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The Scarlet & Black

Conservative bills survive the legislative funnel

After eight weeks in session, the Iowa state legislature has created a variety of predominantly conservative bills that have cleared the legislative “funnel.” The funnel is a key deadline at the statehouse after which bills that have not cleared committee are rendered “dead” for this session. The aim of this process is to reduce the number of bills introduced and allow lawmakers to focus on bills that have high support. Some bills have not only survived the funnel but have been signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad, including one severely limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Here are a few notable bills to pass through the funnel which will be debated in the coming session on the house and senate floors.

20 Week Abortions

Senate File 53 would ban most abortions after 20 weeks. Under this bill, unless in a medical emergency endangering the health of the mother, most abortions could not be performed after 20 weeks, and before performing an abortion, a doctor would first have to determine the post-fertilization age of the fetus. The bill is similar to legislation passed in fifteen other states. 

Defunding Planned Parenthood

Senate File 2 would block state money from being sent to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, even when funding does not go towards those services. As most abortion providers also provide other reproductive and female healthcare, Republican legislators say the state would establish a network of 221 clinics to administer the other medical care currently provided by Planned Parenthood. Republicans say this will expand care to many rural women that currently have to drive long distances to access reproductive health care. Democrats say this state-run network will not be able to provide the same kind of reproductive healthcare and access to birth control currently available through independent providers.

Minimum wage and local regulations preemption

House File 295 prevents cities and counties from setting their own minimum wages. This would nullify minimum wage increases in Johnson, Polk, Linn and Wapello counties. Iowa’s minimum wage is currently set at $7.25, the federal minimum wage and the lowest possible minimum wage that states can set. The legislation also includes other preemption clauses that prevent local governments from instituting policies such as plastic bag bans, soda taxes and requiring paid family leave. The final version of the bill includes protections for landlords who do not want to rent to tenants who use federal Section 8 housing vouchers.

Sanctuary Cities

Senate Study Bill 1172 prohibits local jurisdictions from adopting “sanctuary” policies that prevent local law enforcement from asking arrested persons about their immigration status. The bill requires that local law enforcement comply with federal immigration detainer requests for people they have in custody. It also prevents local police from discouraging the enforcement of immigration laws and prevents state, city, county and public university law enforcement from enacting policies that prohibit the collection of data about the immigration status of individuals.

Voter ID law

House Study Bill 93 would require all voters to present a government-issued ID in order to vote. The bill would also provide money for precincts to buy electronic poll books and other provisions meant to modernize the election system and prevent fraud. The forms of identification voters could present include a driver’s license, passport or military ID, and if a person registers to vote but does not have the necessary ID, a free copy would be mailed to them. Republicans say this law brings Iowa voting into the 21st century, prevents fraud and ensures the integrity of elections. Democrats say these laws make it harder to vote and disproportionately affect minorities, students and the elderly, who are most likely to lack ID or the proper documents to obtain one, and are meant to ensure Republican election victories by preventing these predominantly Democratic groups from voting. 

Firearms laws rewrite

House File 157 is a broad revision of Iowa’s weapons laws. It includes a strengthening of ‘stand your ground’ laws that allow people to use deadly force in some cases of burglary, in contrast to current laws which only allow deadly force if lives are in danger. The bill also makes it easier for Iowans to challenge restrictions on firearms if they feel they have been adversely-affected by them. The bill allows children of any age to use handguns under adult supervision. Existing requirements that Iowans obtain permits to acquire and carry firearms have not been changed. This bill won House approval on Tues. March 7 and will now go on to the Senate.

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