Kathie Obradovich's blog

Iowa House Republicans: Standing up for free speech (white privilege, implicit bias not included)

Sales of dandruff shampoo should be spiking in Iowa after all the head-scratching over the latest adventures of the Iowa Legislature.

There’s been a lot to puzzle over. Just last week, the Legislature gave final approval to a bill to make it legal for landlords in three Iowa cities to kick poor people out of their homes because they use federal housing vouchers. The Iowa House stayed up half the night on Wednesday to eliminate permit requirements to buy or carry a handgun, right after approving a broad liability shield for the gun industry. And the allegedly pro-business Iowa Senate Republicans voted to turn their backs on a growing big-tech development sector in the state in the name of making a point about social media “censorship.”

GOP defenders of First Amendment stood by while press freedom was on trial in Des Moines

Iowa Republican lawmakers, as you’ve read in this space, have been so terribly concerned about the First Amendment this year that some are willing to destroy Iowa’s state universities and potentially harm business recruitment to make a point about free speech.

Senators have passed legislation out of committee to eliminate tenure at state universities, even though they’ve been told that merely debating it would harm the universities’ ability to recruit quality faculty. If the bill were enacted, which I don’t expect to happen, it would shut down important research as professors flee the state.

Lawmakers have also advanced bills that, if enacted, would penalize tech companies doing business in Iowa that enforce their own usage standards by “censoring” dangerous lies and conspiracy theories. They are working diligently to ensure that school faculty and student leaders are trained on the First Amendment (which as I’ve said is a fine idea) but Senate Republicans loaded down the bill with topics those training programs cannot address, such as dealing with white privilege and implicit racial bias.

Safety, transparency at the Iowa Capitol? Ahhh, no

Iowa Republican legislative leaders told reporters less than two weeks ago they were going to do all they could to preserve public access to the Iowa Capitol while keeping lawmakers, staff and the public as safe as possible from COVID-19. They are failing on both counts.

“We have to have a transparent process to the government, regardless of what party and I think we would all agree on that,” House Speaker Pat Grassley told reporters Jan. 7 at an Iowa Capital Press Association forum. “So we have to find that fine line in which we can still do that. We can still try to be as safe as we can, but also have transparency in this process.”

Election didn't ‘validate’ governor’s response

Gov. Kim Reynolds is claiming the election results were a “validation” of her approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This year, Iowans validated the direction of our state by expanding the majority in the Iowa House and maintaining the strong majority in the state Senate,” she said Thursday. “… In addition, it was a validation of our balanced response to COVID-19, one that is mindful of both public health and economic health.”

She said that with a straight face, as the pandemic is surging out of control in Iowa, setting new records almost daily for new infections, hospitalizations and deaths. She said it as two face-masked hospital executives stood by, preparing to plead for Iowans to consider exhausted health care workers and stretched hospital resources before they make their holiday gathering plans or decide to go maskless in public.

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