Iowa Senate addresses free speech, right to bear arms


Week nine in the Iowa Senate included some of the first major debate of this year. Just this week, we passed over 30 bills out of the Senate chamber.

One of the bills the Senate passed this week was Senate File 274, protecting the freedom of speech on college campuses in Iowa. This bill, which passed the Senate 35-11, provides common-sense, proactive protections and safeguards for belief-based student organizations in Iowa. This was an important bill to pass as a number of universities not just in our state, but across the country, have been stifling free speech and the discussion of differing ideas on their campuses.

The Senate passed Senate File 536 on Wednesday, which took out a restriction in the Iowa code that limited the operation of tele-pharmacies in rural Iowa. Current law set a 10-mile radius restriction for granting a special or limited-use pharmacy license to a proposed tele-pharmacy site. This bill provides more options for rural healthcare services, increases access to pharmacies in our rural communities, and ensures rural Iowans have access to medications and prescriptions they need. It passed the Senate 48-0.

Senate Joint Resolution 18 passed the Iowa Senate on Wednesday. This legislation is the first step in placing the right to keep and bear arms in the Iowa Constitution. Iowa is one of only six states in the country to lack constitutional protections for this fundamental right and this policy will take Iowa off that list.

The language in this legislation is nearly identical to the Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution with one important exception. It requires the Iowa Supreme Court to use the strictest evaluation on legal restrictions to the right of Iowans to keep and bear arms. This language is important because, as was illustrated in 2008 when legal challenges came to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, only one vote on the U.S. Supreme Court separated law-abiding citizens from their constitutional right.

Adding this language to the Iowa Constitution provides a layer of constitutional protections at the state level for the law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. This legislation also passed the Iowa House on Wednesday. In order for it to be added to the Iowa Constitution, it must be passed in the same manner in the next General Assembly and then passed by a majority of Iowans in a statewide vote.

This amendment does not affect current laws, including those requiring background checks or restricting individuals with criminal records, such as domestic abuse history, from acquiring or owning firearms.

This week, I ran two bills on the Senate Floor. Senate File 280 deals with resident hunting and fishing licenses for active military. It expands the current law to include those stationed and living on Rock Island Arsenal and their spouses.

You may recall from last year, a bill was passed allowing students of parents stationed on the Rock Island Arsenal to open enroll into Iowa schools. This is another opportunity for Iowa to show our appreciation for our military personal for their service and sacrifice and welcome them to our great state.

Senate File 316 directs the legislative council to create an interim study committee to review state and federal laws relating to students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). The committee will review the effects of current laws on teachers, students with IEPs and their peers. The committee shall receive input from the Department of Education, the AEAs, schools administrators, special-education teachers, general education teachers, school boards, mental health professionals and both parents of IEP and non-IEP students. The report from the committee will be submitted to the general assembly and Iowa’s congressional delegation by Dec. 18, 2020.

Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, represents District 49 in the Iowa Senate.