Bills still alive in statehouse, meet fearless Iowans
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MARCH 6, 2023
Hello! March has certainly lived up to its reputation of coming in like a lion, at least when it comes to news.

But first – this Wednesday, March 8, is International Women’s Day. To commemorate the holiday, I wanted to reshare all of the profiles we’ve run about fearless Iowans. My hope is you’ll spend time reading the ones that resonate with you.

Also in this week’s newsletter, we’re sharing a list of the bills related to women’s and gender issues that have made it out of the first funnel deadline at the Statehouse.

Lastly, a reminder: Our annual survey on the status of gender equity is open through March 13. Please take a moment or two to share your thoughts with us! While nonscientific, we believe the results illustrate current opinions and experiences that women have across the state in and outside of work, and we’d really like to include a wide variety of responses that reflect the diversity of thought and experiences in the state.

Have a great week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

24 stories of fearless Iowans
I don’t need to tell you that women are incredible. But it’s always worth being reminded that women are courageous, honest, confident, persistent, brave, purposeful, daring, resilient, authentic, unselfish, passionate and perseverent (and so much more).

The following are profiles of Iowans who have shared with me their stories of fearlessness. They are deeply personal, and together they create a colorful tapestry of what it means to be fearless and how fearlessness manifests itself.

Fearless is using your experience as an immigrant to mentor others. Read Mayada Alwan’s story.

Being fearless is saying yes when the president asks if you would consider serving as a U.S. ambassador. Read Mary Kramer’s story.

Being fearless is living your life to its fullest, despite the challenges it brings. Read Aly Wenner’s story.

Fearless is finding a way to move forward when you’ve been broken into a million pieces. Read Patty Sneddon-Kisting’s story.

Being fearless is continuing to move forward after unimaginable loss. Read Teresa Zilk’s story.

Being fearless is doing something that terrifies you. Read Beth Shelton’s story.

Being fearless is having the courage to leave an abusive relationship. Read Melissa Vine’s story.

Being fearless is telling the truth, even when it’s not always welcome. Read Megan Srinivas' story.

Being fearless is competing in a sport where the goal is to injure someone. Read Karen Mackey‘s story.

Fearless is not letting your age hold you back from achieving your dreams and goals. Read Sydney Rieckhoff’s story.

Being fearless is being who you really are. Read Elle Wyant‘s story.

Being fearless is continuing to do the right thing, despite it being unpopular. Read Joli Vollers story.

Being fearless is moving to a new country after spending 10 years in a refugee camp. Read Dalia Kyi’s story.

Being fearless is standing up for what’s right. Read Maria Alcivar’s story.

Fearless is saying yes to new opportunities, and lifting other women up along the way. Read Denise O’Brien’s story.

Being fearless is acting upon a calling. Read Amber Collins’ story.

Being fearless is running for political office as a college student. Read Rachel Junck’s story.

Being fearless is teaching others about differing perspectives. Read Amy Getty’s story.

Being fearless is making the choice to be honest about who you really are. Read Jo Allen’s story.

Fearless is leaving an abusive relationship, and making it your mission to help others do the same. Read Courageous Fire’s story.

Being fearless is demanding to not be invisible. Read Suzan Erem’s story.

Being fearless is taking care of your family after an immigration raid. Read Maria Gonzalez-Alvarez’s story.

Being fearless is surviving a sexual assault and fighting for justice. Read Vanessa McNeal’s story.

Fearless is summiting the highest peaks on the seven continents despite growing up in a state with no mountains.
Read Jen Loeb’s story.
What bills are still alive in the Statehouse?

We’ve made it through the first funnel week of the Iowa Legislature, which is the deadline that requires bills to be approved by a committee.

Essentially, all bills must be voted out of their respective Senate and House committees and sent to the full chamber. Those that haven’t made it out of committee by the deadline are essentially dead, which means lawmakers cannot vote on them.

Exceptions are bills that fall under appropriations, ways and means, and government oversight committees.

While not comprehensive, here’s a look at where several bills that are related to women’s and gender issues stand:

Reproductive health and parental rights

HF 510 states that life begins at conception and would effectively make all abortions illegal. The bill says "unborn human beings" are entitled to equal protection under the law. The bill did not make it to a committee vote by the funnel deadline.

HSB 201 would give Iowa state employees paid parental leave for the first time. The proposal from Gov. Kim Reynolds would give a state worker who gives birth up to four weeks of paid leave. The nonbirthing parent would have one week. Adoptive parents would have four weeks. It passed through the House labor and workforce committee.

SF 186 requires employers to treat employees who adopt a child up to 6 years old the same way as employees who are biological parents when it comes to employment policies, benefits and protections. The bill passed unanimously through the House Feb. 22 and has passed out of the Senate workforce committee.

SF 252 requires state universities and colleges to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant students. Accommodations could include excusing absences related to the pregnancy, rescheduling exams and assignment due dates and allowing the student to take a leave of absence. The bill passed out of the Senate education committee.

SF 384 would make it a felony to assault a pregnant person if the offender knows or reasonably should know they are pregnant. The comparable legislation in the House would increase the severity of assault charges by one degree if the victim is pregnant. It passed out of the Senate judiciary committee and House public safety committee.

HF 265 would license and regulate certified professional midwives. Iowa is currently one of 13 states where CPMs, who specialize in births that occur in homes and stand-alone birthing centers, are not licensed or regulated. The bill has passed through the House state government committee.

Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts

SF 136 would eliminate Iowa’s gender balance law, which requires that all state, county and municipal boards and commissions be gender-balanced. The bill passed out of the Senate state government committee.

HSB 218 would make it so the universities governed by the Iowa Board of Regents can no longer use funds for diversity, equity and inclusion, DEI offices or such employees. The bill passed through the House education committee.

LGBTQ rights

SF 335 would prohibit people from using school bathrooms and locker rooms that don't align with their assigned gender at birth, but allow schools to provide accommodations, like single-occupancy restrooms. A similar bill in the House would do the same. The bill passed out of the Senate education committee.

SSB 1145 would require school staff members who believe a child identifies with a gender other than the one assigned at birth to notify parents or guardians, unless the staff determines there is a risk of child abuse. The bill would also create a statewide "removal list" of all books successfully challenged in any Iowa school district. Any books on that list would require parental permission for students to access. The bill passed through committee.

SSB 1197 and its House version, HSB 214, would ban gender-affirming medical care for people under the age of 18. Gender-affirming medical care could include puberty blockers, hormone treatment therapy and genital or chest surgeries. Both bills made it through their respective committees.

HF 348 bans teaching of gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through sixth grade. It passed through the House education committee.

HF 190 would eliminate gender identity as a protected class from the Iowa Civil Rights Act. The bill has not made it through a subcommittee.

HJR 8 would amend the Iowa Constitution by defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. A similar bill, HF 508, would say that Iowa recognizes marriage as a "sacred religious sacrament" and that no Iowan shall be compelled to recognize any same-sex marriage as valid. Neither bill made it to a subcommittee vote.

Child care

HF 343 would allow children of full-time child care providers to be eligible for child care assistance. The bill passed through the House health and human services committee.

HF 47 would exempt Iowa child care providers from state income tax. The bill passed through committee.

The second funnel deadline, which requires Senate bills to be passed by a House Committee and House bills to make it out of a Senate committee in order to continue this year, is scheduled for March 31.

Business Record senior staff writer Michael Crumb contributed to this report.

In the headlines
President Joe Biden last week nominated Julie Su to be the next labor secretary following Marty Walsh’s resignation. Su is the current deputy secretary, and served as California’s labor secretary for seven years.

Michelle Vogel has been named the new CEO of Sigler, a graphic design and commercial printing company based in Ames. According to a news release, Vogel has worked for Sigler for more than 20 years. She worked through various departments before being named president in 2019. Vogel will succeed Ron McMillen as CEO.

Two Storm Lake high school girls, Briana Acosta and Darlyn Alvarado, have launched a podcast that raises awareness about mental health. The girls, both Latina, said they want to slay misconceptions in their own community where seeking help is taboo or not accessible for financial reasons to immigrants struggling to manage basic needs.

A bipartisan group of Iowa lawmakers is pushing for a law that would require police to conduct evidence-based standardized assessments when interviewing victims of domestic violence. Used already in more than 30 states and tried in several of Iowa's largest counties, lethality assessments aim to help the justice system determine further risk to victims, better connect them with services, make safety plans and place conditions, if needed, on offenders before or after trial.

The U.S. Commerce Department last week announced that any semiconductor manufacturer hoping to receive part of the $40 billion in new federal subsidies as part of the CHIPS Act will need to guarantee affordable, quality child care for workers who build or operate a plant. That could include building company child care centers near construction sites or plants, paying local child care providers to add capacity, directly subsidizing workers’ care costs or other steps. A report written last year said child care availability is part of the reason women do not seek more jobs in manufacturing.

A new online tool called Take It Down, operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is letting anyone anonymously take down explicit images and videos of themselves from the internet. Portnoy said teens may feel more comfortable going to a site than to involve law enforcement, which wouldn’t be anonymous.

Worth checking out
Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is also up with her toddler at 1 a.m. (Time). Black midwives are pillars of pregnancy care. Here’s what we can learn from them (HuffPost). Women's History Month grew out of a weeklong commemoration by Jimmy Carter in 1980 (NPR). Meet Time magazine’s 2023 Women of the Year (Time).
Cheering solo
This week’s feel-good news comes out of Nebraska.

After her three teammates left the cheer team a few weeks before the state competition, senior cheerleader Katrina Kohel was faced with a choice: forgo the tournament or finish the season and cheer alone.

She chose the latter – something no other cheerleader has done in the history of the competition.

The entire crowd cheered her on, and she ended up placing eighth out of 12 squads in the division.

"I feel really proud of myself for knowing I can do it and not giving up," she said in an Omaha World-Herald article. "Just getting it done."

Take it from Kohel – you CAN do hard things, even if you have to do them alone.

Be fearless with us
At its core, Fearless exists to help empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life. We believe that everyone has a story to share and that we cannot progress as a society unless we know about one another. We share stories through featuring women in our reporting, featuring guest contributions and speakers at our events.

We are always looking for new stories to share and people to feature. Get in touch with us!

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