Living in Society

Zach Wahls Solon Listening Post

Snow Tracks

SOLON, Iowa — Snow began to fall about 10 a.m., an hour before the scheduled legislative listening post with our State Senator Zach Wahls. By the time I got to the community center, about three inches of fluff was on the ground. We live in Iowa. We began on time.

It was a small gathering, affording everyone who wanted to ask questions or discuss issues adequate time. On points where there was disagreement — resolving opioid addiction and boat motor size on Lake Macbride — the topics advanced in a civil and straightforward manner. Credit to the senator for the way he moderated those conversations.

The mix of party affiliation of locals appeared to be half Republican and half Democratic. Of the people I knew, there was a retired firefighter, a chiropractor and the school board president. As is usually the case, several people from outside the district attended with their own agenda. By now, we’re used to that. The Center for Rural Affairs was a co-host of the event and had a display with literature available.

My question was about discussion of female genital mutilation in the legislature and news media. Senator Wahls said he hadn’t read a bill on the subject, and that no one he knew was in favor of the procedure. After the listening post I found both the Senate and House have versions of a bill making it a felony to perform genital mutilation or transport a minor out of state for the procedure. (Bill numbers are HF63, HF299, HSB115 and SF212).

Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lynda Waddington, who won an award on Friday for her editorial writing, laid out expectations for the legislature in a recent column:

  • Send a strong message that female genital mutilation will not be tolerated.
  • Give prosecutors the tools and resources to bring perpetrators to justice.
  • Signal to state prosecutors that this practice is a crime that must be prosecuted.
  • Provide education and outreach to at-risk communities and professionals likely to encounter girls at risk.
  • Include measures to specifically prevent girls being trafficked across state lines for such procedures.

“A federal judge said it is up to the states whether or not girls undergo female genital mutilation,” Waddington wrote. “Iowa lawmakers must make a statewide ban on this unnecessary and heinous practice their first priority.”

That’s why I felt it necessary to raise it with Wahls. The issue was known last session but a bill did not advance out of committee. Read Lynda’s article at the link for more background about why Iowa is even talking about female genital mutilation.

We covered a lot of topics in an hour. It was time well spent.

Tim Brown, president of the Solon School board, attended. Brown is an engaging conversationalist with a wealth of knowledge about what’s going on in the community. He was interested in the legislature’s plans regarding school funding. Wahls recapped the bills on which he expects to vote, maybe as soon as next week. There is plenty of ink out there with details, including James Q. Lynch’s Cedar Rapids Gazette story from this morning’s newspaper.

After the formal part of the meeting, a group of us discussed a variety of topics, including the fact that the school board election will be combined with other elections in November. Two seats are up. Since our school district straddles counties, there will be an additional election cost to the board for about 20 homes in the Solon Community School District located in Linn County. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert has not released detailed election plans according to Brown.

Even though the turnout was light, it was good to circle up with Senator Wahls on a snowy day in Solon before the first funnel.

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