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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Democratic proposals to protect Iowans working in prisons and another to require reimbursement if the governor deploys state personnel outside the state were thwarted Tuesday by majority Republicans using procedural moves.
During debate of a $652 million in funds for several departments covered by the justice systems appropriation, Democrats offered an amendment to address working conditions in Iowa prisons. On March 23, 2021, a correctional officer and nurse were murdered by two inmates at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.
“I think we want to at least continue this discussion of doing something meaningful for the people who work in our criminal justice system, in our prisons, dangerous, sometimes thankless jobs,” said Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City.
His proposal called for defining health care personnel at prisons as public safety officers so they would have more collective bargaining rights, increasing penalties for assaults on correctional employees, raising funding for contraband surveillance and providing paid time off for prison employees who witness traumatic events.
“This amendment should not be political,” Prichard said. “These ideas are not presented for any other reason but just to make this prison safe for the people who work there.”
However, his amendment was ruled not germane or relevant to House File 2599 and an attempt to suspend the rules to consider it failed on a party-line vote.
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. His amendment also would prohibit the governor from waiving reimbursement without legislative approval.
His proposal was motivated by Gov. Kim Reynolds deployment of Iowa State Patrol troopers to Texas, “which I viewed as a publicity stunt, but I'm sure it was legitimate,” Meyer said. Reynolds said the deployment was necessary for border security.
“We took our people off of the roads to send them down to the border … but we never got reimbursed from the state of Texas as far as I know,” he said.
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.
“I think if the governor is going to do that in the future, we need to demand that we get reimbursed from the state that we are sending emergency aid,” Meyer said.
Again, his amendment was ruled not germane and a motion to suspend the rules failed on a party-line vote.
HF 2599 was approved 56-38 with two Democratic votes for and two Republicans against.
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