Week 14 of the 2021 Legislative Session was about budgets and backing the blue. Budget discussions are ongoing and individual budgets to fund various areas of state government are on the move, while important legislation in support of law enforcement was advanced in the Iowa House.
The Economic Development Budget passed the Appropriations Committee this week. This proposed budget allocates nearly $78 million for Iowa’s economic development. The budget builds on Iowa House Republicans’ efforts to expand access to affordable childcare by allocating close to $3 million for the Child Care Challenge Fund to spur investment in new facilities.
Other highlights of the bill include:
- $500,000 in new funds for nonprofessional sporting events such as youth sports, special Olympics, and high school athletics.
- $1.8 million new dollars for the Jobs Training Program.
- $750,000 to support small-scale, local meat processing businesses.
- $700,000 new dollars to the Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund for the STEM Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers Program.
- A total of $6 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs
- An appropriation of nearly $1.2 million for regional tourism and marketing.
This budget will now head to the Senate for consideration. It should be noted that as other states struggle with budget cuts and out-of-control spending, responsible budgeting by Republicans has resulted in our ability to balance the budget and have a healthy ending balance, while also being able to invest in Iowa’s future and consider further reductions in taxes on Iowa’s hardworking citizens and small businesses.
On Wednesday, April 14th, the House passed a comprehensive omnibus bill in support of the brave men and women of Iowa law enforcement who are under fire and enduring vicious attacks for no good reason. As some states move to defund law enforcement and remove important tools and protections from those who protect and serve, I am proud that House Republicans took the opposite approach. We are proposing substantial and needed increases in the Public Safety budget, and establishment of an equipment fund to help our officers get the equipment they need. We also advanced legislation containing a number of initiatives in support of law enforcement and the rule of law.
Iowans are fortunate to live in one of the safest states in the nation. A major reason for this is our law enforcement officers who work day and night to protect citizens and serve their communities. This past year has pushed our officers to their limits.
Riots, assaults, looting, personal attacks, and destruction of public and private property have made an already difficult job nearly impossible. House Republicans have always supported law enforcement, and Iowans echoed that support by resoundingly rejecting Democrats’ calls to defund the police in the November election. Listening to the concerns of Iowans and our law enforcement community led to the creation of SF 342, a collaboration between House and Senate Republicans. This bill, as amended by the House, addresses problems faced by law enforcement, business owners and the public. The bill increases penalties for a variety of crimes, provides better administrative protection for law enforcement, and will help ensure laws are enforced uniformly across the state.
When laws are passed Iowans expect them to be enforced. Unfortunately, some cities have been actively discouraging and even prohibiting law enforcement from doing their jobs. Division 9 of the bill is intended to stop this practice. If a city or county enacts a policy that prohibits the enforcement of laws, they risk the loss of state funding. This division sets up a system to file a complaint and have those complaints investigated by the Attorney General’s office. Language is also added to reiterate that race, skin color, language spoken, or national origin shall not be a consideration in the enforcement of laws.
Blocking roadways has become a favorite tactic of lawless protesters, rioters, and anarchists. This tactic has placed countless Iowans in immediate danger, created traffic safety issues, and terrified families caught in these crowds. SF 342 adds penalties for those who illegally block a roadway. The charges range from a serious misdemeanor for blocking a roadway and causing damage, to a class “C” felony for those who block a roadway and cause serious injury or death to another. The bill also protects a driver who is exercising due care but injures a person who is illegally blocking a roadway. This language will protect drivers and families who inadvertently end up in the middle of a chaotic mob blocking a roadway and threatening violence.
Everyone has seen the violent footage out of cities like Seattle, Portland, Kenosha, and Minneapolis. Business have been destroyed and property damaged, with riots and anarchy spinning out of control. That type of lawlessness is not acceptable in Iowa. SF 342 increases penalties on rioters, those who disturb the peace, damage public and private property, and harass law abiding Iowans. These increased penalties may not stop those who choose to break the law, but it will ensure they face appropriate consequences for their actions.
Some Democrats have chosen to side with violent protesters and against law enforcement. They claim to support law enforcement, yet they often fail to acknowledge or condemn lawless riots and violence. This stance was decisively rejected in November when Iowans voted in favor of law and order and against lawlessness and the defunding of our police.
During debate on the bill, one Democrat appeared to threaten a lawsuit to stop these changes should they eventually become law. The ferocity with which some Democrats have chosen to defend or remain silent about the rioters and rioting is surprising. One House Democrat, during debate on the Justice Systems Budget, was quick to condemn the attack on the Capitol in Washington DC, while choosing not to mention the relentless attacks on the rule of law in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and other places by anarchist groups.
Rioting is not peaceful protest. Assaulting law enforcement is not peaceful protest. The destruction of public and private property is not peaceful protest. Harassing and coercing innocent citizens out for dinner or a walk is not peaceful protest. Looting is not peaceful protest. These actions do nothing to advance the cause of social justice; on the contrary they set back legitimate calls for needed change. Members of law enforcement and law-abiding Iowans can rest assured that House Republicans will stand strongly for the rule of law in a time in which the foundations of our civil society are under assault as never before by Marxists, anarchists, and other groups who seek to divide, weaken and ultimately destroy our nation.
My thanks to Public Safety Chair Jarad Klein, Public Safety/Judiciary staffer Amanda Wille, Senator Dan Dawson, and others who worked so hard to put this outstanding legislation together.
I know that the thoughts and prayers of all Iowans are with the family, friends and officers who served with Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Jim Smith. Sgt. Smith was a loving family man of deep faith who served his community and fellow Iowans with honor and distinction. Sgt. Smith was and is an American hero. Sgt. Smith gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the people of Iowa on 4/9/2021. We can never be grateful enough for his sacrifice, and for all those who protect and serve.