Iowa Legislature Approves Bill Banning Diversity Training, Curriculum

The bill blocks certain topics in government diversity and inclusion training. Some worry it will discourage discussions on institutional racism and implicit bias.

(TNS) — The Iowa House gave final approval Thursday to controversial legislation that would ban teaching certain concepts as part of diversity training and school curricula to address parent complaints of "indoctrination" of students.

Along with sending House File 802 to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature, the House approved a handful of budget bills that Speaker Pat Grassley, R- New Hartford, said will help move the Legislature closer toward adjournment.

Although Republicans control the House, Senate and governor's office, he conceded there is not agreement on the budgets. However, Grassley doubts Iowans expect their elected representatives to always agree.

"Sometimes you look at Washington, D.C., everyone just falls into lockstep with one another," he said. "If (Iowans) thought we just came down here and we were in lockstep on every single issue, through every step of the process, I don't think they would think that was good government. I think Iowans would expect us to not agree on every single issue."

An amended, HF 802 would ban those providing diversity and inclusion training at state and local government entities from teaching certain concepts, such as that the United States or Iowa was "fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist," said Rep. Steve Holt, R- Denison.

Previously approved by the House 59-38 before it was amended, Republicans say HF 802 is necessary to address critical race theory, which teaches that racism is interwoven into America's government and institutions. Democratic legislators have said the bill is vague and would likely discourage local governments from facilitating discussions with employees on structural racism and implicit bias.

Despite criticism of the bill, Holt said it does not prohibit the use of curriculum that teaches the topics of sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation or racial discrimination, including subjects relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws, resulting in sexism, racial oppression, segregation and discrimination.

"Of course, these issues must be taught, they must be discussed, and they can be without scapegoating entire groups of people," he said.

Although the amendment does not substantially change the bill, Holt said the Senate was more comfortable with being more "definitive" in its description of the banned topics. "Compromise is how democracy works," he said. "Compromise is why we're not like Washington."

Rep. Mary Wolfe, D- Clinton, wasn't concerned with the Senate's comfort with the bill.

"I don't know if it makes it any worse, but we set the bar low," she said about HF 802. "Ultimately, it's a bill that was not good for Iowa. It sends a horrible message to Iowa and the nation about Iowa values."

On a party-line vote, it was approved 53-35.

The House also:

— Unanimously approved Senate File 592, a "pretty standard" transportation budget. It calls for $398 million, nearly $3 million less than the current budget. That's primarily due a $50 million decrease in motor fuel tax revenue as a result of lower traffic volumes throughout the pandemic, said Rep. Jacob Bossman, R- Sioux City. The budget, which has no general fund money, includes funding for an additional seven full-time employees and more money for major maintenance needs, replacement of medium- and heavy-duty trucks for the highway division and replenishment of the road salt supplies.

— Voted 55-35 to approve HF 862 to appropriate $200 million for the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund budget, which is a $30 million increase, and $35 million from the general fund for the Technology Reinvestment Fund.

— Voted 54-36 to approve HF 860, dealing with the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, to appropriate $54.8 million from the general fund, an increase of $11.6 million, for agriculture and natural resources. It also appropriates a total of $92.8 million from other funds, which maintains the current budget.

— Voted 54-36 to approve HF 871, which appropriates $49.7 million general fund dollars for the departments of Cultural Affairs and Workforce Development, Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa Finance Authority and Public Employment Relations Board. That's an increase of $8.2 million. It includes another $28.1 million from other funds.

— Voted 51-37 after debating HF 868 and 17 amendments for three hours to appropriate $970 million, a $24 million increase, for the departments of Education and Blind, Iowa PBS, College Student Aid Commission and the Board of Regents. HF 868 appropriates for fiscal 2022 a total of $970.37 million, which is $24.43 million above the estimated fiscal 2021 level, but $6.4 million less than the Senate has proposed.

It appropriates $569 million for the regents, which is $8.5 million less than the Senate is proposing, but $344 million more than the current budget.

It's an increase of $12 million for the Department of Education, $11.5 million for the College Student Aid Commission and $528,723 for the blind.


(c)2021 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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