This is the time of year when schedules in the Legislature get updated, sometimes hourly, in order to accommodate required meetings of the Appropriations Committee and the Ways and Means Committee along with negotiations with the Senate and the Governor’s office. As the final touches are put on a few policy bills that are outstanding and the final agreements on the budget are hammered out, the process is constantly shifting. As a result, my newsletter missed its normal Thursday release. Last Wednesday, all policy bills that were agreed to by both the House and the Senate were passed. Budget negotiations that were ongoing were the priority of House leadership leaving no need for all one hundred of us to remain in Des Moines. Since it’s that time of year when there is plenty to do on the farm I headed home and spent several days in a tractor.
One of the goals the House Republican caucus set at the beginning of the session was to pass legislation that supported law enforcement in our state. With the “defund the police” movement gaining traction in many places across the country, we feel it is important that our law enforcement officers at all levels know that they have the support of the people. We are accomplishing that on two fronts; in policy in the form of Senate File 342 and in the House Justice Systems budget bill.
Senate File 342 addresses many areas of concern expressed by our law enforcement community. We have communities across the state dictating that they will not enforce certain sections of state and federal law. This puts our officers at odds with their duty to enforce all laws equally and without discrimination. SF 342 will withhold state funds from communities who make such demands on their police and sheriff’s departments. SF 342 will also raise penalties on rioters and protesters who put law enforcement and the public in danger with their illegal activities. Blocking Interstate 80 in Iowa City last summer put law enforcement in serious danger as they moved to stop traffic to protect the protestors on the Interstate. It will also give motorists caught up in a protest immunity from criminal and civil penalties if a rioter is injured by the motorist’s automobile if the motorist is in fear of serious injury or death. SF 342 will also make it a crime to use a laser to assault a police officer. After two federal officers were permanently blinded by lasers in the Portland riots it was determined that under Iowa law lasers were not listed as dangerous weapons. Anyone who assaults an officer with a laser will be guilty of a felony. There are several other sections of the bill dealing with workmen’s compensation issues, removing law officers addresses from public records to prevent harassment, qualified immunity for officers performing their duties within the law and departmental rules, and allowing officers to use accumulated sick leave to pay for their health insurance after retirement.
I talked about the budget considerations in last week’s newsletter. The budget proposed by the House will increase the number of highway patrolmen and DCI agents. It will finance the department’s equipment needs. It will increase the efficiency of the crime lab and evidence processing. DCI will be in a better position to take on cyber crimes like child pornography and fraud against senior citizens. They will also gear up for the coming onslaught of human trafficking as a result of the crises at the southern border. The combined effect of these two initiatives working in concert will tell our law enforcement community that in no uncertain terms; We have your back.
The outlook today indicates to me that we have ten days to two weeks left in the session. I am looking forward to being home and for a good crop year.