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Sometimes you just gotta say ‘No’

Published: Monday, March 11, 2013 12:04 p.m. CDT

As I mentioned in my column last week: Friday, March 8 marks a very important date in both the House and Senate chambers as it is the first “funnel” deadline.  What this means is that in order for legislation (outside of tax and spending bills) to be eligible for House Floor consideration, it must be voted out of the full committee by that deadline.

With that being said, this week was extremely busy for all legislators as we were scrambling to get key bills passed this self-imposed hurdle in order to keep them alive during this session.

Typically, I like to dwell on issues that I support.  Most folks seem to be more interested in what you are for, rather than what you are against.  However, this week I would like to take a bit of a detour and tell you about a bill that I voted against.  More importantly, I would like you to know why I voted against it as this will help give more insight into how I filter my decision making process when it comes to voting either “aye” or “nay”.

This past week, an issue came before one of the committees that I serve on, Public Safety, dealing with the state’s collection of DNA samples from Iowa citizens to be stored in a database for profiling.  Currently, Iowa Law already allows for the collection of DNA from those convicted of a felony.  However, the bill under consideration, House Study Bill 51, would lower the threshold of this allowable collection from a felony to aggravated misdemeanor.

During the subcommittee hearings on HSB 51, it was discovered that the original draft of this legislation would even allow for the collection of DNA for some driving offenses and crimes committed by juveniles.  Even after an amendment was passed in committee, to exclude those aforementioned scenarios, I still had concerns with the bill.

Article 4 of the United States Constitution states, in part:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” (emphasis mine)

I understand that when an individual commits a crime, that person is subject to forfeiting certain rights upon conviction of that crime.  However, some crimes are more serious than others. 

That is why we draw lines of distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony.  When an individual is convicted of a felony, that person forfeits several rights, including the right to vote, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to hold public office, and so on. 

These rights are denied until such time that the individual goes through the appropriate process to have those rights restored.

I believe that current Iowa Law is just in overriding the Fourth Amendment rights of a convicted felon (as is the case of other constitutional rights that I have just listed), especially in felony cases concerning sexual crimes.  However, I do not agree that it is just to lower the bar for those convicted of misdemeanors.

The Constitution is a framework that is designed to protect the rights and liberties of individual citizens from the overreach of government.  On Jan. 14, I placed my hand on the Bible and swore an oath to support and uphold the Constitutions of both the United States and the State of Iowa.  I take that oath very seriously and to the best of my ability, will not violate it no matter how unpopular.

This is one of those areas where I promised to do what I think is right, even if it means going against my colleagues in the same political party. 

By the way, HSB 51 passed out of the Public Safety committee with strong bipartisan support and only three dissenting votes: myself, a fellow conservative, and a self-proclaimed “knee-jerk liberal”.  As the saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows. 

But more importantly, I think it shows that even the staunchest conservative and the staunchest liberal can sometimes find common ground when it comes to matters of principle.

Just so you know, I will be voting “nay” again on HSB 51 should this bill come to the House Floor.

As always, I appreciated and welcome your comments and feedback.  Please feel free to contact me with your issues or concerns as they arise either by phone (515-281-3221), e-mail (greg.heartsill@legis.iowa.gov), or in person when visiting the Capitol or a town hall forum.

Speaking of town hall forums, on Friday, March 15, I will be at Knoxville Chamber Office at 4 p.m.  I hope you can make it to one of these forums.

I consider it an honor to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature.  Until next time, God bless!

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