By James Grob, firstname.lastname@example.org
The wheels of government turn slowly, but on Wednesday, Lenny and Wendy Luft gave them some grease.
Before Wednesday, state politics was like a foreign language to the Lufts. Wendy is a real estate agent, born and raised in Charles City, and Lenny is a police officer for the Charles City Police Department.
“As a private citizen, I had no idea how to go about writing a bill,” said Wendy Luft. “Now, to see it go through the original draft to the subcommittee and now the committee — it’s been the most wonderful experience.”
The Charles City couple visited the Capitol on Wednesday to advocate for organ donation in honor of their son, Logan, a 15-year-old Charles City boy who died in an ATV accident in 2016.
“We met with a roundtable of three different senators, and a couple different lobbyists from a couple different groups sat in,” said Wendy Luft, who mentioned that Tony Hakes from the Iowa Donor Network was also there. “We were given the opportunity to share Logan’s story.”
The Lufts were advocating for a bill that will be called “Logan’s Law” should it pass. The intention of the bill will be to take an individual’s organ donor information, which is currently on Iowa driver’s licenses, and put it on hunting and fishing licenses as well. Logan was an avid hunter and angler.
Luft said the senators at the roundtable read the draft of Logan’s Law, had some questions and wanted some clarifications.
“I was a little surprised,” she said. “For the first time, I found some opposition to organ donation. Actually, it was more that they wanted some clarification. They have to play devil’s advocate.”
Luft said the senators wondered if parents were absolutely required to honor the child’s wishes to donate his or her organs.
“I told them no, they don’t — until a child turns 18, it’s still up to the parents,” she said. “The biggest reason we want this bill is for communication. Let’s have this conversation now, with our families, so when the call comes for organ donation, we’re making an informed decision, not an emotional one.”
Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, filed a bill in the Iowa House last week to create Logan’s Law, while Iowa Sen. Waylon Brown, R-St. Ansgar, introduced the legislation in the Senate the previous week.
The Senate version (SF86) passed out of subcommittee on Wednesday, and will go to the full committee next Thursday, Feb. 14. When that happens, Luft said, she is urging friends of Logan, supporters of the law and anyone else from the Charles City area who is interested to head down to Des Moines.
“That’s National Donor Day,” she said. “We’re inviting the entire Charles City student body to come down and be a part of that.”
If the bill passes out of committee it will go to the Senate floor for debate on Feb. 20.
Luft said that this just happens to be an ideal time to add the organ donation option to hunting licenses, as this year the DNR is reworking its entire licensing system.
“It’s the perfect time,” she said. “It’s a big deal.”
Luft said the bill seems to be getting “wonderful support” on the Senate side, although there are more questions in the Iowa House.
According to Prichard, the House bill (HF 148) hasn’t moved yet, and the committee chairman has some changes he wants to propose.
“The good news is, the Lufts spoke with the committee chair, and he’s supportive of the idea, and that’s good, he just wants to make some changes,” Prichard said. “He has a few concerns as a funeral director. We’re anxious to see what changes he has. We will work with that.”
The committee chairman is Rob Bacon, R-Story County, who is a retired funeral director and a consultant to funeral directors throughout Iowa.
“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love among funeral directors for organ donation,” Luft said. “They believe it makes their job more difficult. We told him that we can make it better for them, that this will actually simplify the organ donation process.”
Prichard said the conversation the Lufts had with Bacon may very well have saved the bill.
“They were able to tell their story and put a face behind the bill,” Prichard said. “That was great, and I think they were able to generate support and get people to understand the issue. It’s such a good thing to do for the state. It’s not a partisan issue, and it will help save lives, quite frankly.”
Luft said she was hopeful the bill would have support from Iowa Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, who came up to the Lufts Wednesday and introduced herself.
“She was amazing,” Luft said. “She offered her condolences, and is familiar with our story.”
Luft said she understands that passing any bill through the Legislature is a tedious process, and that not everyone is going to agree that the bill should be signed into law.
“There are some people who just aren’t going to agree on this bill, and I respect that and I get that,” Luft said. “It’s hard not to get emotional about it as a mom, but there are so many components to writing and implementing a bill. It’s not the bill itself, it’s all the details involved.”
The Luft’s next planned trip to Des Moines will be on the first day of the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament, Thursday, Feb. 14. The Luft family will be at Wells-Fargo Arena to make a presentation and share the story of Logan, who was a wrestler, with the crowd to start the tournament.
That day is National Organ Donation Day, as well as Valentine’s Day, and the Lufts will be passing out Valentine’s Day cookies.
After that, they’ll take part in another kind of wrestling — next door at the Capitol building — where they’ll take part in more committee meetings regarding Logan’s Law.
The whole lobbying experience, according to Wendy, has been a positive one.
“I was so intimidated going in, but everyone was so warm and inviting,” she said. “Here’s this little couple from northern Iowa, and maybe we’re going to make a law that improves the way things are done. Anybody can make a difference.”