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February 18th, 2015

The Great Debates of the Iowa Legislature

State-CapitolThe Iowa Legislature has been back in session for a little over a month now. Besides the annual bickering over how much to increase public school funding, the only other topic that has drawn considerable attention is how much to increase the gas tax.

As is the case with every session of the Iowa Legislature, there are plenty of other topics being debated. For example, on Tuesday the Des Moines Register reported on a piece of legislation that would ban under-age teenagers from using tanning beds. The bill passed out of the House Human Resources Committee on Tuesday. A companion bill passed out of committee in the Iowa Senate last month.

The reason the article caught my attention yesterday afternoon is because it runs contrary to many of the other things that are being discussed in Des Moines this spring. I find it somewhat ironic that on one hand we are going to forbid a teenager from a tanning bed, but on the other hand, some in the legislature wan to allow some minors in to bars under the belief that it will somehow curb binge drinking.

The proposed ban on teen tanning is a legislative priority of the American Cancer Society to fight skin cancer. The Register’s article tells the story of Kasey Shriver who used indoor tanning beds in high school and now at the age of 22 is dealing with melanoma. The use of Shriver’s story to help encourage the passage of the ban is nothing new. For example, the sale and use of fireworks were outlawed in Iowa following a massive fire in Spencer in 1931, which was sparked by fireworks and wiped out the city’s entire downtown. Ironically, the Iowa legislature may lift the fireworks ban this year.

Last year the Iowa Legislature legalized the use of medical marijuana. This year, there are efforts afoot to now allow for the production and distribution of the product. Meanwhile there is an effort to reduce the penalty for possession of the drug in general.

So let me get this straight. At the same time are we are weakening laws on marijuana, allowing minors into bars, and lifting the ban of fireworks we are going to turn around and ban teens from using tanning beds? It seems to me like our legislature all over the place.

Meanwhile, as the legislature is also debating things like banning conversion therapy for gay and lesbian youth, and another year goes by without the legislature doing anything that protects the most innocent life, the unborn.

Americans United for Life ranked Iowa 36th on its list of most pro-life states. This is a subject that I write about every year. The most notable advancement of the pro-life cause in recent years has been the Board of Medicine’s ban of the practice of administering abortifacients via the internet. The issue is currently being litigated in the courts, but that that doesn’t mean that the legislature couldn’t pass a law that bans the practice.

It is also somewhat disturbing that legislators seem more likely to pass the ban on teen tanning so long as there is a parental consent exemption. So the State of Iowa can pass parental consent laws for tanning, tattoos, and piercing, but the state legislature can’t pass a true parental consent law (not just our toothless notification statute) when it comes to the issue of abortion.

As I read the all the issues that the legislature is debating, I wonder if these are the issues that Iowans feel should be addressed. Are tanning regulations, fireworks, and allowing minors into bars and clubs really the pressing issues of our day? Maybe Iowa is such a great place that our only issues are how much more we should spend on public education next year and figuring out the best way to sell a 45 percent increase in the gas tax.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think what we are lacking in Iowa is visionary leadership. The legislature seems content to just trim around the edges and do business as usual. The big issues in Governor Branstad’s last campaign were mainly things that he had already accomplished, not things he was eager to do.

About the Author

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country.

Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states.

Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site,

Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing.

Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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