District 53 Newsletter: March 23, 2023

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour)

The legislature continues to bring bills to the floor and pass House bills to the Senate and Senate bills to the Governor’s desk. Two significant bills signed into law this week by the governor were the “Bathroom Bill” that prohibits persons from using the facilities that don’t correspond with their biological sex in our schools, and the bill that bans Gender Reassignment treatments on minors.

This week the House passed House File 604, the Teacher Empowerment bill. For years I’ve been hearing from teachers that discipline problems in our schools are rampant. Of course, it varies by district and I’m glad that schools in my legislative district haven’t been where the serious problems are. The common theme I heard from teachers was that the school administration was not backing up the teachers. It is shocking to hear the student behavioral issues teachers are asked to deal with on a daily basis. In many ways, teachers are hindered in their ability to discipline students that are disruptive and protect themselves against students that are violent.

HF 604 came about after receiving feedback from teachers about their experiences. This bill allows teachers to make a complaint directly to the State Ombudsman’s office regarding violence in the classroom and requires the ombudsman to investigate. It also requires the school district to ensure their teachers know their rights regarding teacher immunity when coming in physical contact with a violent student, and includes teacher whistleblower protections. The bill also lays out a 3-strike system for student discipline. First offense – meet with school counselor and one day of in-school suspension. Second offense – meet with school counselor and 5 days of in-school suspension. Third offense – student is removed from that class and if in high school, will not receive credit for that class. This should end the frequent complaint that disruptions are allowed to continue week after week, hampering all the students ability to learn.

We also passed House File 565, the “90% Eminent Domain” bill. This bill seeks to protect landowner rights as three major CO2 pipeline projects are in the works in Iowa. This bill gets at the crux of the issue – eminent domain should not be used for private gain. It requires that carbon capture pipeline companies reach voluntary easements for 90% of the land on their route before they could use eminent domain. It also creates an interim study committee that will make recommendations that will improve eminent domain policy in Iowa. It will take a look at issues that have been discussed at length throughout this process such as standards for entering land for surveying purposes, land restoration standards, eminent domain public benefit and private use tests, and land compensation practices and procedures.

I understand that this bill may not be seen as perfect by folks on either side of this issue. We want to support the ethanol industry while ensuring private property rights are respected. We think this bill strikes a good balance. This is not about opposing the pipelines, but about opposing the use of eminent domain to construct the pipelines. Pipeline companies should not be able to use the heavy hand of government to abuse landowner rights. The 90% threshold was a limit set by a resolution passed by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation this past year. Farm Bureau members straddle this issue with concerns about the future of ethanol and the concerns about property rights, I felt the Farm Bureau position struck a sensible solution offered by those directly involved with the controversy.

We are now moving into the “budget season” of the session. Iowa is in a strong position financially with revenue exceeding our spending by a wide margin. More details will emerge as we work through the budget process.

Rep. Fisher’s district covers all of Poweshiek County and most of Tama County excluding Traer, Dysart, and Buckingham.