Area Iowa lawmakers were joined in Des Moines last week by numerous stakeholders from their districts who journeyed to the Capitol to advocate against or for some of the bills moving quickly through committees before the Friday deadline.
On Tuesday, the Capitol was filled with public health officials from around the state, including both City of Dubuque Public Health Director Mary Rose Corrigan and Dubuque County Health Department Executive Director Allie White.
Corrigan shared concerns she and the wider public health community have over provisions in bills to ban gender-affirming care for transgender people or others with gender dysphoria and to no longer require schools to teach about HPV and its immunizations, and HIV in health classes.
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“I think it’s dangerous territory when you start plucking out specific diseases when they’re all communicable,” she said. “Learning about (HPV and its immunization) can have lifelong implications. It’s really important for youth to have at least the knowledge and know that there is protection.”
Individual bills to repeal the requirement were left behind in the rush to move bills out of committees by the Friday deadline. But the same repeal was added to Gov. Kim Reynolds‘ education omnibus bill that also banned the education of gender identity and sexual development to kids up to sixth grade, eased the process to ban books deemed inappropriate by parents, and more.
Corrigan said the ban against gender-affirming care could also have “implications that people don’t think about.”
“There are mental health issues (to consider). The extreme is suicide,” she said. “And you think you’re dealing with just a handful of people across the state, but we only know the (reported).”
Gender-affirming care bills made it through committees in both the House and the Senate.
Both Corrigan and White also voiced concerns over the bill that added more requirements of applicants for both food stamps and Medicaid programs, although White said the bill had been improved since first being introduced.
“Initially, it was pretty prohibitive about what families were going to continue to qualify for the benefit and what they could buy with it,” White said.
Nancy Renkes, president and CEO of River Bend Food Bank — which supplies most eastern Iowa free food programs — was at the Capitol on Wednesday and agreed with critiques of the SNAP changes.
“Just for example, seniors are so concerned about giving away any of their information,” she said. “Adding more questions they have to answer will likely mean more hungry seniors.”
Dubuque County Farm Bureau President Wayne Kramer was also at the Capitol last week to lobby for agricultural interests, especially for bills that would ban the use of eminent domain by companies intending to install carbon pipelines, like the one planned through Delaware County. That bill passed a necessary committee in the Iowa House.
Lundgren defends bar industry, youth workforce
In just one example of the tense atmosphere and terse language used in debates at the Capitol last week, discussions about a Republican proposal to change state law regulating youth labor turned heated in a House Commerce Committee, chaired by Iowa Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta.
Among other changes, the bill would allow 16- and 17-year-olds, who are already allowed to bus tables and take orders in places that serve alcohol, to actually serve the orders to patrons and ring them up — if they have their parents’ permission.
Iowa Rep. Megan Srinivas, D-Des Moines, took issue with that, saying alcohol service could put youths in danger.
“It’s really hard to be sexually assaulted when the patron is no longer in the room,” she said of bussing. “It’s really easy to be sexually assaulted when serving a patron who is drinking.”
Iowa Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, went as far as to say that “wherever there is alcohol, there is going to be sexual innuendo, touching and unwanted advances.”
Lundgren, who co-owns Trackside Bar and Grill with her husband, took offense to that, calling the comments off-topic and hypothetical, eventually calling the Democrats to order as chair.
“Women, unfortunately, are sexually assaulted in doctors offices and schools as well,” she said. “I do take some offense that we’re making a statement that where there is alcohol, there is sexual assault. The way I run my business, and the way probably 95% of tavern owners run their businesses, that would not happen.”
Lundgren also said she would be interested in an amendment defining bars and restaurants and which kind of establishment younger workers can work in.
Last week marked the first meeting of the U.S. House’s Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, which includes two lawmakers representing the tri-state area — U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, and Darrin LaHood, R-Ill.
In her statements during the prime time hearing last week, Hinson voiced concern, but confidence in the U.S. stopping Chinese “malign activities” worldwide.
“Our democratic republic will win this strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party and make sure that President Xi Jinping’s Marxist outlook for a new world order, that squashes freedom, will never come to pass.”
Hinson also focused on U.S. taxpayer money going to fund CCP military activities, via the federal government’s investing tax dollars with Wall Street companies tied to the Chinese government.
LaHood focused largely on information he has received in recent years as a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
“It’s become more clear to me than ever that China has a plan to replace the United States,” he said. “They’re working at it every day to replace us economically, technologically, militarily, and diplomatically.”
Also last week, Hinson joined U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and others in a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding what they see as poor oversight of purchase of U.S. farmland by groups tied to the Chinese government.
“The number of foreign acquisition disclosures increased significantly between 2015 and 2018,” the letter read. “However, USDA did not assess a single penalty for failure to report foreign acquisitions of U.S. agricultural land during this period and this lapsed accountability was not included in USDA’s … annual report to Congress during that timeframe.”
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