Each year, hundreds of pieces of legislation are introduced in the Iowa Legislature. Last year alone, we monitored approximately 150 bills, demonstrating the vast impact that civil liberties have in our state.
Here are some of the key issues we're facing in the 2020 session.
Ending Lifetime Felony Disenfranchisement
Iowa is the only state left in the nation that permanently and for life strips Iowans convicted of a felony from voting. Now, with bipartisan support, the Iowa Legislature is continuing to consider legislation that would amend the Iowa Constitution to allow tens of thousands of Iowans to vote. HJR 14 passed the House in 2019 by a decisive vote of 95-2. It’s now in the Senate where it must pass the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate in 2020 to stay on track to change the Constitution.
After the legislation to amend the Constitution passes this session, it must then pass again by the end of the 2022 legislative session. After that, it would go to a vote of the people. ACLU of Iowa will continue to work tirelessly to right this wrong.
Police Body Cameras
Body cameras are expensive equipment that the public has funded under the promise that they would be a way for the public to hold police accountable. Yet for all practical purposes, body camera footage remains entirely secret unless police want to disclose it. This is especially problematic because Iowa’s Open Records law doesn’t explicitly address the issue of body cameras.
As we done in past legislative sessions, ACLU of Iowa will continue to push for legislation on this important issue in the 2020 session.
Anti-Racial Profiling Legislation
The ACLU will continue to work, along with partner organizations including the NAACP, to pass meaningful statewide legislation in 2020 that makes it more difficult for law enforcement to target people of color.
Such legislation should explicitly ban racial profiling and explicitly ban pretextual stops, which are stops made on the pretense of one reason—like a driver going just slightly over the speed limit—but are really made for a different reason like an officer decided that a driver’s race, location, or car looked “suspicious.” which often translates into the person being a person of color.
It should also require annual data collection and analysis of traffic stops and arrests, create an advisory board, and require annual training for law enforcement on racial profiling and discriminatory policing.
HF 122 and SSB 1038 (same language in both bills) were introduced in 2019. The House bill went nowhere; a subcommittee meeting wasn’t even scheduled. The Senate bill passed subcommittee then died. ACLU of Iowa remains committed to ensuring this bill passes.
Reproductive Freedom and Abortion
The Legislature in 2019 advanced a bill, SF 513, which was supported by a broad coalition, including that Governor’s Office that would have made it easier for people to get birth control by allowing them to get up to a year’s supply at a pharmacy in Iowa. Since the bill passed one chamber, the Senate, in the first year of the General Assembly, it’s alive for the second year of the General Assembly in 2020.
We can expect further attacks on Iowans’ reproductive freedom, including a potential constitutional amendment that would take away Iowans’ fundamental right to an abortion under the Iowa Constitution. There are also likely to be continued attacks on Planned Parenthood and their essential work providing basic health care for low-income Iowans, including mammograms, pap smears and affordable birth control. ACLU of Iowa remains steadfast in our commitment to oppose these bills.
SF 516, which passed the Senate in 2019, would require all businesses, including independent contractors in the state to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm the employment eligibility status of all employees. The E-Verify system threatens privacy, opens the door to employer discrimination and abuse, and is riddled with errors that could delay individuals’’ ability to work and lacks meaningful due process protections for workers who are authorized to work but who are injured by data errors. Since the bill passed the Senate in 2019, it’s alive for the 2020 session. ACLU of Iowa will continue to fight against this bill.
Reduced Marijuana Penalties
Research shows that harsh penalties for marijuana possession don't keep our communities safer. Instead, they drive people—especially Black people and Latinos, for whom the most data exists—wrongly and more deeply into the criminal justice system. SF 378, which passed the Senate in 2019 by a vote of 40-8, would reduce the penalty for first-time possession of 5 grams or less of marijuana from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor. While it didn’t become law in 2019, it is alive for the 2020 session and ACLU of Iowa will be there again fighting for this bill.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Iowa needs a law with straightforward, predictable rules to ensure that pregnant workers receive reasonable accommodations from employers.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would provide needed protections for pregnant and nursing workers.
Find out more.
Victims’ Rights in the Iowa Constitution
It can be tough to explain why adding victim's rights to the Iowa Constitution is a problem. The bottom line is that it would turn the concept of due process upside down and subvert a bedrock principle of the criminal justice system—the presumption of innocence. Fortunately, enough lawmakers understood that and the bill didn't pass in 2019. ACLU of Iowa will continue to be vigilant on this issue in the 2020 session.