heap.
That includes a list of mean-spirited bills targeting LGBTQ Iowans and the so-called religious freedom bill allowing businesses to discriminate using religion as a defense. Lawmakers smartly backed away from bills targeting public school teachers for their political beliefs. And Iowa women seeking an abortion won’t have to wait 72 hours and endure a mandatory ultrasound.
But many bad ideas remain alive in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. That list includes other restrictions on women’s right to access reproductive health care, including a constitutional amendment declaring our state constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion. Republicans saw previous misguided abortion restrictions soundly defeated in the courts and now want to change the constitutional rules.
If the felon voting amendment passes, a Senate Bill would place new, tighter restrictions on released inmates seeking their voting rights. Food assistance recipients would face new bureaucratic hurdles to eligibility. In yet another blow to local control, legislation remains alive that would bar local governments from requiring landlords to accept all lawful forms of lawful income from renters, including housing assistance.
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But, unfortunately, a bill that would give residents of mobile home parks more rights in response to sharp rent increases did not clear the deadline. Neither did a bill prohibiting the use of seclusion rooms in public schools. At the same time, GOP lawmakers have been slow to investigate abuse of vulnerable patients at the Glenwood Resource Center.
Between now and the next funnel deadline, lawmakers should abandon efforts to restrict the rights of Iowans and scrap bills targeting low-income people already struggling to make ends meet. We didn’t send lawmakers to the Statehouse to curtail freedom and promote cruelty.
They should instead focus on making lives better for sick Iowans seeking access to stronger cannabis treatments, abuse victims seeking justice and felons asking for a second chance. Pass a budget that reflects our shared values and the needs of the common good, not the narrow interests of large campaign donors.
Lawmakers have plenty of time left to prove they can serve all Iowans. Save the petty, partisan politics for the campaign trail.
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