The Republicans in the lowa legislature must be suffering from whiplash as they have suddenly slammed their party into reverse by opposing “local control.” The Republican mantra for years has been to repeat the quote credited to Thomas Jefferson: “The government closest to the people serves them best.” Republicans have long sung in unison that “local control” symbolizes that government closest to the people. For years they sang that tune as if it was a sacred verse taken directly from the Republican hymnal.
Republicans embraced local control as one of their signature qualifying identities in order to be a Republican. They wore it as a badge of honor in defending “states’ rights” vs. the federal government. They have long championed the importance of local cities, counties and school boards to make their own decisions with little or no oversight from big government. The Republicans’ cornerstone of “limited government” is built on the foundation of that same local control. Also known as Home Rule, it has a long historical record of support from both parties.
Now, suddenly the Iowa Republican legislature has proposed or passed bills that are blasphemous to their sacred “local control” political identity. They have amazingly transformed themselves into the enemies of local decision-makers. Through their legislation this session, they have stolen control from the local entities which they have long claimed to honor above all else. They recklessly appointed themselves as the elite rule-makers overturning historical precedence and traditions of preeminent local authority.
Make no mistake, this is no minor deviation from their long record of supporting decision-makers closest to the public. This is a wholesale abandonment of their Republican limited government brand. Their list of betrayals of local interests in this legislative session is overwhelming. Republican bills on guns, water quality, minimum wages, collective bargaining, women’s rights as well as many others restrict or end local control. The Republican legislative agenda has been shaped by a “we know best” arrogance that has crushed local authority.
The four counties that passed minimum wage increases are getting stripped of their historic rights to set their own agenda. These counties were simply exercising their long held Home Rule prerogatives by voting to increase the minimum wage. However, the Republican legislators are attempting to unilaterally deny those counties the ability to determine what’s best for their residents. The Republicans that once railed against the “one size fits all” have now decided to strong arm counties into a top-down mandated agenda. These legislators believe only they have the right to decide statewide wage rates for local jurisdictions regardless of varying economic conditions and needs of localities and counties. Apparently, the government closest to the people can’t choose to raise wages unless approved by Iowa Republican leaders.
An Iowa legislator and farmer, Jared Klein, from Keota in rural Iowa has convinced his fellow Republicans they know best about local Polk County water boards. His proposed bill would dismantle the Des Moines Water Works as well as other local water entities. How a farmer from rural Iowa knows best about how a local Des Moines Water Board is managed simply defies logic. The Des Moines Register described it more accurately, “waterworks bill is payback” for the lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works.
Perhaps the Republicans wild west gun bill is by far the greatest insult to local authorities’ ability to make decisions for the safety of their citizens. Republicans have long said keeping Iowans safe is a critical role of government. Yet their proposed gun bill would rob local jurisdictions’ authority to restrict guns. This bill would allow legal challenges to cities, counties and schools to establish gun free zones.
The Republican legislature is flagrantly betraying their own Party’s commitment to Home Rule for purely partisan gain. They have placed party loyalty ahead of their responsibility to represent local Iowans. They must be held accountable and must answer for their double dealing on local control. Their elitist and arrogant actions will damage all Iowans for years to come. Democrats must call out the Republicans’ rejection of their own core values. Democrats must also defend Iowans’ right to have a say in the control of their local government.
The legislative forums give Iowans a chance to challenge the Republicans’ dangerous agenda. Attend your local forums and demand Republicans explain their betrayal of Home Rule.
by Rick Smith