Weekly Update: March 8 – First Funnel!

The first funnel frenzy at the Iowa Statehouse has passed.Today marks the deadline when a bill must pass out of at least one committee to be eligible for further debate. That means many of our People and Planet First priorities are technically done for the session.

But the week didn’t pass without some big push back. 

A bill being backed by the Iowa Farm Bureau – House File 542 and Senate File 548 (formerly Senate Study Bill 1221) – met tough opposition when over 200 everyday folks turned out to pack sub-committee and committee hearings on the bill. These bills would end some of the critical programs that help individuals and local governments move land into conservation.

Why is Iowa Farm Bureau pushing this? (Don’t they love tax breaks and voluntary incentives for programs?) The truth is Farm Bureau won’t be happy until every acre in Iowa is being mined for everything it can produce, and programs like these – that support conservation – are a threat to industrialized agriculture’s bottom line.

Members and allies who turned up the heat at the Statehouse this week scored a partial victory by stopping HF 542 in the House. The fight is still going on SF 548 though, so stay tuned for action you can take on that, and other bills – both good and bad – that did make it through the funnel, and that we’ll continue to focus on in the coming weeks. 

The next hurdle is the second funnel on April 5th, when a bill must pass out of one chamber and a committee in the opposite chamber.

First Funnel Snapshot

These People & Planet First bills did not advance:

  • Our factory farm moratorium bills are dead (along with a number of other bills to crack down on factory farms and support clean water). But a big shout out to the hundreds of you who called and emailed committee chair Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Marshalltown) to ask him to assign the bill for a healthy debate. He’ll be greeted at home this weekend by this ad we placed in his newspaper with allies Food & Water Watch, check it out!
  • The bill to ban racial profiling by police is dead, but you put pressure on committee chair Sen. Brad Zaun (R – Urbandale). The fight continues locally. Des Moines area members are holding a meeting Tuesday, March 19 to discuss next steps on our ordinance before the city council.
  • We fought a battle of big ideas over getting profits out of healthcare and ensuring Healthcare for All. We nearly lost track of all the bills – from single payer care, to unprivatizing Medicaid servicing, to recognizing care givers – introduced this session. This flurry of bills is in response to your work to make this issue hot, and we have an opportunity to keep shifting the narrative through the 2020 caucuses. 

These bills put corporate profits before communities, and made it through the funnel:

  • Punishing the poor: On the flipside of the healthcare coin, we have seen numerous attacks from Republicans on critical support programs, including punitive changes to SNAP, Medicaid, and unemployment programs. In Iowa we support and care for our neighbors; we don’t kick them while they’re down. Check out this letter to the editor from member Natalie Snyders.
  • Protecting the profits of corporate utilities: Despite all the attention and support for a Green New Deal, Iowa legislators aren’t seeing the light on this issue. Both the House and Senate moved a bill out of committee that would gut Iowa’s net metering. The net metering program is what makes generating your own power possible for most, and we need to make locally-owned renewable energy MORE accessible, if we are serious about taking action on climate change. This is just another power grab by corporate utilities we will continue to fight.
  • The return of Ag Gag: On the heels of our joint win in court striking down Iowa’s Ag-Gag law, legislators couldn’t help but bend to the whims of the factory farm industry.  On Tuesday, a new Ag-Gag bill was introduced in both chambers. On Wednesday, sub-committees met, and by Thursday, the bills had passed out of both chambers. Legislation can happen quickly when legislators feel pressure – unfortunately this is in the wrong direction. This Ag-Gag law is unconstitutional too – so we’ll be pushing back. Stay tuned!
  • E-Verify: We told you about the Senate Bill 516 – an attack on undocumented workers that feigns to go after business owners who employ them. We can all agree that what we need to do is reform our federal immigration system. 
  • This bill passed the funnel, but support from big business is questionable because of the cost of implementing E-Verify. 
  • We’re wondering if big biz and the GOP will break up over this issue, or just agree to not agree. My money is on the latter.
  • A bill to reinstate the death penalty: Senate File 296 passed out of committee yesterday and will get a new number soon. While we don’t work on this issue, a number of our allies are leading the charge against it. It sounds like support for this bill is shaky, so if you care about this issue, we encourage you to check out Iowans Against the Death Penalty

Next week we’ll break down specific actions you can take on each of these bills to help us stand up for people and planet. 

In the meantime, look for a local legislative forum where you can meet with your legislator and weigh in on all of the above issues with them. I heard from so many of you who got out last week – and we are seeing the impact it has on legislators. Keep it up!

Finally, I want to leave you with some good news. 

Today the US House passed H.R. 1 – the “For The People Act” – a sweeping proposal to get money out of politics. This bill is a reflection on the growing movement that you are building to get money out, and people in. It’s a reflection on all of the work that you do to stand up to corporate power on everyday issues, and that build support for our people and our planet. Let’s celebrate this shift in legislators taking on the people’s business, and then get back to the critical work of building our movement.

For people and planet,


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