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Senate President: End Iowa Tax Breaks For Big Tech If Free Speech Muzzled

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Iowa State Senator Jake Chapman

Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman said if a court rules companies like Facebook and Google have illegally stifled the free speech of Iowans, those companies should lose all state and local tax breaks.

“We have seen over recent months in particular where ‘big tech’ is censoring Americans, and even Iowans, from being able to express their views and opinions,” Chapman told Radio Iowa.

Facebook and Google have data centers, so-called server farms, in Iowa. Chapman said those companies were awarded valuable tax credits and property tax exemptions, plus they do not pay sales tax on electricity.

“These are some of the largest consumers of energy here in Iowa, and they’re exempted from paying sales tax on those utilities,” Chapman said. “…They have a choice to make. They can respect Iowans and respect our ability to voice our opinions or they can forego these special tax breaks.”

Chapman, a Republican from Adel, is the lead sponsor of a bill targeting internet sites and digital marketplaces with at least 20 million subscribers or members that block what Iowans may post online. That means the bill could impact Google, Amazon and Apple for blocking Parler, a Twitter-like app promoted by conservatives. The companies made the decision, citing Parler content viewed as encouraging violence.

Amazon is building a warehouse in Bondurant. Apple, Chapman said, is set to receive $200-million in state and local tax breaks for a data center in Waukee — a site that is in Chapman’s senate district. Chapman said companies like Apple are operating social media platforms that have become the “public square” and therefore have a responsibility to allow unrestricted political speech.

“When you have these big tech companies arbitrarily deciding what’s going to be shown, what’s not going to be shown, I think that is extremely dangerous,” Chapman said.

Twenty-eight other Republicans in the Iowa Senate have signed on to co-sponsor Chapman’s bill. However, Majority Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny, the top Republican in the Senate, decides which bills are debated, and he is not among them.