The Iowa Legislature is heading into the home stretch. Last week, the second funnel deadline passed, and a number of bills that hadn’t made sufficient progress were left in the waste bin.
We’re happy to see some of those that would have been harmful to our area didn’t make the cut, particularly a bill that would have big-footed local city councils by prohibiting them from managing their own public safety budgets. The bill was aimed at stopping governments from "defunding" the police, but in truth it limited the ability of local governments to keep their streets safe.
The proposal to jettison tenure at the state’s major universities also failed. This would have done incalculable damage to our state’s economy, not to mention free speech. A ban on traffic cameras also failed again; unfortunately, so did an amendment to the state Constitution to allow people with felony convictions to vote. The bill passed the House, but once again it couldn't clear the Senate. The governor has signed an executive order to allow felons to vote, but permanent language needs to be added to the Constitution.
There are a lot of proposals still alive for the session, among them legislation aimed at improving child care in the state. It's true some bills didn't survive, but we would urge lawmakers to focus their attention on working to pass meaningful legislation to improve the affordability and availability of child care. It is vital that lawmakers get this done.
The same goes with steps to improve broadband and housing affordability in Iowa.
It is unfortunate that other bills still are alive: Legislation that would reduce unemployment benefits for people, many of them suffering from the pandemic’s fallout, remains viable; also, the bottle bill that would let retailers refuse redeeming containers if they are near a redemption center is still alive. This proposal would make it more difficult for Iowans to take back empties and may lead to greater littering on the state’s roads.
Some parts of the governor’s "school choice" agenda are alive; that includes proposals on charter schools, though the bill to promote state funding for private scholarships failed. Meanwhile, a proposal to scuttle voluntary diversity plans, like the one in Davenport, is still alive, too. This bill has the potential to loosen the reins on parents who want their kids to be able to leave the district and go elsewhere. But it would also do financial damage to the district and the students who remain.
We would urge our delegation to look out for the interests of the community as a whole, along with its people and institutions. In Des Moines, there are plenty of individuals, and special interest groups, making clear their agenda. We’d rather lawmakers focus on the greater good.