Mark Lofgren – District 48 Update

This Week in the Senate

Week Seven of the 2024 Legislative Session was filled with debate in the Senate. Bills that made it out of the Senate have now been sent on to the House for their consideration. This week also included an abundance of visitors wishing to discuss current and proposed legislative issues with us.

Bills Move Forward

A few bills that I have mentioned in my newsletters already this session made it out of the Senate this week. These include the “left lane camping” bill, SF 2116, the bill to help ensure qualified candidates for appointments are considered, SF 2096, and SF 2251, the bill to expand and also preserve Medicaid benefits for pregnant women who truly need the assistance. All of these bills passed the Senate with support from members of both parties, and more detail to these bills can be found by clicking the embedded links to the actual bills.

Another bill that passed is Senate File 2161, which raises the penalties for “swatting”. News stories about fake phone calls threatening crimes like a shooting or a bomb threat seem to be much more common recently. This bill would increase the penalty for a false report, and further increase the penalty if the false report results in a serious injury or death. This bill passed the Senate with unanimous consent.

Iowans Support a Constitutional Amendment to Protect Tax Cuts\

Iowans for Tax Relief released a recent poll that shows Iowans overwhelmingly support the constitutional amendment proposed earlier this legislative session. According to the poll, over 67 percent of Iowans support requiring a supermajority vote by the Legislature to raise income tax rates in Iowa. Iowans also overwhelmingly support putting the flat tax into the Iowa Constitution, ensuring a single tax rate for all taxpayers in Iowa.

Tax reform for hard-working Iowa families has been a priority for Senate Republicans since we gained the majority in 2017, and after years of monumental tax relief for Iowans, we have made huge progress as a state. By requiring a supermajority to raise income tax rates in Iowa, we can protect all these reforms we have worked hard on, further protect the dollars of hard-working Iowans, and make sure that if there was ever a need to raise taxes in the future, it would likely require bipartisan support.

Raising taxes on Iowans shouldn’t be easy. There should be a higher bar and an overwhelming need to raise income taxes on Iowans. By also putting into the Iowa Constitution a single, flat tax for Iowans, we can ensure Iowa’s tax code remains simple and fair for all taxpayers.

Religious Freedom Protections Pass the Iowa Senate

In 1993, a Democrat-controlled US House, Senate and President passed a bill referred to as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It was a bipartisan expression of support for religious freedom.

Since then, court cases have restricted the federal law to apply only to situations impacted by the federal government. So, if states want to extend the same protections to their residents, they must pass a state law as well. Twenty-five other states have a version of this bill in law, including conservative states like Oklahoma and South Carolina and liberal states like Illinois and Rhode Island.

This week, the Iowa Senate passed very similar legislation to ensure common sense protections for Iowans with sincerely held religious beliefs. SF 2095, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, does not pick a winning religion or a losing religion, it does not legalize discrimination, and it does not do so many of the things predicted by opponents of this legislation. Furthermore, with laws like SF 2095 on the books in so many states, the alleged boycotts and economic impact of the legislation has been demonstrated not to exist.

The bill says the state must have a compelling state interest, the highest legal burden, to intrude on an Iowan’s religious expression. Further, if the state does have a compelling interest, the impact on someone’s free exercise of religion must be in the least restrictive manner possible.

Ultimately, this bill simply gives people who believe their free exercise of religion has been impeded a day in court. It is reasonable to have a high legal burden to protect the founding principle of this country.

Land Protections Prove Themselves Worthy

This week the Senate passed Senate File 2204, giving Iowans more information about who owns Iowa’s farmland and helping us protect one of our greatest resources. SF 2204 requires nonresident aliens, foreign businesses, and foreign governments to register their farmland with the Secretary of State. It also requires them to include their legal name, address, nationality, and authority to purchase agricultural land. The bill requires a statement of purpose for conducting business in the state, their interest in owning the land, a listing of all landholdings across the United States totaling more than 250 acres by a parent corporation or its subsidiary, and the legal name and address of a parent corporation or its subsidiary when registering with the state.

If a foreign entity fails to register in a timely manner, they would be subject to a penalty of up to 25 percent of the assessed value of the land, and they must register land within 60 days of acquisition. The bill also requires this registration to be updated twice a year, and if a foreign entity fails to file the biennial report or provides false information, they will be subject to a fine of no more than $10k per offense.

As an agricultural state, Iowans have a strong and vested interest in protecting our land and knowing who owns it. We are already known for having strong laws on land ownership, and this bill would strengthen them even further and increase the penalties for bad actors. It is vital for our food and national security for Iowa farmland remains in the hands of Iowans and Americans.