DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate advanced HF 819, a bill that codifies existing case law related to parental rights into the Iowa Code, by a 10 to 5 party-line vote on Wednesday afternoon.
The bill passed unanimously in the Iowa House last week and needed to pass through an Iowa Senate committee to survive the second funnel week.
The bill says the right to direct the care and custody of a child is a parent’s fundamental right. It also states that any state action infringing on parental rights is subject to strict scrutiny and must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. The bill also says that a parent’s marital status has no bearing on their parental rights. Also, the bill says a parent is presumed to be a fit parent unless “clear and convincing” evidence proves otherwise.
The bill passed out of subcommittee earlier this week with State Senators Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, and Jeff Reichman, R-Montrose, approving the bill with State Senator Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, declining to sign.
Zaun, the bill’s manager, said during the subcommittee there were concerns from Bisignano and the Iowa County Attorneys Association that the legislation would hamper the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) from removing children from a harmful environment.
“I would tell you right now that, and I will tell everyone here in this chamber that I will not move this bill if I get the opportunity on the floor until those issues are identified and there’s clarification. The last thing I want to do is weaken the stance of the DHS to remove children from a terrible environment,” he said.
Zaun said he was disappointed that the Iowa House scaled the bill back.
“I was disappointed in the House that when they sent this over there, they did delete a sentence that I thought was really important in regards to the right to direct the upbringing, the rearing, the associations, the care, the education, the custody and the control of the parent’s child is a fundamental right. So this bill needs some help. But I do think the intent of the bill is very appropriate,” he added.