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D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers address TikTok and tech issues


D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers address TikTok and tech issues

Mar 25, 2023 | 12:44 pm ET
By Luke Clausen
D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers address TikTok and tech issues
Iowa's lawmakers talked TikTok and tech in D.C. this week. (Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Iowa’s legislators touched on tech and TikTok this week with hearings that highlighted a continued focus on China.

Lawmakers also worked to block emissions tests for livestock production while promoting ethanol and advancing technology in health care and agriculture.

TikTok, China hearings

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks participated in the House Energy and Commerce committee’s grilling of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.

“There are serious, bipartisan concerns about TikTok’s affiliation with ByteDance and the Chinese Communist Party, its security measures, and its content moderation. The Committee invited Mr. Chew to have an open and honest dialogue, but unfortunately, we weren’t given sufficient reason to believe his company is doing enough to protect its users,” Miller-Meeks said. “Mr. Chew has a long way to go before any of us are convinced that TikTok isn’t feeding data to the CCP or manipulating content to harm our children.”

Additionally, Ernst, with Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, introduced a bill that would “deny federal funds to any individual or entity if it has an agreement, partnership or advertising relationship with TikTok,” according to a press release.

“Make no mistake – TikTok is an insidious platform weaponized by the Chinese Communist Party to snoop on Americans and negatively influence our children,” Ernst said. “This bill rightfully ensures that American taxpayers aren’t forced to foot the bill for ads that bolster the CCP’s toxic platform.”

Also this week, Rep. Ashley Hinson participated in the second hearing of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Community Party, which focused on the genocide of the Uyghur ethnic group in China’s Xinjiang region.

Grassley introduces fuel octane bill

Sen. Chuck Grassley, along with Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, reintroduced a bill that would “leverage higher-octane [ethanol] fuels to improve engine efficiency and performance,” according to a press release.

“Instead of continuing to buy more oil from foreign adversaries, we should be increasing the use of ethanol made by biofuel producers right here in the United States,” Grassley said. “The Next Generation Fuels Act would help put America back on the path to energy independence while easing the pain at the pump.”

The bill would “establish a minimum research octane number (RON) standard of 98 for gasoline” and “require the new high-octane fuel to utilize low-carbon sources.” Most gas stations offer a typical octane of around 91 in their fuels.

“Iowa families need solutions to stretch every dollar, and homegrown Iowa biofuels stand at the ready to relieve the pain at the pump,” Ernst said. “This commonsense legislation drives down costs for consumers, lowers carbon emissions, supports our farmers and producers and moves us one step closer to energy independence.”

Ernst works to block livestock emissions monitoring

Ernst and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., reintroduced a bill that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from monitoring methane emissions from livestock, according to a press release. The bill would block all new methane monitoring funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

“It’s no surprise that Biden’s radical EPA wants to regulate every aspect of our agriculture industry, from the waters on our farmlands to the emissions of our cows,” Ernst said. “Americans can’t afford burdensome and baseless regulations that drive up costs for livestock producers and consumers.”

Feenstra bill would expand high-tech ag research

Rep. Randy Feenstra, with Democratic Michigan Rep. Haley Stevens, introduced a bill to expand federal scientific research to include “quantum molecular simulations and modeling.”

The Quantum in Practice Act would amend the National Quantum Initiative Act, which is up for reauthorization, according to a press release. Republican Indiana Sen. Todd Young and Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

“From fertilizer production to materials manufacturing, quantum computing has the untapped potential to lower input costs for our farmers, improve energy storage, and produce more effective medications for patients,” Feenstra said. “Thanks to scientific ingenuity, there is boundless opportunity for our rural communities to harness the power of quantum computing to strengthen our agricultural sector, streamline fertilizer production, and enhance our way of life in the 4th District.”

Maternal health

Grassley, with Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, also reintroduced the Healthy Moms and Babies Act, a bill aimed at improving maternal and child health care. Maternal mortality rates have significantly increased in America over the past several years, according to data from the CDC.

“We must do a better job at supporting pregnant moms and their babies. The Healthy Moms and Babies Act will enable high-quality coordinated care to our most vulnerable moms,” Grassley said. “Through 21st century technology and community-based efforts, we can prevent maternal mortality and high-risk pregnancies – regardless of a mom’s zip code or economic background.”

The bill would “support outcome-focused, community-based prevention and stillbirth prevention activities and expand the maternal health workforce,” according to a news release. Additionally, the bill aims to “modernize maternal health care through telehealth to support women of color and rural women” and “improve [the] understanding of social determinants of health in pregnant and post-partum women.”

Miller-Meeks introduces drug competition bill

Miller-Meeks introduced a bill aimed at the cost of prescription drugs by speeding up the approval of  “interchangeable biological products are approved to be used in pharmaceuticals,” according to a news release. 

Republican Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina and Democratic Reps. Nanette Barragán of California and Annie Kuster of New Hampshire are co-sponsors of the Biologics Competition Act, which would require the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate its approval process for the drugs.

“As pharmaceutical prices continue to skyrocket, we must do everything in our power to make lifesaving drugs more affordable for those in need,” Miller-Meeks said. “Our bill will encourage the Department of Health and Human Services to expedite the approval process for biosimilar products which may be used interchangeably in place of more expensive drugs.”