Ashley Hinson dodged Iowa House debates on high-profile bills

State Representative Ashley Hinson didn’t miss a roll call vote as the Iowa House wrapped up its work in June, legislative records show. But the two-term Republican mostly stayed out of the House chamber while colleagues debated controversial bills.

The tactic allowed Hinson, who is also the GOP challenger in Iowa’s first Congressional district, to avoid public questioning about policies she supported. Notably, she was absent during most of the House deliberations on imposing a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, establishing a barrier to voting by mail, and giving businesses near-total immunity from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Neither Hinson nor her Congressional campaign responded to Bleeding Heartland’s repeated inquiries about those absences.

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Reflection on the 2020 legislative session

Eric Giddens is a Democrat representing Iowa Senate District 30. -promoted by Laura Belin

At the end of my first full session as state senator representing Cedar Falls, Hudson, and southwest Waterloo, here’s my report on selected highlights of this year’s session: three good decisions, three bad decisions, and three decisions put off until next year.

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Senate Republicans misstate facts, misread Iowa law on absentee mailing

A wide-ranging election bill is eligible for Iowa Senate debate on June 10. Judging by the party-line vote in the State Government Committee on June 5, the Republican majority seems likely to rubber-stamp House File 2486 and send it to the Iowa House.

State Senator Roby Smith proposed many bad ideas in his 30-page amendment to that previously innocuous bill. The most controversial would prevent Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate from sending an absentee ballot request form to any voter who did not ask for one. Pate’s decision to send such forms to every registered Iowa voter contributed to record-setting turnout for the June 2 primary.

Smith has denied he is trying to suppress voting by mail. But talking points he and a Republican ally floated in recent days do not withstand scrutiny. Pate didn’t need lawmakers to appropriate state funds for the mass mailing, didn’t need legislative approval to send the forms, and didn’t exceed his authority under Iowa law.

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Republicans have underfunded Iowa's State Hygienic Lab for years

Staff at Iowa’s State Hygienic Laboratory have been working around the clock to process tests that reveal the scope of the novel coronavirus epidemic. Governor Kim Reynolds has often lauded their “yeoman’s work” at her daily news conferences.

But as former Vice President Joe Biden famously said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” In real terms, state support for a facility critical to Iowa’s COVID-19 response dropped considerably over the last decade.

The Iowa legislature hasn’t increased dollars allocated to the State Hygienic Lab since 2013, when Senate Democrats insisted on doing so. Not only has state funding failed to keep up with inflation since then, the laboratory’s annual appropriation has yet to recover from a mid-year budget cut in 2018.

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Who’ll stop the rain

Randy Richardson: Iowa’s “rainy day” funds were created with a promise, to be used on a rainy day. Legislators should tap them now to fully fund schools. -promoted by Laura Belin

For the past year Republicans have touted their record-breaking commitment to funding education in Iowa. They have done this despite the fact that State Supplemental Aid only increased by an average of 1.73 percent from 2011 to 2018. That is slightly below the 1.81 percent average annual rate of inflation during that same time period. (School district costs typically rise by 3-4 percent annually.)

When questioned about this disparity, Republicans quickly revert to their consistent talking point that their funding “is responsible, sustainable, and demonstrates that education is a top priority.”

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