# Constitution



Forcing religion on public schools is a bad idea

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at BruceLear2419@gmail.com  

We’ve all heard these old adages. “You can’t force a round peg into a square hole.” “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

There are a lot of other things we shouldn’t try to force. We can’t force someone to think we’re handsome, beautiful, witty, or charming. We can’t force our kids to date or marry the one we choose, and we can’t force a sushi hater to love eating sushi.

In the U.S., we can’t force someone to believe in one brand of religion or any religion at all just because that’s what the majority believes or that’s what politicians think would make them more popular.

But It’s happening.

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The fate of Iowa's abortion ban

John Kearney is a retired philosophy professor who taught at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has lived in Waterloo, Iowa for the past six years.

U. S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the conservative majority in the landmark 2022 Dobbs case (which overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent), concluded his opinion by saying:

“In my judgment, on the issue of abortion, the Constitution is nether pro-life nor pro-choice. The Constitution is neutral, and this Court must be scrupulously neutral. The Court today properly heeds the constitutional principle of judicial neutrality and returns the issue of abortion to the people and their elected representatives in the democratic process.”

The legal controversy over Iowa’s near-total abortion ban (House File 732) focuses on whether a “rational basis” or an “undue burden” review of abortion regulations should hold sway. (The Iowa Supreme Court will soon rule on the state’s appeal of a lower court injunction that has blocked the law’s enforcement.)

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New Iowa law flouts U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

Where does your primary loyalty lie: as a citizen of America, or as a citizen of Iowa?

Probably seems like a meaningless question. But around the nation, more and more states these days are enacting laws in opposition to those of the federal government, placing the loyalty question front and center. And a growing number of U.S. residents are declaring a preference to honor their state laws above those of the United States.

ORIGINS OF THE SUPREMACY CLAUSE

In terms of settled law, there’s no real dispute: federal law outranks state law. The U.S. Constitution leaves no doubt. Article VI, Clause 2 (the “Supremacy Clause”), reads as follows:

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Cool heads needed to navigate campus protests

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

The events of the past six months in Israel and Gaza have me wishing it were possible to have just one more lunch with a friend who died four years ago.

My friend was Jewish. In today’s vocabulary, he would be called an ardent Zionist. He had little patience for people who disparaged Israel.

But he also was a proponent of dialogue and diplomacy. He never hesitated to call me for lunch after The Des Moines Register’s opinion pages published something he disliked. Our lunchtime conversations and debates were models of civility, even though our discussions often challenged each of us to defend and reconsider our views.

That is why I wish we could have one more lunch to talk about the massacre of 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals by Hamas terrorists last October 7. I long to discuss Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza, the home of those terrorists who were responsible for October’s bloody attacks.

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Proposed constitutional amendment is undemocratic

State Senator Dan Dawson floor manages a proposed constitutional amendment on April 10.

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

Tax bills in the Iowa legislature have always been approved or disapproved by simple majorities. If most legislators want to raise taxes, or lower them, they do it the usual way: take a vote, up or down, and whichever side gets the most votes wins. That’s how democracy works.

But this year, Republican legislators voted to change that.

First the Iowa House in late March, and then the Iowa Senate earlier this month, approved House Joint Resolution 2006, a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would require a two-thirds majority in each house of the legislature to raise state income taxes.

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Governor's latest attack on trans Iowans can't be constitutional

Photo by Laura Belin from a rally outside the Iowa capitol on March 5, 2023

UPDATE: On February 6, Republicans advanced this bill from an Iowa House subcommittee. A few hours later, the full House Education Committee amended the bill to remove the driver’s license section, then approved it along party lines. Democrats requested a public hearing, which took place on February 12 (video). Following committee passage, the bill was renumbered as House File 2389. Original post follows.

Governor Kim Reynolds didn’t give LGBTQ Iowans even one full day to celebrate the downfall of a bill to remove gender identity protections from Iowa’s civil rights law.

The latest legislative proposal from the governor’s office would lay the foundation for “separate but equal” treatment of transgender Iowans and what one advocate called an “astonishing government violation of privacy rights.”

Although House Study Bill 649 contains some language designed to bolster the state’s potential defense in court, there’s no way the governor’s newest effort to codify discrimination against LGBTQ people could be constitutional.

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Court blocks Iowa's "staggeringly broad" book bans, teaching restrictions

UPDATE: Attorney General Brenna Bird filed notice of appeal to the Eighth Circuit on January 12. Original post follows.

The state of Iowa cannot enforce key parts of a new law that sought to ban books depicting sex acts from schools and prohibit instruction “relating to gender identity and sexual orientation” from kindergarten through sixth grade.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher issued a preliminary injunction on December 29, putting what he called “staggeringly broad” provisions on hold while two federal lawsuits challenging Senate File 496 proceed. The judge found the book bans “unlikely to satisfy the First Amendment under any standard of scrutiny,” and the teaching restrictions “void for vagueness under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

However, the state may continue to enforce a provision requiring school administrators to inform parents or guardians if a student seeks an “accommodation that is intended to affirm the student’s gender identity.” Judge Locher found the LGBTQ students who are plaintiffs in one case lack standing to challenge that provision, since “they are all already ‘out’ to their families and therefore not affected in a concrete way” by it.

Governor Kim Reynolds and Attorney General Brenna Bird quickly criticized the court’s decision. But neither engaged with the legal issues at hand.

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State gaslights on Iowa's book ban, "don't say gay/trans" law

Image of frequently banned books by On The Run Photo is available via Shutterstock. All books shown here have been removed from multiple Iowa school districts, according to the Des Moines Register’s database.

A federal judge will soon decide whether to block enforcement of all or part of an Iowa law that imposed many new regulations on public school libraries and educators.

Two groups of plaintiffs filed suit last month challenging Senate File 496 as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Among other things, the law prohibits school libraries and classrooms from offering “any material with descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act.” It also forbids schools from providing “any program, curriculum, test, survey, questionnaire, promotion, or instruction relating to gender identity or sexual orientation to students in kindergarten through grade six.”

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher of the Southern District of Iowa did not consolidate the cases, which contain some overlapping arguments. But he did consolidate the hearings on the plaintiffs’ requests for a temporary injunction, which would prevent the state from enforcing certain provisions of SF 496 while litigation proceeds.

Near the end of that December 22 hearing in Des Moines, the judge said he will rule on whether to issue an injunction by January 1, when provisions allowing the state to investigate or discipline educators or school districts for certain violations will take effect.

Attorneys for the state advanced several misleading or contradictory legal arguments at the hearing and in briefs filed last week.

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Banning unpopular religious displays is not the solution

Satanic Temple display in the Iowa state capitol, photographed by Laura Belin

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

I really should not be surprised by some comments that represent what passes for civic dialogue in Iowa these days. 

The latest example leaves me shaking my head, not just at the events themselves but at the reactions. Mrs. Gentry, my history and government teacher in high school, would be dismayed by intelligent people misunderstanding one of the foundations upon which the United States was established — that foundation being the desire of people for intellectual freedom.

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Religion in politics: the biggest threat to our liberties

Illustration by Jena Luksetich from Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers is published with permission.

Jason Benell lives in Des Moines with his wife and two children. He is a combat veteran, former city council candidate, and president of Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers.

Over the last dozen or so years in Iowa, we have seen a new assault on citizens’ rights, putting the future of our state in a precarious situation. It seems every other week there are reports and new sets of statistics tarnishing what was once a sterling record for Iowa on the well-being of its citizens. We have seen Iowa lose its destination status for those looking for an excellent public education as well as a dearth of coverage for mental health care. Iowa now ranks the worst in the country for OB/GYN coverage per capita and is consistently cited as an example of what not to do when it comes to stewardship of our waterways.

On top of these dire statistics, we are also seeing unprecedented assaults on the civil liberties of Iowans, from banning books in schools (and prompting at least two costly lawsuits because of it) to banning transgender Iowans from participating in sports to restricting the right to privacy and health care for half of the state’s population.

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A close look at the second lawsuit challenging Iowa's book bans

From left: Author Laurie Halse Anderson, author Malinda Lo, and Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek. Screenshots taken during the November 30 news conference announcing a new legal challenge to Senate File 496.

“The right to speak and the right to read are inextricably intertwined.”

So declare the plaintiffs in the second lawsuit filed challenging Iowa’s new ban on certain library books and classroom materials.

The new federal lawsuit focuses on two provisions of Senate File 496, which Republican lawmakers approved in April and Governor Kim Reynolds signed in May. A separate federal lawsuit filed last week challenges SF 496 in its entirety, focusing on additional provisions targeting LGBTQ students as well as the book bans.

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LGBTQ plaintiffs make strong case against Iowa education law

Plaintiffs Puck Carlson (left) and Berry Stevens (right) in photos provided by the ACLU of Iowa and Lambda Legal

Iowa Republican lawmakers and Governor Kim Reynolds enacted several laws this year that discriminate against LGBTQ people. This week, seven Iowa families and the advocacy group Iowa Safe Schools filed the first lawsuit challenging one of those statutes: the wide-ranging education bill known as Senate File 496.

The plaintiffs, who include eight LGBTQ students attending public elementary, middle, or high schools across Iowa, have laid out a compelling case that SF 496 violates LGBTQ students’ First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights in several ways, as well as the federal Equal Access Act.

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Court finds Iowa's garbage search law unconstitutional

A Polk County District Court has ruled that the Iowa legislature “overstepped” when it enacted a law allowing police to search garbage outside a home without a warrant.

In a November 13 order granting a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained through trash grabs, Chief Judge Michael Huppert found the 2022 law “void as inconsistent with the language of article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution as interpreted by the Iowa Supreme Court.”

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Article III, Section 29: Iowa Supreme Court, legislature both got it wrong

Cato is an attorney who spent most of his career fighting for civil liberties and other public policy matters in Iowa. He is a lifelong Iowan. His legal interests include constitutional law (separation of powers), federalism, legislative procedures and public policy, and the laws of war. Editor’s note: Bleeding Heartland allows guest authors to publish under pseudonyms at Laura Belin’s discretion.

INTRODUCTION

The Iowa General Assembly changed some practices in light of the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in LS Power Midcontinent v. Iowa, which struck down the Right of First Refusal (ROFR) portion of the 2020 Budget Omnibus Bill (House File 2643) as violating Article III, Section 29 of the Iowa Constitution. Justice Thomas Waterman wrote the decision, joined by Chief Justice Susan Christensen and Justices Edward Mansfield and Christopher McDonald. Justices Dana Oxley, Matthew McDermott, and David May recused from the case.

In the weeks following the court ruling, Republicans in both the state House and Senate refused to answer questions during floor debate regarding ambiguities in legislation and other questions relating to how certain language will play out in the real world lives of Iowans. Iowa media covered those developments in April:

Senate and House Republicans seem to have stopped answering questions because the Iowa Supreme Court’s LS Power ruling extensively quoted comments Senator Michael Breitbach made while floor managing HF 2643. They apparently believe the Court used these floor comments as justification for striking down the ROFR provision at issue in that case. 

Attorneys for the state and for intervenors filed applications on April 7, asking the Court to reconsider its conclusions and holdings in the ruling. LS Power filed its response on April 19. The Supreme Court denied the request for a rehearing on April 26 without much explanation. An amended opinion released on May 30 corrected some (but not all) factual inaccuracies in the initial ruling. 

The General Assembly adjourned its legislative session on May 4 without any action in response to the court denying the requests for a rehearing. Only time will tell how this constitutional impasse between the legislative and judicial branches gets resolved. Paths available to both branches could restore the balance of power without escalating the dispute. 

Regardless of how long it takes or how the dispute gets resolved, Iowans must never forget that your constitution exists for the sole purpose of protecting and guaranteeing your individual rights and liberties as free and independent People. Iowa Const. Art. 1, Sec. 2 (“All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people, and they have the right, at all times, to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.”). 

This article hopes to explain why the Iowa Supreme Court and Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate are both guilty of violating the Iowa Constitution, while also seeking to provide a framework to resolve the impasse between the legislative and judicial branches. Similarly, this article hopes to persuade a future litigant to nudge the court in the right direction in a future case, and to persuade the people to nudge the General Assembly in the right direction consistent with this constitutional framework. 

To that end, here is the analysis of Article III, Section 29 of the Iowa Constitution from the perspective of the Iowa People. 

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The six-week abortion ban and freedom of religion

Janice Weiner is a Democratic state senator representing Iowa City and a member of the Iowa Senate State Government Committee, where Republicans ran the bill that received final approval as House File 732.

During the time-limited debate on Iowa’s six-week abortion ban on July 11, the Iowa Senate—predictably—ran out of time. You can’t say everything that truly needs to be said, argue all the inaccuracies and vague language and failures and exceptions that sound good on paper but have shown themselves, across this country, to be paper tigers, in a matter of hours.

One important argument that fell on the “time certain” cutting room floor: freedom of religion. I’ve reorganized the freedom of religion portion of my constitutional arguments speech into this article.

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Consequences of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding, or endorsement from any for-profit business, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or political party.    

More than a year has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade and Casey precedents, stripping women of a right they’d had for nearly 50 years to make their own reproductive health-care decisions. The Dobbs v. Jackson decision has affected American lives in many ways, and had some surprising consequences.

For the first time ever, a majority of Americans say abortion is morally acceptable and recent abortion laws are too strict.

For the first time in two decades, more people identify as “pro-choice” versus pro-life.”

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Needed for America: A better operating system

Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.

Bringing in my 7-year-old Windows laptop to the repair shop—I confess I hold on to my computers as long as I hold on to my cars—made me think about how America is like a PC.

PCs, based on the Microsoft Windows operating system, are greater than the sum of their parts: a box made by manufacturer A, a motherboard from manufacturer B, a hard drive from manufacturer C, a power source from manufacturer D, and so on.

Similarly, America was pieced together as a conglomeration: 13 semi-autonomous colonies, now 50 semi-autonomous states, which differ in ethnicity, topography, religion, and economy, among others.

The Constitution was designed not as a unifying operating system but as a series of giant compromises to keep states from warring with each other. So states can mandate what is considered criminal conduct, mandate their own penalties for such conduct, ascribe and proscribe rights, and more. In fact, it took the Supreme Court to rule, in 1819, that yes, federal law had primacy over state law.

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Why Iowa Republicans may struggle to agree on new abortion ban

Top Iowa Republicans reacted quickly on June 16 after the Iowa Supreme Court’s split decision kept abortion legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks.

In a joint news release, Governor Kim Reynolds, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, and House Speaker Pat Grassley promised to work together on what they called “pro-life policies to protect the unborn.” But they did not indicate whether a new law might differ from the near-total abortion ban passed in 2018, which remains permanently enjoined after the Supreme Court deadlock.

The statements also did not clarify whether Republicans plan to convene a special legislative session before lawmakers are scheduled to return to Des Moines next January. Communications staff working for the governor and House and Senate leaders did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s questions.

Any new abortion ban would be challenged immediately, and two years might pass before the Iowa Supreme Court rules on whether that law violates the state constitution. So anti-abortion advocates will want the legislature and governor to start the process sooner rather than later.

But even with the large House and Senate majorities Iowa Republicans now enjoy, it may not be easy to draft a bill that can get through both chambers.

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How two more GOP bills will change public education in Iowa

Reshaping K-12 education has been a major theme of the Iowa legislature’s 2023 session. In January, Republican majorities quickly approved Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to divert hundreds of millions of public dollars to private schools. In March, the House and Senate passed a “bathroom bill” prohibiting transgender people from using school facilities that align with their gender identity.

Last week, House and Senate Republicans finished work on another two major education bills. Senate File 496 will impose many new restrictions on public schools, while Senate File 391 will lower standards for teachers and librarians and relax several high school curriculum requirements.

The Senate approved both bills on straight party-line votes. Four House Republicans (Michael Bergan, Chad Ingels, Megan Jones, and Hans Wilz) joined Democrats to vote against Senate File 496. Ingels and all Democrats present opposed Senate File 391.

Reynolds is certain to sign both bills and claim victory for her stated goals of empowering parents and giving school districts more flexibility. This post will explain how key provisions changed before final passage, and which parts of each bill didn’t make the cut.

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What's done, what's left as Iowa legislature's 2023 session winds down

The Iowa House and Senate finished work this week on several priority bills for Republicans, and leaders are closer to agreement on the next state budget.

The accelerating pace raises the prospect that the Iowa legislature may adjourn for the year close to the session’s scheduled end date of April 28. Stalemates over policies related to education and COVID-19 vaccines pushed the last two legislative sessions well into overtime; the 2021 session ended on May 19, and last year’s work wrapped up on May 24.

This piece highlights where things stand with high-profile bills approved in either the House or Senate this week, and other legislation that will likely be part of late deal-making. Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will focus on many of those bills separately.

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Republicans shatter another Iowa Senate norm

Iowa Senate debate on a proposal to relax child labor regulations stalled late in the evening of April 17, after the Republican floor manager Adrian Dickey and Majority Leader Jack Whitver refused to answer a Democratic senator’s questions about an amendment published earlier in the day.

After hours of delay, the Senate resumed its work and approved the child labor bill (Senate File 542) shortly before 5:00 am on April 18, with Republicans Charlie McClintock and Jeff Taylor joining all Democrats in opposition.

The snag in last night’s proceedings is not limited to one controversial issue.

According to Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, Whitver told him Senate Republicans would no longer answer questions during floor debate, in light of a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision. That ruling (known as LS Power) has also made Iowa House Republicans more cautious about answering questions in public, a debate on a firearms bill revealed last week.

The majority party’s new approach could leave Iowa lawmakers less informed as they vote on complex legislation. Floor debate may be the only time Democrats can clarify their understanding of certain provisions, since managers’ amendments containing big changes sometime appear just hours before a vote on final passage. Over the next few weeks, Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their spending plans for fiscal year 2024 right before lengthy budget bills are bought to the chamber floor.

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Supreme Court case could become slippery slope

Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

Few people like being told what they must do. Lorie Smith is one of them.

The suburban Denver, Colorado business owner, a devout Christian, builds websites for customers. She wants to expand her business and begin building websites for couples who are planning weddings.

But she is adamant that she does not want to be forced to build websites for same-sex couples. Doing so, she says, would violate her faith, which does not allow her to celebrate same-sex marriages.

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Republicans' next move: Rewrite the U.S. Constitution?

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding, or endorsement from any for-profit business, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or political party.      

Now that the November 8 midterm election has passed, Republicans have maintained their trifectas in 22 states (losing only Arizona), and control one or both legislative chambers in at least half a dozen others. Don’t be surprised if the GOP’s next move in some state legislatures will be to call for a U.S. Constitutional Convention.

Permit me to explain.

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How Iowa Supreme Court's McDermott, Oxley have decided big cases

Disclosure: I am a plaintiff in an open records lawsuit that is pending before the Iowa Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal. (The governor’s office appealed a lower court ruling against the state’s motion to dismiss our case.) That litigation has nothing to do with this post.

On the back side of Iowa’s general election ballot, voters have a chance to vote yes or no on allowing two Iowa Supreme Court justices, two Iowa Court of Appeals judges, and dozens of lower court judges to remain on the bench.

No organizations are campaigning or spending money against retaining Justices Dana Oxley and Matthew McDermott, whom Governor Kim Reynolds appointed in 2020.

Nevertheless, I expect the justices to receive a lower share of the retention vote than most of their predecessors. Shortly after the newest justices were part of a controversial ruling on abortion in June, the Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom found a partisan split in attitudes toward the Iowa Supreme Court, with a significant share of Democrats and independents disapproving of the court’s work.

This post seeks to provide context on how the justices up for retention have approached Iowa Supreme Court decisions that may particularly interest Bleeding Heartland readers.

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Turn the ballot over and vote no on Public Measure 1

Katie Jones lives in Des Moines with her family. She is passionate about gun violence prevention.

Gun safety is on the ballot in Iowa this year. Voters will consider a state constitutional amendment called Public Measure 1, which states, “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.”

The last sentence makes this amendment very different from the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, and more extreme. What is strict scrutiny and how would it change the legal landscape?

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An Iowa Supreme Court hint on "strict scrutiny" for gun cases?

Tom Barton wrote an excellent article for the Cedar Rapids Gazette about what’s at stake in this November’s vote on a pro-gun amendment to the Iowa Constitution. Republicans who pushed for the amendment have downplayed its potential impact on existing gun regulations. But legal experts told Barton some laws, such as a broad prohibition on firearms ownership by people with felony convictions, might not survive a court challenge if voters approve the constitutional amendment.

In a little-noticed passage tucked into a recent decision on abortion rights, a majority of Iowa Supreme Court justices suggested that existing gun regulations could be doomed under a “strict scrutiny” standard.

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Tactical retreat on Iowa's abortion waiting period averts strategic loss

The ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood North Central States announced on August 5 that they will not pursue litigation challenging Iowa’s mandatory 24-hour waiting period before all abortions. The Iowa Supreme Court allowed that 2020 law to go into effect in June, when a 5-2 majority reversed the court’s abortion rights precedent and sent Planned Parenthood’s case back to District Court.

In a written statement, ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis Austen described the decision to dismiss the case as “extremely difficult.”

But the move was wise in light of Iowa’s current legal landscape. Dropping this challenge could push back by years any ruling by the conservative-dominated Iowa Supreme Court to establish a new legal standard for reviewing abortion restrictions. That could strengthen the position of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU as they fight grave threats to Iowans’ bodily autonomy.

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Four takeaways for Iowa from the pro-choice vote in Kansas

In a huge victory for bodily autonomy, Kansas voters on August 2 overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have cleared a path for Republican lawmakers to ban abortion. With about 95 percent of votes counted, the “no” vote (against removing abortion protections from the Kansas constitution) led the “yes” vote by 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent.

Iowa Democrats and Republicans should pay attention to the results.

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Iowa doesn't need a gun amendment

Bruce Lear: The constitutional amendment Iowans will vote on in November goes much further than the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I love the movie Tombstone, featuring Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday, Sam Elliot as Virgil, and Bill Paxton as Morgan. It’s a little shorter than Kevin Costner’s 3 hour plus marathon Earp, released a few months later.      

Tombstone came out in 1993, but it’s still a good watch even for the fifth time. It’s also relevant now, because the U.S. Supreme Court recently expanded gun rights, and this November, Iowans will be asked to enshrine guns into our state’s constitution.

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How far can Iowa Republicans go to ban abortion? (updated)

The worst-case scenario for bodily autonomy in Iowa played out over the past ten days. First, the Iowa Supreme Court on June 17 overturned its own 2018 precedent that established a fundamental right to abortion, protected by the state constitution. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that established a federal constitutional right to an abortion, and the related Casey decision of 1992.

Top Iowa Republicans immediately promised further action to restrict abortion, which is now legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s not yet clear when they will try to pass a new law, which exceptions (if any) may be on the table, or whether a ban modeled on other state laws could survive an Iowa court challenge.

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How did we get here? An analysis of the Dobbs decision

Bleeding Heartland user “Bill from White Plains” is an Iowa attorney.

Now that five U.S. Supreme Court justices have overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent when deciding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, I thought it might be helpful to do a deep dive into the legal bases for that decision. Most folks see this as a “results-oriented” ruling, “judicial activism” done by “unelected judges” superseding “the will of the people.”

As with most Supreme Court cases, the popular press has focused on the result (ending any federal constitutional right to an abortion), rather than the legal framework. More often than not, our discourse parrots what we read and hear from the media. It is important to learn how the Supreme Court majority reached this outcome, because for the rest of our lives, that legal framework may impact civil rights most of us have taken for granted for decades.

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Dangerous gun amendment on Iowa's November ballot

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

On June 15, as many as a dozen Kansas City area schools shut down summer classes when a generalized threat was posted on Snapchat. A 19-year-old suspect has been charged with making a terrorist threat.

The Kansas City Star’s editorial board commented, “If lawmakers won’t do what most Americans want and pass some real, effective and warranted restrictions on gun access, then we are left with drilling children on how to react when a gunman comes into their school.”

That’s just where Governor Kim Reynolds wants Iowa schools to be — battened down, armed, drilled, quivering, guarded, and under desks.

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What could happen in Iowa after Roe is overturned

Five U.S. Supreme Court justices will soon overturn the Roe v Wade and Casey decisions, according to a draft majority opinion obtained by Politico. Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward published excerpts from the draft, which author Justice Samuel Alito circulated in February.

Assuming the court overrules Roe sometime in the next two months, abortion will become illegal immediately in more than a dozen states. Other Republican-controlled states, including Iowa, will likely pass total or near-total abortion bans soon after.

But any such law could not take effect here as long as a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court precedent stands. In that case, the majority held that the Iowa Constitution protects a fundamental right “to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy,” and any limits on that right are subject to strict scrutiny.

That ruling could be overturned in two ways.

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Iowa's new garbage search law looks unconstitutional

Iowans have “no reasonable expectation of privacy in garbage placed outside of the person’s residence for waste collection in a publicly accessible area,” according to a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law on April 21.

Lawmakers approved Senate File 2296 in response to a June 2021 Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which declared warrantless garbage searches unconstitutional.

Whether the new law can withstand scrutiny is unclear. Attorneys who opposed the bill have pointed out that the legislature and governor cannot override the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution. But it could be years before a challenge to the law reaches the high court.

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Iowa women deserve better representation

Doris J. Kelley is a former member of the Iowa House and former Iowa Board of Parole Chair, Vice-Chair and Executive Director.

As a state legislator from 2007 through 2010, I was honored to represent 30,000 Cedar Valley constituents. I represented Iowa’s 3 million citizens while in a leadership position with the Board of Parole from 2011 to 2014. To me, people always came before party.

It perplexed many of my fellow legislators when I supported my constituents’ values and went against the party line. Now, I’m perplexed by the actions of Iowa Republicans who are supposed to represent our wishes in Washington, D.C.

In 1972, then State Representative Chuck Grassley voted for Iowa to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). But as a U.S. senator, he’s not carried that banner forward.

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Understanding the proposed right to firearms amendment

Linda Schreiber is a member of the League of Women Voters of Johnson County.

The League of Women Voters of Johnson County will host a virtual program, “Understanding the Proposed ‘Right to Firearms’ Amendment,” on Thursday, April 21, at 7 p.m. This program, planned by the LWVJC Education Committee, will address the proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution that will appear on the ballot in November. The language needs a simple majority of “yes” votes to be added to the constitution.

Temple Hiatt, a longtime gun violence prevention advocate and activist, will address the proposed amendment. She is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and a member of the Iowa City community for over 40 years. Temple’s personal experience of gun suicide by a family member informs her understanding of the sensible steps that we can take to prevent gun violence.

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Four ways the Iowa Supreme Court may handle next big abortion case

The Iowa Supreme Court will soon revisit one of the most politically charged questions of our time.

Last week a Johnson County District Court permanently blocked the state from “implementing, effectuating or enforcing” a law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before all abortions. Judge Mitchell Turner ruled the law unconstitutional on two grounds. The state is appealing the ruling and argues that a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court precedent, which established a fundamental right to an abortion under the Iowa Constitution, was “wrongly decided.”

Republican lawmakers planned for this scenario when they approved the waiting period during the waning hours of the 2020 legislative session. They may get their wish, but a reversal of the 2018 decision is not guaranteed.

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Will poll-tested language sway Iowa voters on abortion amendment?

During the closing days of the Iowa legislature’s 2021 session, Republicans accomplished one task that eluded them in 2020: getting a constitutional amendment on abortion halfway toward appearing on a statewide ballot. I expected the House and Senate to approve the measure quickly, emboldened by a larger majority in the lower chamber, where the proposal stalled last year.

Instead, Republicans spent months haggling over how the amendment would be phrased, hoping to make this effort more palatable to Iowans who currently oppose it.

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