Photo credit: Sarah Brooks
Photo credit: Sarah Brooks

Now that Republicans have taken back the Iowa Senate and expanded their majority in the Iowa House I thought it would be a good time to put together a wish list of things I would love to see pass. These are things that would have never seen the light of day outside of a Iowa Senate subcommittee under outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal(ling).

Below are some eight action items with some ideas. Anything the Iowa Legislature can do to shrink government and expand freedom will be welcome.

1. Action to preserve religious liberty.

  • Back in 2010 I was involved in trying to help bring a Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was obviously going to go nowhere with a split legislature. It is time to revisit this and mirror the language of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was passed in 1993.
  • Revisit Iowa Civil Rights Code and strengthen religious liberty language in that bill. Since a federal court already weighed in that the state should not try to determine whether a church’s activity is “religious” or not, that language should be stripped from the code. There should also be clear language that does not compel individuals or business owners from participating in an activity that would violate their religious liberty. So, for instance, a restaurant may not refuse to serve a meal to an LGBT person, but can refuse catering for a same-sex wedding ceremony.

2. Action to protect privacy.

  • Strip gender identity from Iowa Civil Rights Act or at the very least make it clear that the state will not interfere with businesses enforcing their own dress codes. Also, no one should not be compelled to allow biological men to use the women’s facilities and vice versa. If businesses want to decide to do that themselves that is their business. Schools should not be compelled to allow biological males into girls’ locker rooms and restrooms. They should not be forced to allow biological males to participate in girls sports and vice versa. In a nutshell – use common sense, something that seems to have flown out the window.
  • Introduce clear language into the Iowa Code that protects student privacy from data mining in schools. Make it clear that schools shall not share student data outside the school to third parties, the federal government and radically reduce what data a school is required to share with the state department of education.

3. Action to expand educational liberty.

  • Pass education savings accounts that parents can use for educational purposes such private school tuition, homeschool curriculum, online classes, tutors, etc.
  • Tax deductions for homeschooling curriculum and materials. If a family does not opt to use an education savings account they should, at the very least, be able to receive the same kind of tax deductions that school teachers get for their classroom materials.
  • Repeal the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and associated assessments. Start an open, transparent process for minimum, quality standards to be written by Iowans with Iowa teacher, school administrator and parent feedback through public forums and online comments that will be made available to the public. The final draft of the standards then should be approved by the legislature. Local school boards should be given the option of voting to use those standards or create higher standards of their own.
  • Expand open enrollment to any family and student regardless of race or income.
  • Any bill that will return power back to locally elected school boards.

4. Action to protect life. 

  • Decertify Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider.
  • Defund all abortion providers of any and all taxpayer funding.
  • Pass a webcam abortion ban.
  • Pass a late-term abortion ban.
  • Pass parental notification, a waiting period, and ultrasound bills.
  • Pass Personhood trigger language to go into effect if/when Roe v. Wade is struck down.
  • Any bill that makes adoption easier for parents.

5. Action to expand economic freedom.

  • Decrease onerous business regulations. Governor Branstad got the ball rolling on that some, but more can be done with a Republican legislature.
  • The state needs to stop picking winners and losers. Eliminate business income tax and level the playing field for everyone.
  • Pass a simple flat individual income tax or repeal the income tax and pass a Fair Tax.

6. Reduce the size and scope of government. 

  • Address and possibly revise requirements for certain types of state licenses – Example: barbers, hair dressers, etc.
  • Reduce the amount of regulatory and rule-making authority that unelected commissions and boards have.
  • Eliminate taxpayer-funded lobbying. If executive branch departments want to lobby on behalf or against bills before the legislature they must do it on their own time either when they are off duty or by taking time off. The executive branch already has a lobbyist – the Governor – who can veto any legislation he doesn’t like and who expresses his agenda to the Legislature through the Condition of the State address, department reports, and budget submissions. Far too often I have gone to lobby for certain legislation as a citizen to find my taxes paying for a legislative liaison (lobbyist) from say the Department of Education who is working against me. It’s ridiculous.
  • Create a study group to determine how state government can be further streamlined to be more efficient.

7. Action to increase personal liberty.

  • Pass constitutional carry.
  • Eliminate traffic enforcement cameras.
  • Lift the ban on fireworks.

8. Place a check on Judicial Activism

  • Pass an amendment to the Iowa Constitution repealing Article V. Sections 15-16 and replacing it with the federal system of judicial appointments. The Governor should be allowed to nominate any judge he or she desired with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Missouri Plan that we currently use gives too much control over to the Iowa Bar Association and the current judiciary.
  • The legislature needs to use its Constitutional authority to limit the jurisdiction of the Judiciary and take up the practice of revisiting legislature deemed unconstitutional by the Court to either revise the law or provide further clarification to the Court when a disagreement exists. The Legislature must be diligent in reminding the court that they, not the court is the only Constitutional lawmaking body.

This is certainly not exhaustive, and I am under no illusion that all of these will be addressed. Priority one needs to be protecting religious liberty. I also want to address one item that is missing that some may ask me about. What about a marriage amendment? Frankly, until the Obergefell decision is reversed by the Supreme Court or some sort of Federal Marriage Amendment is adopted or a law passed that would send the decision back to the states, it would be wasted effort. The more immediate need is to protect freedom of conscience.

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