The Rozenboom Report by Senator Ken Rozenboom

by Ken Rozenboom

Floor debate was the main focus of the week as we work on sending Senate bills to the House for consideration. We discussed a wide range of topics, including bills on insurance, hunting, animal cruelty, dentistry, and optometry.

On Tuesday the House and Senate reached final agreement on a K-12 education funding package for the next school year. Investing nearly $100 million in new funding for schools, this money will include $7.65 million for transportation equity and $5.8 million for per pupil equity. The bill passed out of the Senate on Wednesday and is now headed to the governor for her signature.

We also passed SF 2368, which prohibits cities and counties from requiring landlords to accept federal housing vouchers from tenants. This legislation has become necessary to protect private property rights from some local governments who are trying to force landlords to accept the housing vouchers. Other cities across the country are working with landlords and using incentives, like financial assistance with application expenses, leasing bonuses, and financial assistance with any damage that may be caused to those apartments instead of mandates. These cities have seen increased participation and those policies encourage better relationships between landlords and tenants.

And the Senate passed SF 2268, which conforms Iowa law to federal law changing the minimum age to purchase, possess or use tobacco or vaping products to 21 years old. Congress passed a bill in December to change the age to 21 and required states to comply in order to continue eligibility for federal block grants. This bill passed 43-6 and now goes to the House.

Over a year ago, Governor Kim Reynolds started a conversation about restoring voting rights to felons in our state after a national push for reform. With that, in 2019 the legislature started discussions on a constitutional amendment, HJR 14, to automatically restore the voting rights of felons once they complete their sentence.

While HJR 14 did pass the House last year, my colleagues and I in the Senate had a number of concerns we wanted to address, one of which was to avoid a mess similar to the one happening in Florida. After voters in Florida changed their constitution to restore voting rights to felons, the legislature passed a law to implement those changes. That law caused several legal battles and uncertainty continues as that state’s primary election nears. In addition, the Senate believed a big component of the discussion was missing – the victims of those felons.

To address these concerns, the Senate passed Senate File 2348, putting certain restrictions on automatic restoration of voting rights for felons, and requiring all victim restitution be paid. Under this legislation, which would go into effect only if the constitutional amendment is adopted by the people of Iowa, a majority of felons who have completed their sentence would have their voting rights automatically restored. It puts restrictions only on those felons who have committed terrible crimes, like murder and rape, and requires them to still contact the governor’s office to have their voting rights restored.

To be clear, felons are not victims. They made a decision to commit a serious crime, and at the very least, the victims should be made the priority in this process. Opponents of this bill argued this policy is a version of a poll tax, a premise I totally reject. One of our colleagues said if anything it is a “murder tax,” on criminals. Committing a felony is a choice and it is a serious violation of the rights of another person. The goal of requiring victim restitution be paid is to ensure victims are getting the justice they deserve, before felons gets their constitutional rights restored.

Posted by on Mar 7 2020. Filed under Local News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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