Week 7:
Bills, Radio, and Presidential Candidates

Ringgenberg Fellow in Legislative Affairs

Iowa State Senate Democratic Research Staff | Des Moines, Iowa

February 24, 2019

Hello again from, the Iowa State Capitol! Another week of legislating has gone by which has kept me busy and working here at the State Senate Democrats Research Staff. After the deadline to submit bills passed last week, the Senate shifted into having some of the first bills of session being brought up in subcommittees and then introduced to the floor for a vote. While I do spend most of my day coordinating events or working on our communications, sometimes sitting in on subcommittees and seeing the legislative process at work is really incredible to see. While a lot of bills are important and necessary there are also some rather bizarre pieces of legislation that get brought up. For instance, this week a bill was introduced to the Natural Relations subcommittee on legalizing the activity of “noodling.” What is “noodling” you ask? It is the method of fishing for catfish by standing in the middle of a river and catching said fish by putting your hand down their throat and pulling the fish up by its insides. While I have heard of noodling before I was not aware that it is such an important issue in the state of Iowa. Either way if you are a noodler or not the bill passed subcommittee and will be introduced on the Senate floor in the coming week.

Our offices are on the top floor of the Capitol in a corner which means usually we have to travel to reach a subcommittee meeting, which are usually held on the first floor in large conference rooms. Due to the large number of meetings all happening at once the Human Resources subcommittee had their meeting in the conference room next to our offices. They were hearing an odd but much more controversial set of bills on vaccine exemptions for children.  A surprisingly growing trend in Iowa is that of parents refusing to vaccinate their children based on “philosophical” reasons. This contentious topic brought in many members of the public to voice their beliefs either for or against the bill.  As we set up audio and video recording equipment for the hearing I asked one parent about why they were there. This dad sitting next to his two children told me the group believes it’s a civil rights issue and calls the topic “informed choice.” While I have heard of anti-vaccination groups I never thought it was so prevalent especially here in Iowa. Due to this growing trend measles, a disease declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, has had more than 100 confirmed in 2019 already. I personally can’t understand how anyone would risk getting such horrible disease or allow a loved one to even be more susceptible. Thankfully the two bills were not passed by the Human Resources subcommittee will not be brought to the floor.

I’ll end this post on a happy note with two quick updates. First, I recorded another radio piece for Senator Rich Taylor this time on legalizing industrial hemp for agricultural use. This time I had the foresight to actually email myself the clip from my work computer so please check it out below.

The other piece of pretty cool news is that I got to meet New York Senator and Presidential Candidate Kristin Gillibrand who came and spoke to the State Senators during one of our caucuses this week. She had a very strong message about her view of the direction this country will go and I think she’ll be a contender for the Democratic nomination.

Myself and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at the Iowa State Capitol.

Alex Salisbury '19

Alex is a history and political science major from Iowa City, Iowa.