The Rozenboom Report – March 15, 2019

Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-District 40)

Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-District 40)

by Senator Ken Rozenboom

Week nine of the 2019 legislative session was busy on the Senate floor as we debated and passed over 30 bills out of the chamber. Senate File 274 protects the freedom of speech on college campuses in Iowa. This bill, which passed the Senate with bi-partisan support, provides common-sense, proactive protections and safeguards for belief-based student organizations in Iowa. This was an important bill because a number of universities across the country have been stifling free speech and the discussion of differing ideas on their campuses.

We also passed a bill aimed at improving the knowledge of Iowa students about U.S. government and history. Senate File 209 requires school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to offer all students in grades 9-12 opportunities to take the latest available U.S. citizenship and immigration services naturalization civics test. The goal of this bill is to provide high school students with knowledge of our nation’s government and political processes and help increase civic engagement.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 24 percent of U.S. high school students are proficient in civics, and studies by the Annenberg Foundation show a third of U.S. citizens can’t name even one branch of our federal government. The bill passed the Senate 43-3.

In 2012 the Iowa legislature passed legislation to protect livestock producers from activists that deceptively gained access to facilities to create videos of alleged animal abuse, or to even stage abusive behavior in an effort to discredit animal agriculture. In January, a Federal District Court judge ruled that law unconstitutional, ruling that lying on a job application was protected free speech.

We crafted new protection language based on an Idaho law that was ruled constitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The new language is more narrowly focused on using deception “with the intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injury to the agricultural production facility’s operations”. It is this intent language that makes this bill significantly different from existing Iowa law and the case that is now on appeal.

I served as the floor manager for the bill, and here are my closing floor remarks on the bill: “Iowa’s heritage and Iowa’s future is as an agricultural state. Animal agriculture is a key driver of Iowa’s economy, contributing $38 billion in economic output, more than 160,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in state and local taxes. Iowa is a leading state for production of many agriculture products, including pork, eggs and corn. Iowa’s agriculture is increasingly critical to feed a world population of an estimated 9.8 billion people by 2050. Agriculture in Iowa deserves protection from those who would intentionally use deceptive tactics to distort public perception of best practices to safely and responsibly produce food.

Every day farmers across this state work hard to manage risks, including disease. We saw the devastating effects of disease in 2015 when avian influenza killed 30 million hens and 1 ½ million turkeys, causing the loss of over 8,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in economic output. Those of us in animal agriculture lose sleep over the thought of certain foreign animal diseases that could devastate our farms, and bring Iowa to its knees. The need for managing strict biosecurity practices is a critical component of this bill. Senate File 519 is not only important for Iowa’s livestock farmers, it is absolutely essential for all of Iowa. This is not a win/lose bill, this is a win/win bill. We can protect livestock producers from bad actors and protect the Constitution!”

Also this week, the Iowa Senate passed important reforms to how judges are picked in Iowa. Senate File 237 makes a number of changes to judicial nominating commissions in order to give the people of Iowa more of a voice, increase accountability, and bring balance to nominating commissions across the state.

Currently, the state nominating commission is made up of 17 individuals. Eight are chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, while eight are elected by members of the Iowa Bar. The 17th member is the senior judge of the Supreme Court. There are serious concerns about a private group (lawyers) having such a large say in our third branch of government with no legislative oversight and with a group of lawyers electing their own to the commissions. No other state boards or commissions are set up this way.

To fix this problem, Senate File 237 proposes that the state nomination commission consist of eight individuals who will continue to be appointed by the governor, while the remaining eight are appointed by legislative leaders: two by the Senate Majority Leader, two by the Senate Minority Leader, two by the Speaker of the House, and two by the House Minority Leader. The bill does not include Senate confirmation, as we’ve often seen appointees fall victim to the other party’s politics on the Senate floor. This way the minority in the legislature always has an equal say in the process.

Our district nomination commissions will continue to be made up of five people appointed by the governor and five people selected by the Iowa Bar. The bill does take out senior judges as chairs on the commissions and instead allows members to appoint their own chair. The courts will still get to appoint a member on the commission. Additionally, the bill expands the judicial applicant pool by only requiring a person to live in the district upon their appointment and standardizes the processes for nomination commissions all over the state.

I’d like to reaffirm that with these changes, Iowa will continue to be a merit-based system and it does not move our state towards electing judges or require any kind of Constitutional amendment. We are simply changing how the commissions are put together in order to give Iowans more of a voice, and trying to bring more accountability those who select our state’s judges.

Posted by on Mar 16 2019. 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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