Iowa State Capitol Rotunda
Photo Credit: Angelo Mercado via Flickr (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)

How the 2018 Iowa Legislative Session went will depend a lot on your perspective, ideology, and priorities. I would largely consider the 2018 legislative session of the 87th Iowa General Assembly to be a success, but not a total success. First, the good, here are my top-five highlights from this year’s session. I will follow-up with another article tomorrow about what disappointed me. (Update: Here’s the follow-up article.)

1. Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban

The top of my list would be Governor Kim Reynolds’ signing the fetal heartbeat abortion ban. This is the crowning pro-life achievement in Iowa.

I so appreciated the Governor’s statement that accompanied her signature:

I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred, and as governor, I pledged to do everything in my power to protect it. That is what I am doing today. I understand that not everyone will agree with this decision. But if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn’t a beating heart indicate life? For me, it is immoral to stop an innocent beating heart. For me, it is sickening to sell fetal body parts. For me, my faith leads me to protect every Iowan, no matter how small.

I understand and anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court, and that courts may even put a hold on the law until it reaches the Supreme Court. However, this is bigger than just a law. This is about life. I am not going to back down from who I am or what I believe in.

I’m not convinced that former Governor Terry Branstad would have signed that bill primarily because of the expected legal challenge. I could be wrong, but we’ll never know. He did sign the late-term abortion ban last session, and this new law moves the ball forward toward, prayerfully, seeing Roe v. Wade overturned.

2. Tax Reform in Iowa.

I am happy the Iowa Legislature ended the session passing a tax reform bill. It’s a good first step. I agree with John Hendrickson who wrote about it last week. It deserves two cheers, not three. Perhaps a polite golf clap. Businesses will see a significant reduction right away and that is good, but middle-class families won’t until five years down the road and only if state revenue grows by 4 percent each year until 2022. The trigger is too high.

3. Keep and Bear Arms Resolution Passes First Hurdle

The Iowa House passed HJR 2009, a proposed constitutional amendment affirming Iowans’ right to keep and bear arms by a 54 to 42 vote on March 19, the Iowa Senate passed the resolution 34 to 15 on March 21.  It has to pass in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate during the 88th Iowa General Assembly before voters can decide.

Here’s the text of the proposed amendment to Article I of the Iowa Constitution:

Right to keep and bear arms. SEC. 1A. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

4. Rule of law prevails with sanctuary city ban.

Governor Reynolds signed SF 481 without comment. SF 481  requires that law enforcement agencies comply with immigration detainer requests from ICE if they have an illegal immigrant in custody. The new law also requires illegal immigrants with a detainer request currently in a state correctional facility serve out the end of their sentence in a federal correctional facility for a period of no more than seven days.

It also prohibits cities or counties from adopting or enforcing a policy or take any other action that prohibits or discourages the enforcement of immigration laws. It also prevents cities and counties from prohibiting or discouraging law enforcement officers, correctional officers, county attorneys, city attorneys, or any other official employed or under the direction of a city or county from inquiring about the immigration status of a person who has been lawfully detained or arrested, contacting ICE or other relevant federal agency, from maintaining immigration status information of persons lawfully detained, or exchanging that information with another local, state, or federal agency. The original bill also requires the cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officers that is reasonable or necessary. Cities and counties would also be required to give federal immigration authorities access to correctional and detention facilities to enforce immigration law.

The bill also states that cities and counties are not to ask the victim or witness of an alleged event their national origin or for any information that is not relevant to the alleged public offense. It also prohibits discrimination based on race, skin color, language spoken, or national origin in the enforcement of immigration law.

Counties and cities that violate the law could have state funds withheld for a year.

The bill was demonized, but, frankly, it does not empower law enforcement to enforce immigration law. It just states they have to cooperate with federal immigration law. So we are not going to see traffic stops solely for the purpose of inquiring about the immigration status of those in the car.

 

5. Iowa Statewide Assessment Development will remain in-state.

Governor Reynolds signed HF 2235 in late March without comment.

Both chambers of the Iowa Legislature in bipartisan fashion rejected the Iowa Department of Education’s choice for a statewide assessment in favor of one developed by the University of Iowa’s Iowa Testing Program. The Iowa Testing Programs developed and administered the Iowa Assessments (previously known as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills that was a standard for many schools nationwide for many years).

The Iowa House of Representatives passed HF 2235, the successor to HSB 578, on February 20th 95 to 3. The Iowa Senate passed an amended version of the bill on Tuesday 39 to 10 which the House concurred 86 to 13.

Iowa ended its years-long debate over statewide assessments which I outline here. I had some major concerns with the assessment chosen by the Iowa Department of Education so I’m happy to see the state’s educracy denied for a change. I will be clear, however, this does not rid the state of top-down standards. It just gives the state more control over how those standards are assessed.

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