Republicans in the Iowa Senate have selected a handful of priority areas for quick action once the 2017 legislature convenes on Monday. “We have four bills that I believe define us and give Iowans a clear indication of where we plan to go with policies for our state.” That’s Bill Dix of Shell Rock, the leader of Senate Republicans.
Two of the measures are proposed amendments to the state constitution and would be voted upon by Iowans. The first would limit state spending to 99 percent of available tax revenue. That’s been the practice in the legislature for about two decades, but that spending limitation is not required under the state’s constitution. The second proposed amendment has been sought by gun rights advocates and would insert the right to “keep and bear arms” in Iowa’s constitution. “Effectively accomplishing what is in our federal constitution,” Dix says.
The third priority for Senate Republicans will be legislation to forbid spending state tax dollars at Planned Parenthood. Dix says there are plenty of other clinics in Iowa that offer breast cancer screening and reproductive health exams which are covered by tax dollars for Medicaid patients. “Better options for more women and their health care,” Dix says.
The fourth and final priority area for Senate Republicans will be an effort to curb lawsuit abuse. “A measure that ensures losers in those court cases pay for the cost associated with the case,” Dix says.
Lawyers say “loser pays” laws often deter legitimate victims from getting compensation for the fraud or harm they’ve suffered. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has been planning its lobbying campaign against G-O-P cuts, too. Dix says spending restraint, gun rights, tort reform and “protecting the unborn” were among the main promises Republican candidates made to voters in 2016.
“That sets a tone,” Dix says of the GOP’s “first four” priorities. “Obviously, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done, but those are four key measures that we want to move forward as early in the process as we can.”
Republicans will hold 29 of the 50 seats in the Iowa Senate when the legislature convenes Monday and be in control of the debate agenda. Democrats have held the majority for a decade, but with just 19 seats in Democratic hands this year, Democrats be the minority party in the state senate. Rob Hogg, of Cedar Rapids, is the new leader of Senate Democrats. He says Republicans are proposing solutions to “manufactured problems.”