House Dems Look to Establish ‘Right to Read’ in Iowa, Prohibit Lawmakers Banning Books

A dozen Iowa House Democrats want to prohibit book-banning in Iowa’s schools and establish a “right to read” in the Iowa Constitution.

HJ 2001 was introduced Jan. 14 and proposes creating an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that prevents the Iowa Legislature from restricting books or other written materials being available to students in the libraries of educational institutions ranging from elementary to higher education.

“Right to read. The general assembly shall make no law restricting the books or other written materials used to instruct students in elementary schools, secondary schools, universities, or any other educational institution,” the amendment to the Iowa Constitution would read. “The general assembly shall make no law restricting the books or other written materials available to students in the libraries of any elementary school, secondary school, university, or any other educational institution.”

The proposal comes as Republican officials in Iowa, including Gov. Kim Reynolds and Senate President Jake Chapman, have criticized certain books in schools that they don’t like while publicly mischaracterizing the materials. Chapman also claimed teachers have a “sinister agenda” by providing access to such materials.

The books in question are penned by authors of color and/or the LGTBQ community, some of which describe their experiences learning about their sexuality, instances of sexual abuse, and experiences with racism.

The resolution was proposed by Reps. Tracy Ehlert, Steven Hansen, Dave Jacoby, Bob Kressing, Beth Wessel-Koreschell, Monica Kurth, Charlie McConkey, Amy Nielsen, Rick Olson, Sharon Steckman, Ross Wilburn, and Dave Williams.

Getting a new amendment to the Iowa Constitution is a lengthy process. The last amendment occurred in 2010.

First, the resolution must be approved with a majority vote by this year’s Iowa General Assembly—if it can make it out of committee—and approved again in the following legislative session.

If it makes it through both sessions, the amendment would be sent to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office for publication in at least two newspapers in each of Iowa’s four Congressional Districts. The amendment notice would have to be published at least once per month over a three-month period.

From there, it would be added to the general election ballot where it would have to be ratified by a majority of voters.

So far, the proposal has been read and referred to the house judiciary committee, which is chaired by Rep. Steve Holt, a Republican from Dennison.


by Ty Rushing

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