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Capitol Notebook: Public safety equipment donated to Ukraine
Iowa House approves legislation on sex offender registry, fireworks
DES MOINES -- Iowa is donating 146 protective helmets and 714 ballistic vests to Ukraine. They are excess expired equipment from the Iowa Department of Public Safety and 18 other law enforcement agencies.
“Iowans from across the state have expressed their solidarity with the brave people of Ukraine as they courageously defend their country and fight for their freedom,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday. “Our donation of helmets and vests is one small way we can show that Iowa stands with them.”
The Linn County sheriff posted on Twitter his department donated 10 ballistic vests and 16 ballistic helmets. “They were unusable for our deputies, but still very usable for Ukrainians in their time of great need,” said Sheriff Brian Gardner.
Others participating are county sheriff’s offices in Dubuque, Iowa, Plymouth, Pottawattamie and Ringgold counties.
Police departments contributing equipment are Clear Lake, Coralville, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, DeWitt, Manchester, Nevada, Norwalk, Urbandale, West Des Moines, West Liberty, Windsor Heights and Winterset.
The state is working with the Consulate General of Ukraine in Chicago to facilitate the collection, coordination and shipment of the items to Ukraine.
PIZZA ROLLERS: A “pizza” legislation that its sponsor, Rep. Mike Bousselot, R-Ankeny, said “rolls” state policy to align with federal workplace rules so Iowa 16- and 17-year-olds earn “dough” was approved 93-0.
He assured House members he was not trying to be “cheesy” or offering a “half-baked” idea.
Senate File 2190 would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to operate pizza dough rollers, which is permitted under federal regulations.
The change was sought by Casey’s General Stores, which has about 535 stores in Iowa. It also has stores in 15 other states. Iowa and Wisconsin are the only places where 16- and 17-year-old are not permitted to operate the machines that roll balls of dough into pizza rounds, according to Tom Cope, a lobbyist for the convenience store operator.
ELDER ABUSE: The Iowa House unanimously approved Senate File 522 to increase penalties for people convicted of abusing, assaulting or exploiting older Iowans.
“Whether it's a family member, whether it's a huckster or whether it's somebody else that this person trusts, we see that they can take advantage of what can be some of our most vulnerable Iowans,” said Rep. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon. The bill “ensures that we have added protections for Iowans who need it,” Hite added.
There was some discussion whether enhanced penalties will reduce crimes against the elderly. However, Hite said that “when somebody picks on the most vulnerable of Iowans, they deserve a harsher punishment.”
The bill establishes several crimes, including assault of someone 60 and older. Charges would range from a simple misdemeanor to a Class D felony depending on the circumstances of the assault. Charges for financial exploitation of an older person would range from a serious misdemeanor to a Class B felony. Charges for elder abuse would range from a serious misdemeanor to a Class C felony depending on injuries.
The House amended the bill, so it must go back to the Senate, which previously approved it 47-0, before going to the governor.
TRANSPARENCY: The House Appropriations Committee OK’d an amendment to House File 2499, House Republicans’ school transparency bill, despite the amendment not being available to the public.
Rep. Phil Thompson, R-Jefferson, said it would increase flexibility for teachers to update lesson plans and remove a requirement students pass a civics test to graduate. Schools without digital catalogs of library materials would have until July 2025 to meet that requirement.
The amendment was adopted on a voice vote. The bill was approved on a party-line vote.
FIREWORKS: A bill requiring cities to expand their planning and zoning commissions and boards of adjustment if they extend their zoning jurisdiction up to two miles beyond the city limits was amended to prohibit restrictions on the location of businesses selling fireworks. The restriction on local control would apply in areas zoned commercial or industrial.
Republicans suspended the rules, because the amendment was not relevant to Senate File 2285, which was unanimously approved by the Senate.
The bill then was approved 55-37.
GARBAGE GRABS: A proposal to legislatively overturn a state Supreme Court decision that Iowans do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for garbage they place in a publicly accessible area was approved by the Iowa House 56-38 Tuesday.
Senate File 2296 would reestablish the status quo, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Steve Holt, R-Denison.
The court ruled in 2021 in the case of a northern Iowa man who was charged with misdemeanor possession of controlled substances after evidence was found during a warrantless search of his garbage that had been placed outside his home.
Holt described the ruling as “turning decades of precedent on its head and alleviating one of law enforcement's most vital tools in solving crimes.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that warrantless “trash grabs” do not violate the federal constitutional prohibition on unreasonable search and seizures,” said Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton.
Wolfe also argued that majority GOP lawmakers know they don’t have the authority to legislatively overturn a “constitutionally protected liberty interest.” Instead, it must be done through a constitutional amendment approved by voters.
Five Democrats joined Republicans to approve the Senate bill and five Republicans voted against it. The bill now goes to the governor.
PRISON SAFETY: Democratic proposals to protect Iowans working in prisons and another to require reimbursement if the governor deploys personnel outside the state were rejected by majority Republicans.
During debate of a $652 million justice systems appropriation, Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, offered an amendment to address working conditions in Iowa prisons where a correctional officer and nurse were murdered by inmates a year ago.
It would have defined health care personnel at prisons as public safety officers so they would have collective bargaining rights, increase penalties for assaults on correctional employees, increase funding for contraband surveillance and provide paid time off for prison employees who witness traumatic events.
His amendment was ruled not germane or relevant to House File 2599.
An amendment from Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, would have required that any state department offering aid under an Emergency Management Agreement Compact be reimbursed for all costs. It was motivated by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ deployment of Iowa State Patrol troopers to Texas, “which I viewed as a publicity stunt,” he said, but Reynolds said it was needed for border security.
According to records obtained by The Gazette, the state patrol estimated the 16-day June 2021 trip could cost the public $383,700 and the state signed an agreement waiving reimbursement from Texas for the cost of deployment, but then said reimbursement terms were being worked out.
The bill was approved 56-38.
— Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau