A long-held tradition of the Iowa Senate is about to shift under a rule change promoted by the new Republican majority.
At the beginning of each day, through what’s called points of personal privilege, senators express their views on any subject, sometimes at length.
Under new Republican rules, that will occur right before adjournment. On many days that will be after some lawmakers and many observers have left the building.
“That’s bothersome to me because I believe it suppresses civil discourse and free speech,” said Sen. David Johnson of Ocheyedan. “I don’t know why we don’t continue that tradition.”
Johnson was once a Republican and now is the Senate’s only independent member.
Senate President Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) called it a small change.
“I think Iowans expect us to stay on schedule around here with committees, subcommittees, and floor
debate,” Whitver said. “And so by having personal points at the end of the day right before we adjourn that allows us to stay on schedule a little bit better.”
Currently, the debate sometimes continues for so long that the day’s proceedings are delayed.
The format is especially popular after lawmakers have been back in their districts over the weekend.
“Senators are not going to be able to take the floor and express concerns that we hear from constituents,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City.)
“We certainly aren’t trying to silence anyone,” Whitver countered. “We’re still going to have time to do points as much as needed.”