The seventh week of session was busier as many bills moved out of committee. Next week is the first funnel week of this legislative session, meaning all Senate policy bills need to be out of Senate committees in order to be considered for the rest of the year. This deadline ensures we are focusing on the bills with enough support to advance through the process.
Tuesday, we had floor debate where there was a number of very important bills that were debated, one of these being Senate File 413. This bill makes a number of improvements to Iowa’s election law to make it clearer, stronger, and more secure for election officials across the state. Over the years, Senate Republicans have been making improvements to election law in Iowa like requiring a voter ID to vote and request an absentee ballot. In every election since these reforms began, Iowa has had record voter turnout. In 2018, Iowa had record voter turnout for a non-presidential year, and again in 2020 more Iowans voted than in any previous election, even amid a public health emergency. The claims of voter suppression are simply and obviously not true. The bill would strengthen Iowa’s elections after the vulnerabilities found after this last election cycle and standardize election law across the state and across every county. It changes the signature requirements of candidates seeking state and federal office to a uniform benchmark, brings our state more in line with the national average for early voting days and return deadlines, and standardizes the times polls close in Iowa instead of it varying for different elections. Iowans will have three weeks to vote in an election, which provides time for informed voting and reduces voter remorse.
We heard from many county auditors with concerns about one section of the bill that adds new penalties for auditors who refuse to follow the law. This legislation will not punish auditors who simply make mistakes. This legislation will only punish those auditors who openly defy the election law as written by the Iowa Legislature. Auditors found to be intentionally violating state law are subject a fine up to $10,000 from the Secretary of State and the county attorney will be notified to investigate possible election misconduct.
This legislation does not inhibit any voter from requesting and voting by absentee ballot. Iowans will still have all avenues to request an absentee ballot as they did in previous elections. Request forms can be found on the Secretary of State’s website, at the county auditor’s office, or even by mail if a campaign, organization, or political party decides to send them out or if a voter requests one from their auditor. Senate File 413 continues the legislature’s work in bringing more integrity to elections in Iowa, ensuring it will always be easy for Iowans to vote, but hard to cheat.
Wednesday morning, I ran SSB 1161 in the Natural Resources and Environment Committee meeting. This bill increases the amount of financial assurance required for a waste tire collection site. The current law requires $0.85 per tire. This increases that to $2.50 per tire. The DNR also requires that a waste tire hauler have a surety bond on file, this bill increases the amount of surety bond from $10,000 to $150,000. I believe this was great piece of legislation and was excited to see it pass through committee.
Over the lunch hour Wednesday the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association catered a hot brisket meal which had everyone rushing to the line to grab some. It was quite delicious! Not only did I enjoy my meal, but I enjoyed speaking with representatives from the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association about Iowa’s beef industry. We also talked about how it has been an adjustment for me to be here at the Capitol while my family is at home dealing with the busy calving season. The most important thing that I visited with them about though, is legislation that has been introduced this session, especially in the Agriculture committee, that will benefit and/or assist Iowans.
Thursday was extremely busy as I had one subcommittee and two committee meetings. Total this week, I ran four bills in committee meetings. I guess you could say I am no longer a newbie at this! In my Labor and Business Relations committee meeting I ran SF 350, the Barber Bill that I have been talking about frequently. This was passed in committee so the next time I run this bill will be in floor debate. As I leave the Capitol this week, I am thankful for all that I have learned so far throughout this session. I am becoming much more accustomed to my duties here at the Senate but I am still learning new things every day. As I mentioned before, next week is a funnel week, so I am prepared to come back on Monday, ready to work and get bills moving through the Senate.
Outside of the Legislature: Last Saturday, I met with Erin Byers Langdon and Joe Lock at the Eastern Iowa Health Center. I received a tour of EIHC and was very impressed with their facility. I also listened to the representatives speak about their mission and the services they provide to the patients throughout the community. This was a great tour and I loved getting to learn more about the services that EIHC offers to the community.