The Iowa House passed a bipartisan bill that had something to please both sides of the aisle. A central aspect of the bill, which some lawmakers opposed, increased protections for police officers.
According to Sioux City Journal, Senate Bill 342 aims to create a study of peace officer discipline, which was unanimously accepted by both Democrats and Republicans. However, other aspects of the bill, such as offering limited qualified immunity to police officers, alienated the left.
The bill, introduced in the Senate, also seeks to protect drivers or pedestrians who encounter protestors blocking a highway or road from civil liability, making such an act by protestors a “serious misdemeanor.”
The bill would also withhold state funding from communities that defund the police or increase penalties for a variety of crimes, and also aims to increase protects for officers by adding limited immunity, covering costs for tinted windows, protecting police officer pensions, and maintaining officers’ confidentiality in public records.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, had a strong message for lawmakers.
“Let me be clear: If you support law enforcement, truly support law enforcement, you will be voting ‘yes’ tonight,” he said. “If you stand up and say you support law enforcement, your words will become meaningless with a ‘no’ vote. Actions speak louder than words.”
Law enforcement officers in the House appreciated the bill’s input protecting them not only from physical attacks, but legal attacks. Rep. Jon Thorup, R-Knoxville, an Iowa State Patrol trooper, argued that the qualified immunity provisions won’t protect bad cops, as some opposing the bill argued.
“They don’t last long. They get caught doing the wrong things,” Thorup said. “But one thing officers worry about is getting sued. We only have seconds to make decisions. Attorneys and judges have hours. Management has hours, weeks, months.”
In addition, Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, a former law enforcement veteran, believes that the sick leave, worker compensation, pension, and confidentiality provisions will help recruitment and retention.
The House voted 63-30, with eight Democrats joining Republicans in support of the bill and two Republicans among the “no” votes.