The View from Here
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.