This Iowa legislative session has seen an unusually large number of extreme proposals, whether it’s discriminating against transgender Iowans or expanding the rights of gun owners beyond even the Second Amendment. Though not all have even made it through a subcommittee, Iowans have noted the change.
That’s why Rep. Jennifer Konfrst appeared at Moral Mondays Iowa this week, the legislature monitoring project maintained by roughly 30 progressive organizations in the state.
“All the things that [Republicans] did in 2017 session, none of them were raised in the campaign,” Konfrst said. “It seems like the first year of a term is one where they really try to get a lot of extreme things passed and then they’re going to try to run again next year as if that never happened.”
She said it’s part of her job to make sure they don’t get away with that.
Some of the extreme legislation includes expanding charter schools in Iowa, basing some school funding on following state mandates, restricting voters’ opportunities for absentee voting, pushing an amendment to the constitution to explicitly denounce abortion and loosening restrictions on the carry and possession of firearms.
Most of the legislation falls under an umbrella of undermining the ability of communities making rules for themselves and small government principles.
Konfrst suggested most of these policies were a ploy to cater specifically to the Republican base. Especially since many of these policies follow a trend that’s played out nationwide.
Across the country, at least 250 new bills have been proposed to change election laws in ways that would prevent the participation seen in 2020.
And it doesn’t often have anything to do with whether voters want a particular policy. For many bills proposed this session, the majority of public comments were opposed.
“I don’t know what’s driving it other than there’s a plan. There’s an agenda. There are things the majority party wants to get done and they’re just going to get them done,” Konfrst said. “It does feel sometimes these bills are on a track, they’re on a roll, and the public input isn’t necessarily the most important component.”
But that’s not always the case. Many of the most extreme bills have stalled or failed at the committee level because they lacked support from enough Republicans.
Rep. Marti Anderson explained that it doesn’t take many for a bill to stall. For example, she said, the death penalty stalled because of lack of support from the Republicans in charge of the two committees it would appear in.
“We don’t see anything on the floor that they haven’t already locked up and decided to pass,” she said. “Sometimes when you see weird bills or destructive bills die it’s because some of the Republicans don’t like it.”
The bills that do make it through, Konfrst said, are those that cater to Republican voters, especially with a new Democratic president in the White House.
“There’s a feeling out there that this is our time to ‘fight back’ and people have been angry about a lot of things for a long time,” she said. “So this is their way to get some of these things done.”