The Iowa Legislature is often a source of frustration and agony for many who follow the process, and particularly for those involved in the process. But it can also be a source of great entertainment as long as you don’t take things too seriously.
For instance, a bill that addresses persons selected by the general assembly to represent Iowa at the “convention called by the United States Congress to propose amendments to the United States Constitution” in accordance with Article V, has begun to move in the House Committee on State Government. Last year, the bill was moved out of committee but failed to be debated on the floor of the House. What is strange about this bill is that one of the lobbyists is Rick Santorum. Yes! That Rick Santorum, representing the Convention of States Action, has declared in support of the bill. On the other end of the lobbying spectrum, declared against passage of the bill, is the Iowa Minutemen Civil Defense Corp, in addition to the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
The so-called purpose of the Article V convention is to take power away from the federal government and give more control to the states and local government. Speaking of local control, this general assembly has been pretty consistent in its efforts to squash local control. Amendments to Iowa’s Constitution, Amendment Twenty-Five (municipal home rule adopted in the 1960s) and Amendment Thirty-Seven (county home rule adopted in the late 1970s) have been ignored in several bills, one of which is a bill to reinstate the death penalty.
Supposedly, assuming that county attorneys in Iowa’s largest counties are affiliated with the Democratic Party, Senate Study Bill 3085, a bill reestablishing the death penalty in Iowa, provides that “when in the attorney general’s judgment, the interest of the state requires the attorney general to intervene on behalf of the county attorney,” the attorney general will prosecute the case, but there is no mention in the bill that the attorney general, or even the state, will assume the costs of the prosecution. The expense will remain the responsibility of the county. The hypocrisy in this Legislature is immense.
Upon having several laws questioned as to their constitutionality, some legislators have filed amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in certain lawsuits to defend their legislation actions, or reactions. There is a system of checks and balances involved in our three separate and distinct divisions of government, but the judicial branch is considered the little sister who needs guidance in the eyes of legislators “who make the law.” There is a study bill that would require a plaintiff to provide “notice to the general assembly in actions regarding the constitutionality of a statute.”
You can understand why the general assembly wants to be aware of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of laws made by the lawmakers. The Iowa and U.S. Constitutions get in the way of the Ten Commandments. A bill that would require public school students to sing at least one verse of the National Anthem every day, study the anthem, and the history of it, had a discussion by a subcommittee. It may not see the light of day, or if you prefer, the dawn’s early light, but it doesn’t apply to private school students. They have the First Commandment.
And now that your attention is tuned in to religion, a subcommittee meeting was held on the definition of “woman.” Although the chairperson of the meeting was mum on the purpose for this necessary description in Iowa law (“Woman” means an adult female human), a woman at the meeting said that “God has made the definition of a woman clear through both special relations, scripture, and general revelation creation.” Amber Williams, an Iowa resident said “He made her, then made him. Male and female, he created them.” Obviously, Ms. Williams has not consulted the biblical Book of Genesis where God made man first and called him Adam, and then made woman from Adam’s rib.
Staying on the subject of religion, students must need religious guidance, and just about anyone will justify this need. A bill that passed out of a subcommittee would allow schools to employ without salary or remuneration a chaplain (not to be confused with Charlie Chaplin, who would seem to be a better alternative – kids need humor, too). The chaplain does not need to “have a license, endorsement, certification, authorization or statement of recognition issued by the board of educational examiners.” But if you’re thinking that this would be some sort of cool job where you could dress in black and talk to students freely, beware. The position does require a background check.
The amusement and entertainment provided by the Iowa Legislature is free of charge to watch. If the governor is not speaking, seats are available without reservations. The cost of this enjoyment comes when you check your rights at the basement door.
This article first appeared in the February 2024 issue of the Prairie Progressive. The Prairie Progressive is Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter, founded by Jeff Cox in 1986.
It is funded entirely by subscriptions from our readers. Editor: Dave Leshtz.
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