Iowa lawmakers pass another unconstitutional "Ag Gag" bill

Iowa legislators just can’t quit violating the constitution in the service of livestock farmers and their lobby groups.

Two months after a federal judge comprehensively dismantled Iowa’s 2012 law prohibiting “agricultural production facility fraud,” the state House and Senate approved a bill creating the crime of “agricultural production facility trespass.” Governor Kim Reynolds has indicated she will sign the legislation. (UPDATE: She signed it on March 14.)

Although the drafters modeled the new bill after portions of an Idaho statute that survived a legal challenge, federal courts could and should strike down this law. Like the previous “ag gag” legislation, its primary purpose is to suppress speech reflecting certain viewpoints.

Continue Reading...

How to create activist judges

September Lau and Kimberly Graham make the case against a Republican effort to pack Iowa courts with conservatives. -promoted by Laura Belin

Ever since the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, conservative groups and legislators have attempted to reign in what they describe as an “activist” court. Never mind that that opinion, Varnum v. Brien, was a deliberate and thoughtful walk through equal protection analysis. Conservatives simply didn’t like the decision because it wasn’t the result they wanted.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Senate broadens ethics code, but not transparency rules

Iowa state senators have amended their chamber’s ethics code following a high-profile complaint against Democratic Senator Nate Boulton, which was dismissed late last year.

The new language cover actions occurring outside the capitol building and allows citizens to file a complaint more than three years after an incident. However, the updated code would still lead to dismissal of a complaint like Sharon Wegner’s allegations against Boulton.

Continue Reading...

Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2019

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2019 session on January 14 with 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. A record eleven senators are women (six Democrats and five Republicans), up from six women in the chamber at the start of the last legislature’s work.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. Note that Democratic Senator Nate Boulton will serve on committees after all. Minority Leader Janet Petersen had declined to assign him to any committees last month.

A few words about demographics: all current state senators are white. To my knowledge, the only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the Iowa legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first. No Asian American has served in the Iowa Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Taylors (both Democrats). As for first names, there are three Marks, three Zachs, and two men each named Dan, Jim, Tim, Tom, and Jeff.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Senate needs to understand: religious freedom also applies to atheists

Justin Scott is the state director for the Iowa chapter of American Atheists. -promoted by Laura Belin

The notion of religious freedom — what it is, what it isn’t and what it should be — is being tested here in Iowa.

In April 2017, the Iowa House of Representatives respected my religious rights when I delivered the first atheistic invocation in that body’s history. The Iowa Senate, however, has denied my repeated requests to perform a similar invocation. In so doing, the Senate is not only directly discriminating against me, but also violating the Constitution, which protects all faiths equally.

Continue Reading...
View More...