From the Desk of Senator Bennett
It’s been another busy week at the Capitol with lots of visitors and a flurry of subcommittee meetings. I continue to receive a large volume of emails and it’s exciting to represent citizens who are so engaged in the process. As always, my clerk and I are working to respond, but sometimes it takes a bit. Please know that I am reading and considering your concerns when making decisions on bills.
Let’s touch base about some of them here:
SF 101 This bill would repeal eminent domain authority for hazardous liquid pipelines. This bill relates specifically to the proposed C02 pipeline which many of you have contacted me to express your opposition to. If we have the chance to vote on this bill (or one like it), I will be very likely to support it particularly due to the environmental concerns posed by this pipeline, as well as the concerns regarding the use of eminent domain for private profit.
SF 199 This is a great bill filed by Sen. Pam Jochum of Dubuque. Many of you know how enthusiastic I am in my support of STEAM education and this is a bill which would provide more opportunities for students to develop creativity AND workforce skills by designating Robotics programs as Career & Technical Student Organizations, or CTSOs. More kids would have access to these programs because as CTSOs, Robotics teams would gain access to Perkins funding. All-in-all, this is a very good bill and given the chance, I’ll support it in
committee and on the floor.
SF 159 Prohibits instruction/discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-8. This is a very bad bill which would erase LGBTQ kids and families and practically handcuff teachers from being able to deal with bullying based on gender identity or sexual orientation. To break this down, a teacher would not even be able to read a book like “And Tango Makes Three,” an age-appropriate book about two male penguins who raise an egg
together. It sends the message that there is something wrong with LGBTQ kids and families and it sends the message that Iowa is not a very welcoming place.
Members of the community including parents of LGBTQ kids, teachers, and clergy members attended the subcommittee held on Thursday and spoke out against this bill. In addition to harming Iowa’s kids, bills like this create headlines which inform companies and workers that Iowa is not “the place to be.” Iowa should be a place where everyone is welcome, and I will continue to oppose legislation like this.
Lessons Learned from Our Survey
Over the past couple weeks, so many Iowans have provided thoughtful responses to the survey my colleagues and I shared last month. We received over 600 responses from Iowans all across the state, and your feedback is extremely valuable as the 2023 legislative session continues.
Many of you feel that the biggest challenges facing you and your family are the threats to public education – especially after Republican politicians passed their private school voucher bill and then voted to underfund our public schools. Here’s a sampling of the responses we’ve received.
“We need to stop funding private schools and refocus on bringing our public schools back to a standard of excellence.” – Larry P.
“Attacks on public education, and the GOP culture wars, are making Iowa an inhospitable place to live and raise a child.” – Christine S.
“Adequate funding for children in Iowa’s public schools, especially those in less wealthy urban or rural areas” – Ronald S.
“Stop the GOP from attacking schools, librarians, books, and actual freedoms.” Chelsea S.
Senate Democrats will continue to listen and fight for what Iowans actually want and need. Every day we’re reminded how important it is that we listen to and learn from our constituents. We are thankful for your feedback.
Please take a moment to complete our short survey yourself if you have not already — and please forward this email to your friends, family, community members, or anybody who you think we need to hear from!
- School funding update. This week, the House passed a Republican plan to boost school funding by 3%, or about $107 million, and Gov. Reynolds signed that increase into law. Senate Democrats fought for an increase of $267 million to help schools meet rising costs, hire more teachers, and expand mental health services for kids. Supporting Iowa families and high-quality public education remains our top priority.
- Justice Denied. Senate Republicans passed House File 161 on Wednesday, placing strict limits on damages in medical malpractice cases. Senate Democrats opposed the bill because it empowers politicians – not juries – to decide the value of a human life. SF 148 will not improve medical care in Iowa, but it will pad insurance company profits while denying justice for injured Iowans.
- Teacher of the Year nominations. Iowa’s Teacher of the Year award provides an opportunity to recognize an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges, and inspires excellence; who takes teaching beyond textbooks and blackboards; and who is an exceptional teacher. Sound like someone you know? Nominate them today!
- 1,550 pages of government reorganization. We’re keeping a close watch on Gov. Reynolds’ government reorganization proposals, now moving through the legislature as HSB 126 and SSB 1123. We’re all for finding efficiencies and improving service in state government, but we’re concerned these 1,550-page bills may include power grabs that make Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration less accountable to Iowans. The first of several subcommittees met this week to review changes to the Department of Revenue, the Iowa Lottery, the Alcoholic Beverage Division, and community-based corrections, among many other agencies. We’re going to do our due diligence and ensure these changes are good for Iowa, not just the governor’s office.
- Ending wage theft. I recently joined all my Senate Democratic colleagues in cosponsoring a bill to help stop wage theft. SF 122 ensures that employers who rob workers of earned wages are held accountable. Wage theft affects thousands of Iowans annually, robbing them of hundreds of millions of dollars. Protecting working Iowans is a top priority for Senate Democrats.
- Family Medical Leave anniversary. This past Monday marked the 30th anniversary of President Bill Clinton signing the Family Medical Leave Act into law. This transformative bill allows thousands of Iowa workers every year take time off to welcome newborn family members or care for sick children without risking losing their job. In the Senate, I’ve joined all my Democratic colleagues in cosponsoring SF 95, the Iowa Family Medical Leave Act, to ensure family leave protections secure for every worker in our state.
- Request a ballot. Special elections will take place for some local jurisdictions in approximately 60 counties on March 7. Iowans wishing to vote absentee by mail can request a ballot now at VoterReady.Iowa.gov. For more information on elections in your area, including information on your polling place, visit your county auditor’s website.
- Be a poll worker. Speaking of upcoming elections, county auditors are always looking for poll workers to help check in voters, answer questions, and ensure elections run smoothly. In addition to those local elections on March 7, city-school elections will be held statewide this November. Being a poll worker is a great way to serve your state and nation, and you get paid! To learn more, visit Pollworker.Iowa.gov.
- Texts from court. You know how your dentist, your doctor, even your favorite restaurant will text you a reminder of an upcoming appointment? Starting soon, so might your court. The Iowa Judicial branch is launching a pilot program to test free text reminders of court dates and payment plan due dates. This convenient service could save Iowans on inadvertent penalties and break the cycle of fines assessed on top of fines.