Iowa Democrats expected the Republicans in the Legislature would continue their far-right agenda in 2019. Following the experience from the 2017-18 session, Democrats anticipated more of the same this year. The Republicans didn’t disappoint. They didn’t moderate their radical, take-no-prisoners scheme to impose their one-party rule on Iowans. Having taken control of the Iowa Senate in 2016 and reelected Governor Reynolds in 2018, they have been emboldened to move even further to the right.
The specific Republican-sponsored bills define a broad ideological assault on good government, basic democratic principles, public education, worker rights and the environment. It’s a continuation of many of their extreme attacks passed in the 2017-2018 sessions.
Perhaps the greatest threat to Iowa’s historical commitment to good government is the Republicans’ attack on Iowa’s highly-respected judicial system. The Iowa GOP’s initiative to radically politicize the way Iowans select their judges is contrary to the principles of a nonpartisan judiciary. With Governor Reynolds’ blessing, they are proposing to eliminate non-partisan, democratically-elected members of the judicial nominating commission, replacing them with political appointees. It is a blatant attempt to politicize the appointment of Iowa’s judges.
In another attack on good government, the GOP is proposing to further limit Iowans access to the ballot box. Their bill to cut back on voting hours, eliminate voting on college campuses, further restrict absentee voting, and strip college students from voter rolls is a direct attack on the very basis of democracy – the right to vote.
There is a clear link between their proposals and their ideological crusade to fundamentally starve government by limiting revenues. Their proposals to eliminate the inheritance tax, cap property taxes at 2%, and use public money to subsidize private schools demonstrates their scheme to restrict the government’s ability to deliver basic services.
Their proposed $130 million inheritance tax cut follows on the heels of the 2018 $2 billion tax cut. The major beneficiaries are many of the wealthiest Iowans that gained from the 2018 cuts.
Their proposed 2% cap on property taxes would extend their starve government plan to cities and counties by severely limiting their ability to provide basic services. It’s also an attempt to limit public employees’ employment and benefits as well as a backdoor assault on IPERS funding.
The Iowa GOP’s agenda includes continued attacks on public education by underfunding both K-12 and Iowa’s public universities. Simultaneously, their proposals to take public school funds to support private and home-schoolers means shrinking public schools’ revenue. The ideological crusade against public education goes deeper than just cutting funding. Their proposals to end tenure at public universities and eliminate the Department of Education exposes a deeper distrust and animosity toward public education.
Attacking Iowa workers is another ideologically-motivated GOP plan. Two years after cutting workers compensation benefits they have come back this year with a proposal to extend unemployment benefit waiting times. In addition, they have pushed to restrict the ability for workers to collect unemployment. One of their proposals would penalize workers who apply for jobs they were judged to be unqualified to perform. This wholesale attack on workers reveals the Republicans’ total bias in favor of employers’ interests.
The current anti-solar bill is a gift to the utilities that would virtually eliminate the budding market for solar installers. Granting utilities additional fees on solar customers will reverse, if not kill, future growth in this clean renewable sun powered energy source.
Iowans will be required to endure at least one more year of one party control. If the Republicans continue to implement their radical agenda on Iowa in next year’s session, it may take years to undo the damage they have caused. Democrats must take back the House and/or Senate in 2020 to end and reverse the destructive GOP agenda.
by Rick Smith