The View from Here
The View from Here by Senator Dennis Guth
With just over a month left in the 2019 legislative session, floor debate is picking up. Senate File 523 would make penalties for a crime committed against an unborn child the same as those committed against a born person. This bill does not have anything to do with abortion, accidents or contraception. It does say that if a pregnant woman is murdered and the baby dies, there would be two Class A felonies, not one. This bill provides penalties for crime against all persons, whether they are born or pre-born.
The incredible and massive flooding in Iowa has saddened us all. In response to all the flooding, Governor Reynolds has issued a disaster proclamation for more than 50 counties. This proclamation includes all counties in Senate District 4: Emmet, Kossuth, Winnebago, Hancock, and Wright. Residents of Senate District 4 can apply for the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program and the Disaster case Management Program. Federal assistance has also been granted due to a declaration by President Trump. You can learn about the federal programs at www.disasterassistance.gov.
One of the most interesting parts of my job involves meeting all of the people that come to the Capitol. This sometimes includes people from other countries who visit our state. On Tuesday, we had ten visitors from Kosovo. These were not civilians, rather they were a group of military people who were on a private tour with an Iowa Guard personnel. I learned that Kosovo and Iowa are sister states, meaning we have recognized them with a special status in trade and communications. I was surprised to find out the eight men and one woman in camouflage were not just soldiers but top brass of Kosovo’s military. One was the highest ranking woman in Kosovo’s military and another was a brigadier general. We discussed how American government and Iowa’s state government are organized, and how citizens are welcome to come and comment in subcommittees. Kosovo has a parliament with many political parties as opposed to just two like we do. Their judicial branch is very weak. I could tell these folks were very interested as they have been organized as a democracy for less than a decade. Their government is still changing; similar to how ours was between 1776 and the signing of the Constitution in 1789. I felt truly blessed to talk about our system. We should be thankful that our system of government has worked for over 240 years. I will continue to do all I can to keep it working for the next generation.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”—Winston Churchill.
It is always a privilege to serve you. I appreciate hearing from those of you who took time to contact me whether by phone, email, or by taking time to drive to the Capitol to visit with me.
Wow! Spring is here! As a farmer, I get pretty excited this time of year. The snow is melting, rivers are high, but soon it will be time to have equipment ready for planting. It is somewhat that way in the Senate. We have been preparing bills for floor debate since January. Now, we are getting “in the field” by debating bills on the floor.
One of the hotly debated bills passed this week was SF 548. There was confusion that this bill would stop or greatly reduce acquisition of land for conservation, recreation, and water quality purposes. The bill would prohibit a private entity from acquiring taxpayer subsidized loans in order to purchase land. The entity that has been doing this is the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. They do accumulate land that might later be used in conservation projects. This bill does not stop that from happening, it only says they can’t use 0- ½% loans subsidized by taxpayers to make those purchases. The INHF is okay with this bill as well as Pheasants Forever.
I spoke with a young farmer last year who had the experience of being outbid by the INHF on a piece of land bordering his own. He said there was no way to compete with someone with near unlimited funds and ultra-low interest rate. Why should an individual have to compete with a private entity with that kind of advantage? We agree that fairness (equal opportunity) should be maintained.
Another bill that deals with fairness is SF 583 which deals with small producers of solar energy. Many Iowans have chosen to install solar panels to produce electricity for their own needs. On days when they produce more electricity than they use, they can sell the excess to the utility company. The rate they are paid does not include a charge to maintain the grid that delivered their electricity to the utility.
SF 583 allows an investor owned utility to charge a reasonable amount for infrastructure. There were arguments that this would eliminate all new solar projects in the state. Currently, RECs and municipal utilities do the very thing we approved for investor owned utilities. RECs have more small producers of solar energy than any other utility group. This bill will make sure consumers without solar are not paying for the infrastructure solar producers use. It will not affect solar installations already in use.
Tuesday, the Senate passed a limited work requirement for individuals receiving Medicaid benefits. There are exemptions for pregnancy, having children under six, disability, and illness. The intent is to require able-bodied people, without dependents, to work, go to school or volunteer 20 hours a week in order to receive tax-payer funded healthcare.
We have a remarkably low unemployment rates now because Iowa has experienced a healthy business environment the last two years. Many employers have asked where they can find more employees. This seems like the right time to address welfare reform that will help eliminate fraud and improve accountability. Perhaps even more important, it may give that little nudge required to get some recipients back in the workforce. A job does a lot more than pay bills. It can provide a sense of accomplishment and pride in being part of a productive society.
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” John Quincy Adams
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Please feel free to contact me by email or phone 641.430.8415 with any questions or concerns. Enjoy the warm weather!
The View from Here by Senator Dennis Guth
The ninth week of the 2019 legislative session saw some significant bills pass the Iowa Senate. One of these was SF 274 which protects free speech on our college campuses in Iowa. In the past few years there have been court cases brought against one of our Regent’s universities for treating belief-based student organizations in adverse ways. SF 274 allows faith-based organizations the same privileges as any other organization and prevents administrators from restricting speakers to those that agree with the administration’s views. It will also protect free speech on campus, not relegate it to a small “free speech zone.”
A bill important to rural Iowa is SF 536. Currently, Iowa law restricts the operation of tele-pharmacies to an area more than 10 miles away from an existing brick and mortar pharmacy. The passage of this bill will eliminate that restriction and improve access in rural Iowa, especially when a person is released from the hospital in the middle of the night.
Agriculture is the driving force of Iowa’s economy. It plays a significant role in feeding the world, as well as providing fuel and a host of other items. When Agricultural production is interrupted by disease outbreaks, serious consequences result. Four years ago, the avian flu knocked the poultry industry off the rails. 30 million turkeys were lost, resulting in the loss of 8,444 jobs and $1.2 billion in economic losses.
That outbreak highlighted the need for strict biosecurity to be maintained. Republicans supported that biosecurity by passing SF 519 which adds criminal penalties for trespassing on an agricultural production facility. This bill punishes someone who trespasses on a facility not open to the public with the intent to cause physical or economic harm to the facility. It also provides for conspiracy charges against those who cause harm to our agricultural production facilities or animals. This is needed to protect our producers and their livestock from tampering and the potential spread of disease.
An issue I’ve heard about for the last two weeks is reforming the Iowa judicial system. While this has been talked of within the legislature for years, the recent decisions of the Iowa Supreme Court have caused this issue to come to the forefront. The justices themselves have written that they are no longer bound by the beliefs of the Founders who wrote the Constitution, and that our Constitution should change and evolve to fit today’s society.
This alarms me a great deal. Our constitution can be amended through a slow process—being passed by the legislature in two different general assemblies and then coming up for a vote by the citizens of Iowa. It should not be changed by the opinion of a few Supreme Court justices.
Currently, the justices are selected by the governor from a pool of candidates presented to her by a judicial nominating commission. It is made up of 16 individuals, half chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, and half by members of the Iowa Bar. There is much concern about having a non-elected group having so much power in the selection process.
SF237 would leave eight members to be selected by the governor while the remaining eight are appointed by legislative leaders: two by the Senate Majority Leader, two by the Senate Minority Leader, two by the Speaker of the House and two by the House Minority Leader. This bill does not included Senate confirmation since this method frequently falls victim to party politics. This method assures that the minority party always has some commissioners on the selection commission. I think this is a great way to make sure the selection process is fair across the political spectrum.
Finally, SJR8 passed the Senate as the first step in putting the right to keep and bear arms into the Constitution. Only 6 states lack a constitutional provision to protect those rights. The language of this resolution mirrors the U.S. Second Amendment, but adds that the Iowa Supreme Court must use the strictest of scrutiny (evaluation) on any legal restrictions on the rights of Iowans to keep and bear arms. I believe this puts the Second Amendment rights of Iowans back on par with what the Founders of our country intended. This should put a check on the court’s encroachment of these rights in modern times.
At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well doctor, what have we got---a republic or a monarchy?” To which he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Our work this week reminds me of this conversation. Keeping our republic requires effort and diligence. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you!
The last forum scheduled this year is March 16 at 10AM at the Algona Library. After a long and tough winter, I hope my weekends in April will find me preparing to get in the fields!
The View from Here by Senator Dennis Guth
Week eight in the 2019 legislative session is the end of all bills that have not passed out of committee in either the House or Senate. Up to this point, we have been considering too many things to actually accomplish them all. This deadline forces legislators to focus on high priority bills that have a reasonable chance of passing.
An important bill coming through committee this week was SSB 1227. This bill makes it a criminal offense to falsely gain access or employment at an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, if the intent is to cause physical damage or economic harm. The first offense would be considered a serious misdemeanor and a repeated offense would be an aggravated misdemeanor. The legislation would protect livestock producers from malicious activists who seek to destroy animal agriculture with negative media coverage and false accusations.
Private property is key to the United States’ exceptionalism. Several issues before the Senate dealt with this vital aspect of our country’s success. We are considering how wind turbines affect neighboring property and local government placing caps on property rental.
Perhaps the most misunderstood debate came over Senate Study Bill 1221. There were claims that this bill would end the purchase of land by government entities. In reality, it only ensures that private entities cannot obtain subsidized loans to bid on land when private individual cannot obtain the same subsidies.
In 1989, a state fund for water quality and drinking water projects was established to provide very low cost loans to local government to improve their infrastructure. These funds were never intended for use by a private organization that sometimes competes with farmers or private individuals for purchase of property. I have been contacted by a young farmer in my district who complained of this very thing. SSB 1221 does not inhibit any practice underway that permits conservation boards, local governments or the DNR from purchasing land for water quality or conservation. It does bring fairness to all parties competing for the purchase of land in this state.
SF 502 is a bill I will be presenting on the Senate floor in coming weeks. The intent of this bill is to protect a state employee who reports a violation of law or mismanagement of funds or authority. If we pass this bill, he cannot lose his job or be treated unfairly. If the whistleblower loses his job, he could seek reinstatement, back pay, and civil damages equal to three times their annual salary.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed out of committee this week. There has been a methodical movement to squash religion, especially Christianity, across the nation.
Examples of this are:
Vice-President Pence was attacked when his wife went back to teaching art at a Christian school.
Houston’s mayor subpoenaed pastor’s sermons.
Memorials with religious symbols are being removed.
An Iowa State University professor was black balled for writing an article on Intelligent Design.
The University of Iowa discriminated against two campus student groups, Business Leaders in Christ, and Inter-Varsity.
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission shut down Dick & Betty Odgaard’s business when they refused to celebrate a same sex marriage.
There have been claims this bill would damage business. It has proven to be more noise than fact in other states that have passed the same bill. It is because of this freedom that many come to America from all over the world. They come not only to realize their dreams but to live out the convictions of their heart. Religious Freedom is not some malicious threat. It is stabilizing, allowing for the freedom of thought with a variety of opinions. If we give government, companies, or people the right to invade our thoughts and convictions, have we not become like slaves? This is not freedom of thought. We should not be swayed by the threats of companies that have bowed to special interest groups rather than pursuing freedom for all. Persuasion is more effective than coercion when it comes to building a healthy society. All Iowans should be able to live and work according to their beliefs. Every generation must step up to defend freedom in their time. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is our opportunity to do that.
Human nature evermore publishes itself. The most fugitive deed and word, the mere air of doing a thing, the intimated purpose, expresses character---Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is an honor to serve you in the Iowa Senate. I will have a town hall meeting March 16 in Algona at 10 AM at the library. Please feel free to call or email with your comments or concerns.
The View from Here by Senator Dennis Guth
The 2019 session is approaching the halfway mark. Next week is called funnel week, with Friday being the deadline for Senate bills to be out of committee in order to be considered for passage this year. One bill I was contacted about this week was SSB1190. This bill deals with giving local school districts more control over what happens in their school. It removed state mandates for using environmentally friendly cleaning products or requiring notice of a public hearing in a newspaper, if the district chooses to use an online notice instead.
The most controversial part of the bill eliminated state requirements for a school nurse or librarian. The school can still have a nurse or librarian, but the state would not mandate every school to have one. There was a large protest from nurses and librarians who evidently feared their school board would deem their position less important than some other use of the money. It is frustrating to hear that schools want more local control over themselves and then ask us not to remove mandates. The nurse and librarian part of the bill was eliminated and the rest of the bill may die for lack of interest.
I’ve enjoyed Benjamin Franklin’s famous line, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Unfortunately, even death does not end the last round of taxes. Many Iowans work hard and sacrifice their own pleasures in order to leave something for their posterity. During the course of their lives, they pay income tax, property tax, sales tax, and maybe capital gains tax. The inheritance tax is applied to their assets when they die, even though they already paid taxes on the money used to purchase them.
In the case of a farm or family business, many times a death forces the sale of those assets in order to pay inheritance taxes. Senate File 1 has passed out of committee and is now eligible for debate on the Senate floor. This bill would eliminate the inheritance tax in Iowa, effective July 1, 2019. It is my hope this bill will help families pass on assets in a way that will eliminate hardship for their heirs
I’ve spoken about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in previous newsletters. It would keep government from interfering with a person’s free exercise of religion as the First Amendment intended. Some of you might be asking, “Do we really need a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Iowa?” Absolutely! First of all, freedom of religion is foundational and a natural right. When it is curtailed everyone suffers eventually. The Founding Fathers knew that this Constitutionally protected liberty would encourage peace and steadiness within the nation, as well as in the world.
The Constitution prohibits the establishment of a national religion, and at the same time it protects freedom of religion. You may not realize that it is religious freedom that keeps our government functioning in its limited scope. The Founding Fathers said that righteousness and religion are important in preserving a society that is free. If religion is stifled or regulated, our conscience is crippled and we no longer think for ourselves. In totalitarian countries, when guns and religion are taken away from a people, there is bondage. In America, we prize the liberty of conscience and a just government. None of us wants to live lies forced upon us by the government.
People like to say that the conflict is between good and evil. The real conflict is between truth and lies—Don Miguel Ruiz
It is a privilege to represent you at the Capitol. I look forward to meeting you at a town hall meeting. The next ones will be: March 8-- Garner, Public library at 9AM;Corwith, City Hall at 11AM; Britt, City Hall at 1:15PM; March 16--Algona, Public library at 10AM.
It is an honor to represent the people of Senate District 4. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (641) 430-0424.