Senate File 2296 passed the Iowa House Judiciary Committee during Week 9 of the legislative session. The bill, which breezed through the Iowa Senate with unanimous support, didn’t receive any Democrat support in the House.
Republican Rep. Steve Holt, who is managing the bill in the House, noted the importance of allowing laws enforcement to search garbage. Holt said “thousands” of homicides and serious crimes have been solved by law enforcement going through garbage as abandoned property and finding evidence.
Democrat Rep. Marti Anderson said the Iowa Supreme Court decision that is making this bill necessary reinforces the idea that garbage is “a little bit more private” than it was previously considered. She asked Holt if law enforcement could search garbage if they had a search warrant.
Holt said they could, but noted that sometimes the timeframe of obtaining a search warrant would result in evidence being lost.
She also asked if the person searching through the garbage would always be in uniform.
”Not necessarily,” Holt said.
Anderson said it seemed as though the legislature was attempting to overturn a Supreme Court decision making some property more private.
“I don’t like to have our privacy interrupted and so I’ll be a no on the bill,” she said.
Democrat Rep. Mary Wolfe also said the bill is an attempt to overturn a court decision legislatively.
“This decision is based upon Article I, Section 8,” she said. “We all know when our Iowa Supreme Court interprets the scope of a private liberty interest based on the Iowa Constitution they are the final arbiters of the scope of that protection.”
Wolfe said the legislature should attempt to amend the Constitution like it is for other issues if they want to change the decision and ask Iowans if they do not want a constitutional right to privacy when it comes to their trash.
”But I don’t believe you can do it in a bill,” she added.
Six other states have had their supreme courts issue a similar ruling. And, besides that, Wolfe said the decision was authored by Justice Christopher McDonald, who was appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“It’s an incredibly written opinion,” she said.
Democrat Rep. Rick Olson called the bill a “waste of time.”
Holt said he disagrees with the comments that were made and highlighted the fact that Democrats in the Iowa Senate didn’t consider it to be a waste of time considering the unanimous support.
“I don’t think any right is absolute,” Holt said. “And I have a little bit of knowledge about expectations of privacy and how that stuff works having served in law enforcement and in the military.”
Holt said in a person’s home there is every expectation of privacy, but it is a little less in a vehicle and a little less on the open roadway.
Holt said he doesn’t believe there has ever been an expectation of privacy for abandoned property. Garbage is looked upon as abandoned property, he added.
“This is an essential tool for law enforcement,” Holt said. “Just how much do we want to be able to tie the hands of law enforcement to keep our communities safe?”