Dear Senate District 48
– Week 9 –
This Week in the Senate
As follow up to our first funnel week, the ninth week of the legislative session was focused on floor debate on Monday and Tuesday and sending important bills to the House to be considered for passage. Still, several subcommittees met to begin discussion on bills sent over from the House, while committee meetings were not as prevalent this week as in past weeks.
Floor Debate Ramps Up
Floor debate increased this week. One bill that we debated was Senate File 478. I mentioned this bill last week when I highlighted Senate Study Bill 1200. Some bills that move out of committee are given a new number when they move to the floor for debate. This was one such bill. As I said last week, this bill is common-sense legislation to protect Iowans’ information that is unnecessary for an audit.
Another bill that I mentioned last week that gained a new number for floor debate was Senate File 507, formerly Senate Study Bill 1094. This bill tackles the issue of state investing based on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) performance. This bill comes about due to current concern of financial institutions boycotting and refusing to do business with certain industries based on ideological grounds and not on legitimate business purposes. The common target of these boycotts are firearm manufacturers, production agriculture, and fossil-fuels. Senate File 507 would restrict public funds from entering into contracts with businesses who engage in these boycotts.
We continue to hear from educators about the shortage of viable workforce to fill vacancies. On Tuesday the Senate passed Senate File 391 to help improve the flexibility of Iowa’s K-12 education system. A big focus of this bill was to help schools address concerns amidst labor shortages. One provision would remove the requirement for school librarians to have earned a master’s degree and allow schools to hire former public librarians to serve in this role. Of course school districts may choose to still require this designation, but this change will make it easier for schools in rural areas to find librarians to work in their schools. Another provision of the bill would allow school districts to hire a community college instructor to teach courses in science and math for grades 9 through 12. This will also help rural schools who are struggling to find instructors by making the hiring process more flexible for them. Another part of the bill is focused on helping students with high school scheduling. The bill would allow for more opportunities for students to opt out of physical education class if they are involved in other physical activities or a work-based learning program.
Protecting Children in Iowa
This week both houses of the legislature passed SF 538. This bill now makes it illegal to perform transgender surgeries or sex changes on children in Iowa. This is a very complicated issue that comes with intense emotions. The proper approach is compassionate mental health care and to let children develop naturally.
The state has a responsibility to protect its citizens, especially the children living here. Surgeries and massive amounts of cross-sex hormones have substantial and permanent consequences to children. We have begun to hear stories of adults who received these treatments and are now emotionally and physically scarred for life. This is important information to take note of when discussing public policy that will affect Iowa’s children.
Testimonies that included research were provided in subcommittees and committees last week. Some studies were promoted by people supporting these procedures to point to an improvement in the experience of children who have undergone a gender transition procedure. Each of them being short-term studies only over a 12-month period. However, in 2016 the Obama Administration’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to implement a national coverage for gender transition procedures under Medicare. It cited an internationally recognized 30-year study from Sweden, which showed individuals who had a cross-sex surgical procedure had a suicide rate 19 times higher than the general population. It also led to significantly higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and psychiatric hospitalizations.
Also noted was that these medical procedures are not FDA approved. In fact, during the legislative process one of the doctors who testified during the subcommittee was asked if they are FDA approved. She said they were not because the FDA typically doesn’t do clinical trials on children. Her testimony struck a chord with many as it brought to light the real risk and dangers of gender reassignment surgeries and medications on children.
Lastly, there has been discussion about the rhetoric used on this issue. Media and proponents of these procedures refer to it as transgendered or affirming care. This language obscures what is really happening during these procedures. These hormone treatments and surgeries are irreversible, dangerous, and experimental procedures performed on children and marketed as “care.”
State law prohibits children from getting a tattoo, buying alcohol, gambling, or entering into a contract because they are not equipped to appropriately understand the risks associated with those behaviors. For the same reason, gender reassignment surgeries and hormone therapies should not be available to Iowa children.
The Senate also passed another common-sense bill to provide clarity for Iowa schools and safety for children regarding bathroom access. SF 482 provides that clarity by simply stating children in Iowa school will use the bathroom, locker room, or changing room of their biological sex.
Making Government More Efficient
Many have been advocating for smaller, better government and Senate File 514, the governor’s realignment bill, is an attempt to create just that. This comprehensive review of how the governor’s office manages its own departments is the first in almost 40 years. It will help us to be more in line with other states and help us to find ways we can improve services, modernize government, and bring departments with similar objectives together.
This bill will reduce our current 37 cabinet departments to 16 cabinet departments. It will also eliminate 513 currently unfilled positions, save Iowans money, and consolidate technology and departments to improve operations. In comparing Iowa to other states in the Midwest, we see that all of the states in the Midwest have fewer cabinet departments than Iowa and spend less per capita on state government than we do. Even states with comparable population and spending, like Oklahoma and Mississippi, have fewer cabinet departments and spend less per capita.
Because much has changed in our state and in our world over time, it is necessary to make adjustments to the services that our government provides. Senate File 514 looks at how our government has worked, what Iowans need, and makes necessary changes to help us become a more efficient state government. This bill has now been passed on to the Iowa House for consideration.
Cattlemen at the Capitol Day
On Wednesday we welcomed the Iowa Cattleman’s Association in the rotunda for Cattlemen at the Capitol Day. The day included brisket breakfast burritos and great conversations. Agricultural issues including property rights, preservation of land for livestock grazing, and Phase II of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Iowa State University were topics of the day. All Iowans appreciate our high-quality, Iowa beef!
Talking with Constituents
Conversations took place again this weekend with constituents in both Muscatine and Louisa Counties. Saturday’s agenda included not one, but two legislative forums. The first was held at Muscatine Community College and the second at City Hall in Wapello.