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Timing and tactics: Why it is important

April 30, 2011
By State Rep. Betty DeBoef (R-What Cheer)
During my eleven years serving as your Representative I have learned a lot about being effective in Des Moines and advancing certain agendas for the good of Iowans. When ever an agenda is considered in addition to determining if it is good policy, a legislator must consider two key things when trying to advance a specific issue or agenda: timing and tactics. Timing: There are many issues which political parties and everyday Iowans differ at any given time, but before an agenda of one party or group of people can move forward, the timing of a particular issue must be considered. If the people of Iowa are not ready for a certain issue or agenda to move forward then a political party can do a disservice to Iowans and the issue or agenda if the proper process is not followed. Moving it ahead before the public is ready can definitely backfire. Also if the issue is overly divisive it can become too dominating and affect the success of the agenda and other related topics if rushed through the legislative process. Legislators must also take into account all of the issues which are consuming the legislature’s time and what commitments were made to Iowans as far as overall goals for the legislative session. Tactics: The overwhelming majority of bills before the legislature go through the same process every year of being introduced by legislators then they are referred to a committee, passed out of committee, then action can be taken on the floor of the House or Senate. There are a few legislative procedures which can be utilized to move an idea forward and can at times go around the proper legislative process. While the common procedure is lengthy at times, this process allows for legislators to fully vet and discuss an issue and get input from Iowans before casting a vote on the topic. However, if a bill does not make it through the committee process for one reason or another, legislators have the opportunity to turn a bill into an amendment and offer it as an addition to another bill. While this is a necessary tool to advance certain issues it can at times limit the amount of input and understanding legislators have of certain issues and restrict Iowans from being able to have input on the issue. Why It Is Important: Recently the House took up Senate File 456 which is a bill designed to clean up a portion of the "Shall Issue" bill which passed last year. The bill is important to bring Iowa into compliance with a federal law which passed in 2007. The overall purpose of SF456 is to protect Iowans’ safety and their 2nd amendment rights. The bill requires Iowa to report information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) about people who have been diagnosed with suffering from a debilitating mental illness or who require commitment for mental health treatment. This reporting will allow for more effective enforcement of federal prohibitions relating to people who have been diagnosed with mental conditions which prevent them from safely handling or possessing a firearm. Just as importantly, the bill also establishes procedures for Iowans to have their firearm rights reinstated when cleared of any mental conditions which previously prohibited them from possessing or purchasing a firearm.

The Amendment: During debate on SF456 a last minute amendment was filed which dealt with a topic dubbed “Constitutional Carry”. A Constitutional Carry law would simply allow law abiding citizens to carry a firearm without having to jump through any bureaucratic hoops. The discussion on the Constitutional Carry issue has been a hot topic this year and has been drafted in numerous bill formats. Efforts have been expended all session to move the topic of Constitutional Carry through the proper legislative process, but unfortunately have not been successful in reaching consensus among Representatives in the House, nor between the House and Senate. While I support the full recognition of our Constitutional Rights and the concept of Constitutional Carry I believe the topic needs to be fully vetted by Iowans and legislators and go through the proper legislative process before becoming a law. I also have concerns that the changes made in 2010 are so new to Iowans, we need to allow more time to see how it is working & to increase the comfort level of the public before adding new freedoms. A vote was requested on the Constitutional Carry amendment and the amendment failed to receive sufficient votes to be accepted to SF456, therefore the amendment was not added to the bill. There are many reasons why people who are supportive of a Constitutional Carry law voted against the amendment. Among some of them are a bill of this magnitude should go through the proper legislative process before becoming a law. With only minutes to look at the language of the amendment before the vote was called, it did not allow enough time for legislators to have a chance to talk to their constituents about what was contained in the amendment and how its operations would work. It would have essentially required members to vote for the amendment to understand what was in the amendment. Also if the amendment would have been adopted it would have essentially killed the bill because the Senate would not take the bill up with the amendment attached. I am determined to continue the work on advancing the Constitutional Carry legislation as well as other Pro-2nd Amendment issues while I serve as your Representative. However I am committed to making sure these issues have a chance to be talked about between Iowans and their elected officials. Timing and tactics are important to make sure we continue to make Iowa the place where we want to reside. SF456, without the Constitutional Carry language, passed the House and Senate and has been sighed into law to bring Iowa into compliance with the 2007 federal law.

Visitors at the capitol this week: Larry Boesenberg & Randy Goeke with the REC.

I am always happy to deal with any requests you may have or any input you may offer! Please contact me at 515-281-3221 or betty.deboef@legis.state.ia.us.

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