From Representative Taylor Collins (corrected version)

To the People of House District 95


We are now well into the tenth week of the legislative session and debate on the house floor continues on many important proposals. Outside of the legislation being pushed, there has also been some major news as the higher education establishment caved to the pressure of the legislature and Iowans.


Board of Regents Issues Order on Controversial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs 

On Tuesday this week, March 14th, Board of Regents President Michael Richards issued the following statement:

“Over the next few months, the Board of Regents will initiate a comprehensive study and review of all Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs and efforts at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

I am appointing Regents Barker, Lindenmayer and Rouse to lead the study. This working group will report their findings and any recommendations back to the full Board.

As a result, I am directing Iowa’s three public universities to pause the implementation of any new DEI programs until the study is completed.”

This comes as a response to HF 616 which prohibits state money being used to fund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices and positions. Shortly after the statement was released, I discussed with the media that “while I appreciate the regents taking this issue seriously, as many Iowans have, I think that we still need to move this legislation forward to continue to dismantle these bureaucracies and make sure this taxpayer money is actually being used for the true benefit of students.”

Iowa’s public universities excel when they are focused on their mission to promote the search for truth and knowledge while maintaining academic freedom and integrity. Currently taxpayer funded DEI bureaucracies exist at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. These bureaucracies can be described, without exaggeration, as administratively enforced political activists teaching ideological conformity to left wing dogma. Employees and students are bombarded with a constant stream of ideological emails, trainings, and programming. Students are even required to take a certain amount of credits in DEI related courses to graduate. DEI teams intentionally move away from traditional values such as colorblindness, equality and merit.

The intent of HF 616 is easily understood if one imagines what the reaction would be if the opposite was happening. What if the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa all built internal bureaucracies funded with taxpayer dollars to teach conservative political values, enforce conservative political litmus tests for hiring, and publicly shamed students and faculty who violate conservative principles?

The answer is, of course, no. Iowans want their universities to be politically neutral in their pursuit of truth and knowledge.

DEI bureaucrats teach that society is divided into oppressors and oppressed along lines of identity groups like race, gender, sexuality, etc. Government and other institutions enforce this power dynamic. The oppressors, or those with privilege, are blind to these unjust systems of power and therefore need to defer to the lived experience of the oppressed, or marginalized, to dismantle these systems. DEI bureaucrats exist to do just that. They teach that the oppressive system can only be “fixed” by dismantling the institutions which wield this unjust power by making diversity, equity and inclusion a part of everything the institution does.

Here’s the catch – diversity, equity and inclusion do not mean the same thing to normal Iowans as it does to the DEI enforcement teams. A recent substack defined it this way:

“Diversity is not merely making sure that various viewpoints are represented. Equity is not making sure everyone is treated equally. Inclusion is not making sure that people are not unjustly excluded.”

Diversity has nothing to do with diversity of viewpoint, opinion or knowledge. It exclusively has to with diversity of race, gender and sexuality, etc. It does not seek a level playing field, it seeks to elevate a single point of view.  That point of view, which it defines as the only correct point of view, is one held by people who are members of marginalized groups defined by race, gender, sexuality, etc.  As long as those marginalized people adhere to a certain point of view.

Equity is not the same as equality.  Equality means two people are treated equally regardless of race, gender, sexuality, etc.  Equity means legally and socially adjusting outcomes so all people have the same outcomes regardless of hard work, intelligence, competence, adherence to laws, etc.  That means certain identity groups, the oppressed, are given more privileges to enforce equity of outcome.

Inclusion does not mean a welcoming environment for everyone.  It means a welcoming environment for certain identity groups and a hostile exclusionary environment for identity groups DEI bureaucrats label oppressors.  In practice, this means DEI bureaucrats actively silence individuals, viewpoints and material that might support values such as merit, freedom of speech and colorblindness.

Why is this detrimental?  DEI actively undermines merit and colorblindness. Individuals are not rewarded for hard work or accomplishment or knowledge. They are rewarded based on their identities.

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure. In a recent essay he points out an additional negative to DEI. He writes that the principles of DEI teach students to think with emotion instead of reason and logic. He notes that the culture of DEI encourages students, as noted in the March 14th New York Post, “to dwell on slights, engage in (literal) black and white thinking and prioritize their emotions. Instead of being taught to overcome traumatic experiences, negative thoughts and emotional instability, students are encouraged to dwell on them and even to base their identities on them.”

The article continues, “When victimhood is a source of prestige, there’s no incentive to get better. And when students are told their weaknesses provide an excuse to bully others, expect more bullying — and more weaknesses.”

While it is encouraging that the Board of Regents is admitting DEI is a problem on campus, it is not enough. House File 616 is just a first step towards dismantling divisive diversity, equity and inclusion bureaucracies which operate as ideological enforcement divisions on our university campuses.


Privacy for our Children, Please

Parents across Iowa have contacted members of the legislature concerned about the privacy of their children in school. There have been a significant number of reports of biological males using female changing rooms, bathrooms and at least one instance of female students forced to share a hotel room with a biological male on a school trip. Violating the privacy of these boys and girls not only hurts them but also places them in a position that no child should have to navigate. Senate File 482 ensures that children are not forced to share a space with a person of the opposite sex while they are using the restroom, or changing clothes.

Senate File 482, which should be considered by the House this afternoon, Thursday, March 16th, takes a simple and straightforward approach. The bill requires schools to designate bathrooms and changing rooms, such as locker rooms, for either boys or girls. Girls are required to use a girl’s bathroom or changing room and boys are required to use a boy’s bathroom or changing room. If there is any conflict or confusion, the sex listed on the child’s original birth certificate clarifies what facility the child shall use. These requirements also apply when there are extracurricular activities outside of the school building. This ensures girls and boys each have the privacy they should expect in a school.

If a child wants greater privacy than provided by law, their parent can send a letter to the school requesting reasonable accommodations. A reasonable accommodation does not allow a boy to use a girl’s bathroom or vice versa but does allow the child access to a single occupancy restroom or changing area, or controlled use of faculty restrooms or changing areas.

There are exceptions to the bill for parents assisting a child who cannot use the restroom or changing room by themselves, janitorial and maintenance staff if the room is empty, allowing access to anyone providing emergency medical care, and in a disaster or emergency situation where it is necessary to protect students from a threat.

Protecting the privacy of children should be a priority for all adults. Children shouldn’t be subjected to woke and confusing gender ideology and should have their privacy protected in their school setting.


  House Passes Overdue Legislation to Realign State Government

This week the Iowa House passed a piece of legislation that streamlines and realigns the state government of Iowa. It has been nearly 40 years since the organization of the state government has been evaluated and restructured in order to be serve Iowans. In that time the number of cabinet level departments and agencies has grown to 37 agencies. Within these agencies are many duplicative and redundant services that will move under appropriate departments to maximize the services provided to Iowans.

By aligning functions and services that are similar, taxpayers will have a more straightforward process for interacting with the government and receiving the proper services without unnecessarily going to several agencies. One of the biggest changes is bringing in all licensing and regulatory services into the newly named Department of Inspections, Appeals, and Licensing. Currently, the licensing and management of 136 professional licenses is overseen by 11 different state agencies. Now, when contractors work on a project they will only have to coordinate with one agency in order to complete various inspection aspects of the project.

With such an important task as moving boards, authorities, and departments into their new locations the State Government Committee assigned a seven-member subcommittee to review the legislation and to speak with departments to ensure smooth transitions and that these policy changes would work. The subcommittee then held 6 public meetings to hear from the public and the department directors to flesh out concerns. The State Government Committee then considered the bill and adopted a 40-page amendment addressing concerns that were raised before and during found in the subcommittee process.

While there was an undue amount of hyperbolic rhetoric about the size of the bill, 1513 pages, the first 880 pages largely dealt with the merger of the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health which has been in the works for over a year. The remaining changes made in the bill are not changes to services provided to Iowans, but moving boards and oversight to more appropriate departments in a way to make efficient use of staffing and resources. Above all, the legislation aims to provide more streamlined access to government services for Iowans.

The legislation, now heading to the Governor’s desk for signature, was an overdue measure to ensure that government is working for the taxpayers. Consolidating existing services from 37 agencies to 16 will better pool resources and provide stronger oversight to ensure the best service possible for Iowans.


Supporting Volunteer EMS and Firefighters 

In Iowa, over 80% of firefighting departments are volunteer departments. Iowans rely on the over 269 volunteer departments to protect their lives and property. Across Iowa we have seen an increased need for volunteer emergency medical care providers and firefighters. Rural communities in Iowa have for years seen a continued rise in need for volunteers. As Iowans have faced the challenges of natural disasters, a pandemic, and the continued retirement of their local volunteer first responders, Iowans have sacrificed and volunteered to ensure that their fellow Iowans are taken care of.

One way to commit to improving Emergency Medical Services throughout the state is to authorize municipalities, counties, townships, or agencies to implement length of service agreement awards as described in 457(e)(11) of the Internal Revenue Code for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical care providers. The Iowa House has again unanimously passed legislation to create a grant program to allow municipalities to provide an award to volunteer firefighters, emergency medical care providers, and reserve peace officers. The grant would provide up to $1 for $1 match in funding for municipalities that have established the award with funds being offered by the Iowa Lottery Authority.

Authorizing local governments to establish these incredibly useful programs if they so choose can give control to local governments to provide incentives for volunteers in communities in need of emergency services provided by these selfless volunteers. The bill has been received in the Senate where there is a companion bill.


Revenue Estimating Conference Finds Iowa’s Economy, Tax Collections Strong

Iowa’s economy remains strong, generating higher state tax collections, according to the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference. The three-member panel held its annual spring meeting last Friday, revising the revenue estimate for Fiscal Year 2023 (current fiscal year) and Fiscal Year 2024 (budget we will be working on) and setting an initial estimate for Fiscal Year 2025.

As has been the case since they set their initial forecast in December 2021, the panel again raised the revenue projection for Fiscal Year 2023. This time, they increased the forecast for the General Fund to bring in to $9.7504 billion. That is a $135 million increase over their forecast made in the meeting in December of 2022. When compared to Fiscal Year 2022, revenue would be down 0.5 percent. The reason state revenue would be lower is the implementation of the tax cuts passed during the 2022 session, which went into effect on January 1. LSA has projected that the tax cuts will return $575 million to Iowa taxpayers in FY 2023.

As a reminder, the FY 2023 budget was built after the Revenue Estimating Conference met last March and projected revenue for the year then was $9.1879 billion. Over the past year, the panel’s estimate for FY 2023 has risen by $562.5 million.

For Fiscal Year 2024, the panel’s estimate for General Fund revenue has been raised to $9.6503 billion. This is an increase of $24.8 million over December’s official projection. When compared to the new forecast for Fiscal Year 2023, state revenue would decline by 1.0 percent. As with the FY 2023 estimate, the 2022 tax cuts have been factored into the forecast. They will return an additional $450 million to Iowa taxpayers in FY 2024.

For Fiscal Year 2025 (budget which will be passed in the 2024 legislative session) the REC’s initial forecast for General Fund revenue is $9.7413 billion. This would be an increase of $91 million or 0.9 percent over the FY 2024 forecast.

Why are these numbers as high as they are, even with the implementation of the 2022 tax cuts? Iowa’s economy remains strong, as retail sales remain above pre-Pandemic levels. The state’s employment figures in February surpassed the pre-Pandemic high. All three major sources of tax revenue – personal income tax, sales and use tax, and corporate income tax – are running higher than last year’s levels. And that is with implementation of the tax cut starting on January 1.

The positive impact of the tax cuts on Iowa’s economy is already being felt. According to the Department of Management, the average retiree in Iowa will have an additional $3500 in their pockets this year thanks to the elimination of tax on pension income and the higher Social Security COLA. That’s a big help to seniors being hit hard by the persistent inflation continuing to grip the national economy.


Legislative Forums

Tomorrow, Friday, March 17th, I will be attending a forum hosted by the Greater Burlington Partnership which will start promptly at 8AM. A livestream of the forum can be found on the chambers website, and questions can be asked through the online platform. If you can’t tune in live, a recording of the forum can also be found on the chambers website.


Rep. Taylor Collins
Iowa House District 95