Opinion | Iowa Republicans’ legislation isn’t helping anyone

Iowa Republicans are painting a bad picture of the state during this legislative session


Ryan Adams for the Daily Iowan

Members of the Iowa house prepare for the opening of the 2021 legislative session on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. Legislative goals for the session include further tax cuts, expanding in-person learning, and moving towards economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Editor

On top of voter suppression and hypocritical claims about the First Amendment, Iowa Republicans decided to add unlawful legislation to the 2021 legislative session, or what I like to call a circus show.

The most recent concern is House File 815, which states that state agencies, local governments, and publicly funded organizations in Iowa cannot implement a federal executive order.

While this bill didn’t pass Friday’s legislative funnel deadline, the fact it introduced it in the first place raises red flags.

Problem No. 1 with this bill is that it clearly violates the constitution. The supremacy clause states federal laws — including executive orders — take priority over state law and has been established by the Supreme Court.

Problem No. 2 is that Iowa Republicans know this is unconstitutional, yet they decided to introduce it anyway on the basis of a personal agenda.

Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, who sat in on the bill’s subcommittee hearing said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, —the bill’s floor manager — even acknowledged that it’s unconstitutional. However, the goal was to make a point against the federal government. According to Bohannan, Kaufmann believes executive orders — particularly the one issued on the Keystone Pipeline  — have gone too far.

While there can be discussion on the extensiveness of executive orders, Iowa cannot refuse to comply with them based on this belief.

The session is not the time for legislators to act on their personal vendetta against the federal government. Iowa Republicans are wasting taxpayers’ money for their own agenda instead of introducing legislation that helps Iowans.

It would be concerning if they didn’t realize the unlawfulness of this bill. But what makes this worse is that they’re aware of how our government works, but they just don’t seem to care about it. If we have politicians who can’t respect our system, then why are we letting them hold a place in our government?

“I said during the committee that this was unconstitutional, they admitted that. I said this was a state-sponsored rebellion against the federal government, and they admitted that too,” Bohannan said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “And then they still voted for it.”

What Republicans also don’t seem to realize is that they put the state’s budget in jeopardy. Executive orders put receipts on funds, such as the DEI executive order then-president Donald Trump issued in the fall of 2020.

If Iowans can’t comply with executive orders, they won’t be able to follow the terms and conditions of these receipts and receive funding. According to Bohannan, federal funding accounts for 30 percent of the state funding, and this bill would cost the state a significant amount of money.

“It could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars in federal funding,” said Bohannan, who is also a law professor in the University of Iowa law school.

Problem No. 3 is that this bill sends a bad message to Iowans.

“This is pretty irresponsible, and even if it never becomes law, it sends a really bad message to the people of Iowa that we’re incompetent or that we don’t care about things like our state budget or if we’re using our taxpayer money effectively,” Bohannan said. “It sends a really bad message about our state government when we do these kinds of things.”

In fact, all this bill is doing is creating what Bohannan refers to as a “state-sponsored rebellion,” which isn’t something I think we should be taking pride in.

But this is just one piece of the overall issue with Iowa Republicans this session. Instead of discussing competing ideas that are normally discussed in the Legislature, they are generating legislation to make a point like the executive order bill or to instigate a culture war like the DEI training bill.

But both of these reasons create a bad image for the state.

House File 802 that prohibits “divisive concepts” in DEI training sends a clear message about how the state views minority groups. The bill has been passed in both the House and the Senate.

“It sends a really bad message about education and the culture in Iowa,” Bohannan said. “It’s similar to a transgender bathroom bill that really sends a message about how our state is and how unwelcoming it can be to underrepresented minorities.”

Iowa Republicans’ behavior during this legislative session is frankly embarrassing. After introducing unlawful legislation and creating a bad image for Iowa, it’s time to rethink who we’re allowing to hold positions in the state government.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.