The 10 Craziest Bills Filed (So Far) In Iowa’s 2017 Session

The Iowa Legislature is back in full swing this week, so you know what that means: Republicans are introducing all kinds of crazy-sounding legislation. The big difference this year? With Republicans in control of all Iowa government for the first time in 20 years, this stuff actually has a chance of passing.

Republicans are expected to gut Iowa’s collective bargaining laws sometime early in the session, but previous predictions that they’d do it in one fell swoop in the first week turned out to be incorrect. Instead, Republicans seem to be holding their cards close to the chest on a number of major issues. The only really big piece of legislation filed so far is the Senate Republicans’ bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

On the House side, no real pieces of legislation have been filed yet, just a handful of resolutions on various formalities. It seems the House Republican leadership is running a tight ship – few details on any bill has leaked out. But on the Senate side? Lots of fun stuff. Or terrifying stuff, depending on how you look at it.

Let’s take a look at the top ten craziest bills filed so far that caught Starting Line’s eye. If there’s one we missed that you like (or hate), add it in the comments.


Senate File 26 – Women Can Sue Their Abortion Doctor
Senator Chelgren

Just one more way Republicans want to end all safe and legal abortion access by any means necessary. Chelgren wants to allow women to sue the doctor who performed their abortion for emotional damages, even if there was no physical harm done to her or any malpractice involved. So essentially if a woman ever decides at any point in her life that she regrets getting an abortion, she could go and sue her doctor (the legislation does note that if she provided signed consent ahead of time, she may get reduced damages, but can still clearly sue). This is one of the most ridiculous ideas for stopping abortion, aimed at punishing doctors for performing a legal procedure.


Senate File 25 and 70 – Stand Your Ground
Senator Chelgren

Mark Chelgren has introduced two major pieces of legislation that Iowa’s gun lobby has long desired, and has a good chance of getting passed into law this year. SF 25 lays out the terms of Stand Your Ground, which says you can use deadly force against someone if you are perceived to be threatened, even if there’s an alternative way out of the situation. SF 70 deals more with the use of force inside your home, saying you can use deadly force against someone who has illegally entered your property. Read both of the bills in their entirety (SF 25 and SF 70) to get the full picture.


Senate File 55 – Ban Repeat Offenders From State Parks
Senator Chelgren

This is Starting Line’s personal favorite. Are Iowa’s state parks being overrun with people who have three public intox convictions? Are these people so dangerous that they can’t even be allowed on a state park property? I could see banning folks with multiple sexual assault or abuse convictions from campgrounds, but overall is there a huge problem at Iowa’s state parks we’re all unaware of?


Senate File 38 – Hike Sales Tax, Eliminate Income Tax
Senator Zaun

This would be a massive redistribution of wealth in favor of the rich in Iowa, putting the burden on providing taxes on middle class families and the poor. It would also make every single thing you buy that much more expensive, often overtaking the savings most households would get from not having a state income tax anyone. It’s a conservative dream, but has massive unintended consequences that end up hurting everyone.


Senate File 2 – Defund Planned Parenthood
Senators Anderson, Behn, Bertrand, Breitbach, Brown, Chapman, Chelgren, Costello, Dawson, Dix, Edler, Feenstra, Garrett, Greene, Guth, Craig Johnson, Kapucian, Kraayenbrink, Lofgren, Rozenboom, Schneider, Schultz, Segebart, Shipley, Sinclair, Smith, Whitver, Zaun, Zumbach

This is the big one. Every single Senate Republican is a co-sponsor of the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, even those from swing districts that are up for reelection in 2018. This bill will attempt to reconstruct Iowa’s Medicaid system by eliminating the current Medicaid family planning waiver system and create a new one largely identical, but that restricts funding from going to Planned Parenthood services (even though no public funds go to abortion already). Read Bleeding Heartland’s piece on this for the full story on why this will prove so problematic, aside from the obvious loss of healthcare options and services for Iowa women.


Senate File 33 – Primary Elections Run-Offs
Senator Zaun

This bill isn’t that crazy, it’s just funny that Zaun is introducing it again. Hmm, I wonder why the guy who came in first in a Congressional primary, but lost the nomination to the 5th place finisher at the convention, would want to have primary run-offs?


Senate Joint Resolution 2 – Right To Bear Arms Constitutional Amendment
Senators Anderson, Behn, Bertrand, Breitbach, Brown, Chapman, Chelgren, Costello, Dawson, Dix, Edler, Feenstra, Garrett, Greene, Guth, Craig Johnson, Kapucian, Kraayenbrink, Lofgren, Rozenboom, Schneider, Schultz, Segebart, Shipley, Sinclair, Smith, Whitver, Zaun, Zumbach

Iowans already have the right to bear arms, but Republicans just want to make extra, super, positively sure. They hope to get an official Iowa constitutional amendment reaffirming the right. This would have to be passed through multiple legislative sessions before it gets on the ballot for a vote. The gun lobby believes this will help strengthen their hand in pushing other gun legislation. The real underlying reason, however, is to help boost Republican turnout when it’s on the statewide ballot.


Senate Study Bill 1008 – Losers Pay Law
Senator Zaun

Brad Zaun thinks if you lose your court case, you should have to pay for the other side’s attorney fees. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the American legal system should see where this gets problematic. Just because you don’t prevail in court doesn’t mean that it was wrong to bring it in the first place. This would punish you for attempting a lawsuit, even though there’s already systems in place to limit frivolous legal action. The end result of this legislation would be extremely damaging to consumer protection. People would be too afraid to sue organizations that have committed fraud because they might have to end up paying for a big company’s expensive legal team.

This study bill gets extra bonus points for essentially telling the Iowa Supreme Court, “Hey, can you write up some legislation to deal with the problems this causes?”


Senate File 76 – No Food Stamps For Redeemable Items
Senator Sinclair

Amy Sinclair has a few minor bills she’s introduced, including this one that would ban people from using food assistance benefits on beverages that have the refund deposit (like the five cents refund for soda cans). Why is this deemed a pressing problem to the State of Iowa by Senator Sinclair? Probably because it’s a common conservative fever dream that poor people are going around, buying up packs of soda with their food stamps, emptying them out, then returning them for cold hard coins at a redemption center, in order to go buy, I don’t know, probably booze or drugs. That’s one convoluted system to misuse taxpayer money, and it doesn’t even really happen in real life. But it’s a chance to demean and vilify people who are struggling to get by in our economy, so that’s why you see these bills get proposed by Republicans from time to time.


Senate Bill 41 – Abolish Tenure
Senator Zaun

As this Des Moines Register story reports, tenure is often misconstrued as a system where you can’t lose your job. That’s simply not the case, but Zaun would like to mess with how universities are run regardless. The funny thing with this bill is that Zaun almost seemed a little surprised that he got a full Register story on it, noting he’d filed this bill many times in the past, but it never got much attention then. Yeah, Senator Zaun, that’s because you were in the minority then, so you could propose whatever you wanted with little risk of it actually passing. Now that you’re in the majority, any of this stuff could. Republicans might want to reconsider whether some of these bills that are often proposed in order to make a political point would actually make good policy if enacted. They have to govern now.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 1/13/17

37 Comments on "The 10 Craziest Bills Filed (So Far) In Iowa’s 2017 Session"

    • You are correct, but they have to be 21 to drink (alcohol is considered a drug). And I think cigarrettes should be considered a drug too).

    • The legal age is also 21 to purchase a lottery ticket or enter a casino in Iowa, as well as to purchase alcohol, so there are several examples of rights restricted beyond age 18 in Iowa.

  • I disagree with your reasoning on the soda issue. It’s that there were facts released indicating pop is one of the top items purchased with food stamps and it shouldn’t be. There’s nothing healthy, nutritious or inexpensive about it.

  • the Iowa Legislature should focus on improving the lot of working class Iowans, improving stagnant wages and poor benefits, such as healthcare coverage, educational opportunities, etc. and not on frivolous bills. this would go a long ways towards Improving the notion that the Iowa Legislature is short on substance, and long on, well, dumb ideas.

      • The no tenure proposal would also ensure the status of Iowa’s state schools drops like a rock. We’ll be wholly uncompetitive for good faculty. Tuition will go down because the value of the degrees will go down as well.

      • Tenure is difficult to earn and I stress the word “earn”. Professors earn this by research, publishing and evaluations. It is a long, drawn out process and not all who are eligible can earn it. Tenure is an essential component for academic freedom, essential in a college environment.

  • Both Senate File 25 and 70 and Senate Joint Resolution 2 can’t be seen as ‘crazy’ by any reasonable person. You claim, “ can use deadly force against someone if you are perceived to be threatened…” Which is false, you should have read the bills.

  • Senate JR-2
    State Constitution is above US Constitution. (States came before the Feds) Right to Keep and Bear Arms isn’t specifically in the IA State Constitution. It needs to be.

    • The Supremacy Clausen in Article VI of The Constitution actually makes Federal law supreme to State law. Also, the 2nd Amendment was incorporated in the case of McDonald V. Chicago (2011) which restricts the states from circumnavigating the right to bear to bear arms. Just a thought as I read your post.

    • State Constitution is “above” the US one only if you ignore the Supremacy Clause and Supreme Court decisions dating back to the Founders.

  • Damn you are a partisan idiot…. Thanks for being the reason we have to put up with Trump for at least 4, maybe 8 years if you dont learn your lesson…. I havent the time nor the will to waste trying to educate someone as brainwashed as you….

  • Democrats would be more effective if they wrote about specific bills they support which will actually enhance people’s lives. There are lots of positive aspects of the listed bills. Some could benefit from constructive rather than destructive criticism.

    Providing constructive ideas would also get Democrats off the losing funk they are in an back in the good graces of voters.

  • I agree with Gary. Obama’s greatest accomplishment has been the establishment of the strongest Republican Party ever. His divisiveness has severely damaged his party.

  • I see nothing wrong with most any of this and much of it is common sense and clarification. Now living in another state I will tell you we already have most of these on the books already and have for 20 years or more. Now the sales tax increase, section file 38 I can see some frowns about. But like I said most of this clarification and has been on the books of most states for years. Glad to see Iowa is finally catching up with the times…20 years late.

    • I don’t think any kind of legislation beneficial to the environment are a high priority to the Republicans. They are all about making things easier and cheaper for industry than they are about saving our environment.

  • 83% increase in sales tax ridiculous. It would be a huge burden on financially challenged families and benefit only the rich!

    • Wrong!! Financially challenged families spend the majority of their income on housing and food which have no sales tax!

  • This is a poorly written article. It inaccurately depicts many of these bills and many are actually not crazy but good. Pat apparently is too short sighted to see why. For instance sales tax instead of income tax putting more burden on lower income Iowans. That’s incorrect. Lower income Iowans spend a higher portion of income in rent and food which is not taxed whereas rich spend lavishly on higher cost taxable goods while also having shelters to avoid income tax the lower income Iowans cannot use.

    • Regardless of whether it is a proportional or regressive tax, it would undoubtedly result in a contraction of the local economy as people begin to purchase large ticket items from states with a smaller sales tax. This would serve to hurt small businesses and could potentially lead to joblessness unless this bill were coupled with some sort of expansionary policy to offset the tax. Either way it doesn’t support the pro business model that conservatives have long supported.

  • These are dumb like food stamp. People don’t do that it need leave things alone they limit what can buy any . Next they say we can buyt the food for special diet like gulten free deit that people have eat. Like me because I am get very sick

  • “I could see banning folks with multiple sexual assault or abuse convictions from campgrounds”

    Scarlet letter for thee but not for me. Do sexual assaults tend to happen in campgrounds?

  • I am going to rely on the common sense and integrity of Ashley Hinson and Liz Mathis to insure the integrity of our state legislature

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