The View from Here
You can contact me at email@example.com or call me at 641.430.0424 with any questions or concerns.
Issued June 25
With most of the summer’s parades canceled and many fewer gatherings for legislators in which to express their views, you may wonder what a senator can do this particular summer. This past week, for example, found me busy interacting with constituents and supporting them during bill signings in Des Moines.
Last week, I wrote a bit about the licensing reform bill, HF 2627. Mathieu Lemay of Kanawha was invited to the bill signing held in Des Moines at the Associated Building Contractors (ABC) headquarters. Mathieu moved to Iowa three years ago from Texas to be near his married daughter. He and his wife liked what they saw in rural Iowa on a visit and later decided to relocate their family.
Mathieu is a master electrician licensed in 27 states. When he applied for licensing in Iowa, he was put off for two years. Finally, he contacted me and was allowed to take the exam, which he easily passed. Mathieu now operates Priority Electric and employs two young Iowans. Ben Garner is a recent graduate from a community college electrician training program and Noah Clarion who will be entering a similar program this fall. Mathieu, who is presently building his business on his acreage, is just the type of guy we want in Iowa.
In the presentation Mathieu made at the signing, he said, “The encouraging things I’ve seen in this bill are going to do a tremendous amount for trade people throughout the state in inviting credentialed professionals from other states to help meet the demand that is growing here in the state of Iowa.”
The new law waives licensing fees for certain low-income applicants, and it includes some criminal justice reform, denying a license only if the crime committed is related to the license they are seeking. Perhaps the biggest change is in recognizing similar licenses from other states and giving credit for experience in the field in which the license is issued. I am glad to welcome Mathieu and his family to Iowa.
Another thing I have been concerned about is how we can show support for our law enforcement personnel during these challenging times. I reached out to local pastors, and on Tuesday, June 30, we will meet at the Britt Police Station to show our support by praying for law enforcement and giving them gift certificates. If you have ideas on how we can support local enforcement or would like to organize a similar event for your town or county, please contact me.
Recently, I did some door knocking to ask citizens what issues they would like to see Iowa work on. Covid-19 and encouraging our struggling business community were top on the list. Most people are pleased that Iowa provided a good balance between promoting safety and not going too far in shutting down business.
The mental health issues and the increase in domestic and child abuse show us that we are a social people, and there is a price to pay when we limit the freedoms of our people. I look forward to seeing us get back to more normal interaction.
As I consider the great conflicts tearing at our society today, I am reminded of the Beatitudes and “blessed is the peacemaker.” In referring to our representative republic, President Ronald Reagan referred to a speech of puritan John Winthrop. In 1630 he said, “We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”
We are not great because we have no conflict or struggle. We are great when we look to God for the solutions. The creator of men knows man’s heart, and only he can reconcile the forces that pull us apart.
Issued June 18, 2020
May 15, 2020
The Iowa legislature is scheduled to resume on June 3. We will have some new protocols to follow, which are designed to reduce physical contact and allow distancing. Like many Iowans, I am eager to get back to work. Of course, there is plenty I can do from home to prepare for our work in Des Moines. This past week, I interviewed seven of the candidates for the Iowa Workforce Development Board (IWD). This board deals with unemployment claims and job training programs. Candidates are appointed by the governor but must be confirmed by the Senate.
As you can imagine, the work of the IWD has exploded over the last two months. One of the questions I asked the candidates was, “Has the coronavirus outbreak caused you to rethink volunteering for this board?” The universal answer was, “No! I am even more excited about serving where I can help people.” These folks are already busy in their own businesses and nonprofit organizations. Yet, they were enthusiastic about the opportunities that lie ahead as Iowans gear up for the new normal. Our governor has nominated some fantastic, forward-looking people, and I am excited to turn them loose on the challenges facing Iowa’s workforce.
I also spoke with Scott Curtis who was administrator of the Kossuth Regional Health Center. He now supports eight rural hospitals in North Central Iowa through MercyOne. I learned that much has been done throughout our region to prepare for the care of patients should there be a surge of coronavirus in our area. They have a plan in place that can be quickly implemented. Right now, it is very quiet in our hospitals because elective surgeries are just getting rescheduled. I was interested to see this week’s unemployment figures included significantly more health care workers than restaurant and hotel personnel. This shows me that we need to have some regular care going on just to keep our health care functional.
Another conversation I had was with the director of Iowa Department of Revenue. I asked how they are dealing with the coronavirus during tax season. He said most of the workforce can operate from home with the exception of the mail room. Those employees are split into two teams, each working two weeks in the mail room and two weeks at home. If someone gets sick with COVID-19, the other team would take over. The department is in the process of getting bids on a new computer system to replace the mainframe which is 40 years old. The team is excited about this update and the improved service it will provide. The cost will be offset by the millions of dollars we spend each year to keep the old system running.
Finally, I would like to mention that one job legislators will have when we return to Des Moines is to protect our “inalienable” rights. Some during this emergency are willing to give up liberties in order to protect health. One example is some schools are denying any medical or religious exemptions next year for vaccines, especially meningitis. I am working with the Department of Education and the Department of Health to make sure current law, which protects our constitutional rights, is upheld.
Iowa’s state government is responding well to the current crisis. I am proud of our governor and state employees who are working hard to keep Iowa healthy both physically and economically.
May 8, 2020
Recently, Gov. Reynolds took the first step in reopening our state, allowing places like restaurants to open at half capacity in counties with decreasing or limited virus activity. On May 6, the governor signed a new proclamation with additional openings for some Iowa businesses and facilities and additional regulatory relief. Just like the last proclamation, these businesses will only be allowed to reopen if they can follow appropriate public health measures.
As Iowans begins to come out and resume business, we should all continue to make responsible decisions for ourselves and our families. Our bodies have been made wonderfully and have a tremendous capacity to resist many bad bacteria and viruses. There is evidence that vitamin D deficiency may impact how well an individual responds to COVID-19. I’m not a doctor. However, I have heard from doctors that supplementing with vitamin D, along with vitamin C, selenium and zinc, is a great way to bolster your immune system. Don’t take my word for it. Take the initiative and do a little research of your own.
The effects of this virus on our economy are huge. The crippling effects of our stalled economy also affect our health. I am concerned we will be recovering from destroying our economy far longer than we struggle with this virus. I am thankful Gov. Reynolds has worked hard to find the best path for Iowans during this crisis and is opening up the state on a regional basis. We are made for relationships, and being isolated from each other is taking a toll on many. Make sure to connect with family and friends often. We need each other. These are unprecedented times for our leaders and medical practitioners. Please take time to communicate encouraging thoughts to these folks and your loved ones.
It is easy to allow fear to dominate our thoughts when at every turn we are told to practice social distancing, limit trips to busy places like the grocery store and to keep washing our hands – all in order to keep from illness. I am concerned we have given up many Constitutional, God-given rights in the name of security. Recommendations can be made, but the way some states are using government to bully people during this crisis is appalling. America is about “We the people.” Don’t let this crisis sidetrack you. Stay engaged. Take time to study the Constitution. Together we can get through this.
May 1, 2020
Last week the governor announced some restrictions would be lifted for counties in Iowa experiencing decreasing or little to no COVID-19 activity. Starting May 1, restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and some retail establishments are allowed to reopen at half normal operating capacity, if they can still follow public health measures.
This policy applies to all counties except Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington, and Woodbury counties.
Statewide religious and spiritual gatherings will be allowed, if they can maintain social distancing guidelines and take measures to protect public health. Additionally, farmers markets will be allowed to open to sell farm products or food, again, as long as they can implement reasonable social distancing and public health measures. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued guidance for Iowa farmers markets with additional protective measures, such as prohibiting from anyone with a fever or illness in the last three days from entering farmers markets, providing easy access to hand-washing or hand-sanitizing stations, and encouraging online ordering when possible.
All other closures, including in the above counties, will continue until May 15.
The new proclamation from the governor is not a requirement that these establishments have to open. It is simply giving them, and all Iowans, the option and freedom to do so, while still protecting their health. The state continues to expand testing and data will continue to be monitored so the best decisions can be made to protect not just the health of Iowans, but also their livelihoods. As more data is collected and more Iowans get tested for COVID-19, we will be able to know more about how we can safely and responsibly continue to reopen the state. I urge you to keep limiting your trips to grocery stores, washing your hands often, and adhering to social distancing practices as much as you are able. As long as each of us continues to be responsible about the actions we take each day, we will be able to get back to a sense of normalcy sooner rather than later.
Throughout this pandemic, the governor has been working to strike a balance between protecting Iowans and keeping as much of our state working as possible. Meat production facilities are an indispensable part of the food supply chain as Iowa works to provide affordable food to the world. Shutting down these plants has a major impact across our economy. This impact is not limited just to farmers – it affects everyone. If the plants cannot run, livestock cannot be processed and farmers may be forced into euthanizing some of their livestock. This action reduces the supply of food, increasing prices in the coming months, and makes it even more difficult for people to afford food in an uncertain economy, most significantly impacting lower-income Iowans and lower-income Americans.
Just as important as limiting the closures of those facilities is ensuring the safety of the workers and doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the virus. Public health officials have been working tirelessly to test impacted workers and ensure they have access to the care they need.
Because of the disruptions in the food supply chain leading to an excess of hogs, this week a new program called “Pass the Pork” was announced to help connect Iowa hog farmers with Iowans in need of food. The Iowa Pork Producers Association and IDALS are helping farmers donate pigs to Iowa food banks and food pantries. If you’d like to donate to help with processing, storage, and delivery costs, you can visit donorbox.org/passthepork.
A website and hotline have also been created to help connect Iowa’s livestock farmers with resources if they are facing a decision on disposing of their animals. Farmers can contact the hotline by calling 515-725-1005 from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday, or they can visit iowafarmerhelp.com.
The Iowa Department of Revenue recently updated their website with information on upcoming tax deadlines. If you have questions about some tax deadlines amid the various extensions that have been implemented, you can visit their website at https://tax.iowa.gov/important-upcoming-tax-deadlines.
The suspension of the legislative session has been extended to May 15. We are eager to get back to the capitol and continue our policy discussions and budget work. While we are waiting to see how the budget will be impacted by the pandemic, we still want to do what we can to ensure Iowa is the best place to live, work and raise a family.
Last week the governor announced a new website to give Iowans better access to testing and give public health officials a better idea of how Iowa is progressing through the pandemic. It helps the governor make decisions on the activities safe to reopen, while keeping others closed. I would encourage everyone to take the assessment at TestIowa.com and determine whether you should get tested. Iowa has purchased hundreds of thousands of coronavirus tests and those tests will be available soon. This website has the best collection of information on where additional testing is necessary in our state to help make the best decisions for our state.
The Iowa Legislature continues to plan its work to complete the 2020 legislative session. A number of policy and budgetary matters still need to be addressed this year. When the legislature reconvenes, it will continue to be mindful of guidelines for the large group gatherings from the CDC and the Iowa Department of Public Health, making sure to do its part to manage the spread of the virus.
I have been very busy planting my crops so when the legislative session is reconvened, I will be ready to put my entire focus on the budget and the function of government in preserving our God-given, inalienable rights. One of the concerns we face is how to safely hold elections without putting people at risk.
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a dedicated poll worker with concerns on how we would be running the primary elections in June. He shared with me that many poll workers are over the age of 60, the age group more susceptible to COVID-19. I forwarded that email to the secretary of state’s office. That email confirmed what they had been hearing from county auditors, and they spent considerable time thinking about how to make our elections safer.
I want to encourage my constituents to consider requesting an absentee ballot. The CDC is encouraging voters to utilize absentee voting, and the state has followed that guidance by mailing absentee ballot request forms to every active registered voter. The mailing is anticipated to arrive in voters’ mailboxes the week of April 27.
County auditors are now looking for people who are at low risk to serve as precinct election officials (PEOs). Please encourage low-risk Iowans, particularly those in the 17-35 age bracket, to step up for democracy and step in for our higher risk PEOs. If you would like to consider being a poll worker, check out this website: pollworker.iowa.gov.
Elections are the cornerstone of our nation, and as such are too important to fall prey to COVID-19. In Iowa, we proudly run our elections at the local level. Iowa serves as a shining example of how state and local election officials are best positioned to conduct elections, and Iowa having a successful 2020 election cycle will show why control of elections should remain with the states. Iowa’s county auditors are seasoned risk managers, and they have stepped up to find creative solutions to the unique circumstances we are facing. I applaud their efforts and ask that you reach out to your county auditor to learn more about the steps they are taking to help slow the spread of COVID-19. During a time when Americans are being urged to stand together by staying apart, voting provides the sense of community and strength Iowans desperately need. Continuing to ensure safety and integrity is a top priority of our state government.
As we all walk through this difficult time, Iowans all across the state have been looking for ways to help their neighbors and communities. I’ve been hearing of people making homemade face masks for their friends, families, neighbors, or donating them to local medical facilities. My wife has enjoyed making masks for her sister, a nurse practitioner, and our daughter, who is a clinic receptionist. Local restaurants have contributed food to health care providers, and many Iowans are supporting these local restaurants with takeout orders to help keep these places in business.
You can help your community in many ways. The Iowa Department of Public Health has issued guidance on making homemade masks for health care providers. You can also check with your local hospital on what specifications they have. Volunteer Iowa has a number of opportunities available for those who want to volunteer during the pandemic. American Red Cross is looking for people to donate blood. The Food Bank of Iowa is currently doing a fundraiser to raise money to meet the immediate need for meals for Iowans impacted in some way by the virus.
There are quite a few food assistance programs available. If you and your family are struggling to get necessary meals, The Department of Human Services has information available on how to apply for food assistance. At the Department of Public Health’s website you can learn about the WIC program. The Department on Aging is also providing home-delivered or drive-through meals for Iowans over the age of 60. Food banks all across Iowa are working hard to provide meals for families in need. Iowa Homeland Security has a map of food banks serving your area.
The state website for COVID-19 in Iowa has also been updated to include more information about the number of cases in our state and additional information on how the virus is affecting Iowa. You can find that information at coronavirus.iowa.gov. The site includes details on lab testing and assessments from each of the regional medical coordination centers (RMCC). The RMCC information lists the number of hospitalized patients, number of beds and ventilators available, and how many people are on ventilators.
I am so grateful for the doctors, nurses, health care staff, and first responders working around the clock to help those patients very ill with this virus. Our country has been blessed with a wonderful medical history we should all be thankful for. Iowa is no exception. Thank you all for your selfless service during this time. For those who continue to go to work and are looking for childcare, the Department of Human Services has a map of facilities with spots available.
I have been responding to constituents who have questions regarding the current state restrictions. Recently, I helped clarify rules about campgrounds for long term workers and give information about programs for small businesses. A number of constituents have contacted me expressing their desire to reopen the economy. I am encouraged that some major employers are bringing people back to work. I, like you, look forward to seeing the economy gear up sooner than later. We are resilient people not only as a state, but as a nation as well. I am confident that as we work through this crisis together (looking to God) we will come out of this stronger and wiser.
If you have any questions, concerns, or are looking for resources to help you during this time, please feel free to contact me.
As the situation in Iowa rapidly changes in response to the spread of COVID-19, I am getting a lot of questions about what resources exist to help Iowans who have been affected.
Iowa Economic Development Authority has put together a number of resources for both businesses and employees affected by COVID-19. This includes a small business relief program, information on the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Assistance program, Community Development Block Grant funds to support infectious disease response, and unemployment related to the pandemic. All of this information can be found by going to www.iowabusinessrecovery.com.
Additionally, Iowa Workforce Development has a lot of information and resources on unemployment insurance on their website, www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/COVID-19. If you contact them for questions or information, I encourage you to be patient. People all over our state are calling and they are receiving a very high volume of calls. I know they are trying to be helpful to every Iowan in their time of need.
If you are looking for other resources, and not sure where to go, the Iowa Senate Republicans have put together a web page with links to various state agencies and departments and their information on COVID-19. This site includes updates from the governor’s office, tax information, and links to the above information. Please visit www.iowasenaterepublicans.com/covid-19-resources/ or contact me with questions you may have.
For more information on what is happening with COVID-19 in Iowa and across the country, here are additional resources you can use:
A hotline has been set up for Iowans to call with COVID-19 related questions. It is available 24/7 and can be reached by dialing 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.
The State of Iowa is doing whatever it can to help Iowans through this crisis. At the federal level, they are also working on a legislative package to help citizens and assist those who have been affected. Please stay home if you are feeling sick, wash your hands, check on your loved ones, and as always, call or email me with your questions and concerns as we navigate this crisis together.
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.