Though this year’s legislative session may be quickly coming to an end, there has not been a shortage of controversy and excitement during the past few days. It might even be an understatement to say that last week was an eventful and historical week in the State of Iowa. During the past two weeks, we have seen a enormous shift in the social fabric of Iowa with the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to change the definition of marriage. Then, we witnessed a continued attempt to muffle the voice of taxpayers when 600 Iowans were thrown out of the House of Representatives because they objected to legislation that would dramatically alter Iowa’s fiscal policies, eliminate federal deductibility and raise taxes on hundreds of thousands of Iowa families and employers in absolutely every tax bracket.
The issue that has dominated the discussion in Iowa this week was the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage in Iowa. In 1998, the legislative and executive branches in Iowa voted to protect traditional marriage by defining it as only between one man and one woman. Last Friday, the judicial branch struck down that law and opened the door to a completely different view of marriage. As it stands now, there is an incongruity between the outcomes of the three branches of government. I believe the ultimate deciders of this important decision should be the people of Iowa. If the branches of government cannot agree, I believe it is always best to allow the voters of Iowa to have the final say.
Unfortunately, Governor Culver and legislative counterparts are obstructing the process that would provide every voting Iowan the chance to decide the marriage question. Just last year, after a taping of the statewide Iowa Public Television program “Iowa Press”, Governor Culver made it crystal clear that he wanted to ‘do whatever it takes to protect marriage as between one man and one woman.’ Regrettably this week, the governor flip-flopped on his promise to Iowans by agreeing with the 7 elite justices. His failure to lead likely means 3 million Iowans will be denied a vote on this important issue.
In order for the people of Iowa to have a vote to protect traditional marriage, the Iowa House and Senate must approve a Constitutional Amendment in two successive General Assemblies before it would be available to be placed on the ballot for Iowans to vote. I believe that there are enough votes in the Senate to get the Constitutional Amendment process moving and thus give every Iowan a chance to vote; however, Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and the rest of the his party members in the Senate refuse to allow this to occur. Without a vote in the Senate and House, there cannot be a vote of the people. Ever since this decision was handed down by the court, I have heard from thousands of Iowans through visits to the capitol, legislative forums, e-mails, phone calls and letters and the vast majority of those Iowans want a chance to have their say through a vote.
Even though they will not allow a vote on the protection of marriage amendment, they voted earlier this session to allow the people of Iowa to vote on whether want to constitutionally protect a sales tax increase to benefit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Iowans, in this instance, can vote if they want to raise sales taxes but they cannot vote on marriage. Iowa is a sovereign state and I will abide by the result of the will of the people but it is impossible to truly know the will of the people unless the people have a chance to voice their opinion.
Other than the controversial debate over marriage, the governor and his party allies in the Legislature are busy putting together the finishing touches on a bill that would eliminate federal deductibility and force hundreds of thousands of Iowa families and employers to bear the burden of a huge tax increase. Simply stated, this legislation amounts to a tax on a tax because Iowans would lose their ability to deduct their federal tax liability from their state tax liability.
Last week, a public hearing was held in the House of Representatives and 600 Iowans filled the chamber because they disagreed with the tax on a tax bill that would undoubtedly cause businesses to layoff more Iowans and put more financial stress on middle-class families in this state. They came to the peoples’ house because they wanted to show their displeasure with this risky tax scheme that would harm Iowa’s economy. When Pat Murphy, the Speaker of the House, did not agree with their opinions, every last taxpayer was removed from the room and the doors were locked and guarded by armed police officers. It would be like 600 employers, the taxpayers of Iowa, being thrown out by one employee, the elected Speaker of the House. It seems ironic that a public hearing was held but the public were removed.
Iowans are starting to notice a troubling trend. They are losing their opportunity to have a say in the government that is supposed to be of the people and for the people. Last week, the public at a public hearing were removed and their voices were silenced. Next, the current Senate majority refuses to allow the Senate to vote on the marriage amendment and as a result, their voices are silenced and now three million Iowans are having their voices silenced because they are more interested in the opinions of 7 elite judges. Iowans handed the keys of power to Democrats during the last elections, but now the people of Iowa are being locked out of their own government.
I believe we need to get serious about creating jobs, cutting taxes, streamlining government and giving the people of Iowa a chance to vote on whether they want to protect traditional marriage. These are both historic and challenging times but now more than ever, we need to return government to it’s rightful owners: the people of Iowa. It is time to re-establish the notion that is the citizens who run government and not the other way around.
As always, I welcome hearing from my constituents and can be reached by phone at 515-281-3560 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Republican Leader in the Iowa Senate
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