Our legislative team has been working closely with legislators and coalition partners to advance bills that protect civil liberties and block bills that compromise our most basic freedoms.
Wednesday, March 16
With the Iowa Legislature's second funnel deadline now behind us, we have a clearer picture of the status of some of the key bills that affect civil liberties in our state:
Signed into Law
Two bills we've supported have already made it to the Governor's desk and have been signed into law.
Juvenile Record Confidentiality
Gov. Branstad signed into law a bill to seal juvenile records (SF 2288). This law makes all juvenile court records confidential, unless the crime would have been considered a forcible felony if it had been committed by an adult.
The bill is important, because it may help address the tragic school-to-prison pipeline, fed disproportionately by students of color. It will also help young people overcome childhood mistakes in order to get a job, successfully apply for college, and become a contributing member of society later in life.
Gov. Branstad signed into law HF 2147, a bill that would give an extra 30 days to overseas Iowans and individuals in the military to request, receive and return special absentee ballots. This bill clarified current law, and allows for more ballots to be collected and counted.
Still In Play
One of our key bills is still moving through the legislative process, even after the second funnel.
No one should be penalized for calling 911, yet that's exactly what some so-called "nuisance ordinances" do. The ACLU of Iowa and the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence have strongly supported and pushed for Right to Assistance legislation (HF 493), which would protect victims of crime from retaliation after calling for emergency services. Nuisance ordinances make people think twice about calling for emergency services because they fear eviction or discrimination by a landlord.
We're optimistic about this bill's chances, and will continue to push hard for its passage.
The fate of three important bills is yet to be determined as further advocacy steps are needed through the end of session.
The travesty of civil forfeiture abuses has been well documented in the media and rightly called a system of "legal thievery." Law enforcement should not be able to retain seized cash and other property from travelers and other individuals just by alleging that it may be part of a crime. SF 2262 would modify current law and allow police to retain seized property only after a person has been convicted of a felony for which forfeiture is expressly authorized as a penalty. This bill did not make it out of the Senate before the second funnel, but we're hopeful that it will still have a chance yet this session.
Body cameras hold tremendous promise in improving police accountability while at the same time protecting privacy, but only if there are good policies and procedures that accompany their use. That's why we have supported a body camera bill (SF 2174) proposed in the Senate this session.
The bill sets out a much-needed process for collecting, storing and sharing body camera data while also protecting privacy by limiting who could request data. The data could be shared only with those individuals who were subjects in the video and other legally authorized persons. The bill also would make data containing use of police force public record.
Instead of acting on it this session, legislators decided to study the issue to take up at a later date. The ACLU of Iowa will continue to push for this bill and any other meaningful body camera legislation that protects privacy rights and fosters police accountability.
Drivers' Licenses for All Immigrants
All Iowa drivers should be tested, licensed and insured in order to make Iowa’s roadways safe. A Temporary Visitors Driver's License (TVDL) should be available to all Iowan residents, regardless of immigration status, who pass driving tests, know the rules of the road, and have insurance.
Representative John Kooiker (R-Sioux County) put forward a bill (HF 2318) to create these temporary visitor driver’s licenses. Such licenses have widespread support, including among law enforcement and businesses. And recent ACLU of Iowa poll revealed that 58 percent of Iowans support driver’s licenses for all individuals, regardless of immigration status. We continue to strongly advocate for this bill.
Bills No Longer in Play
A number of bills did not make it through the second funnel legislative deadline. Some we were glad to see put to rest; others we'll continue to advocate for either legislatively.
Detention Without Warrants
Because of tremendous action by ACLU supporters and coalition allies, this problematic bill met its demise. HF 2276 would have required local sheriffs to unconstitutionally hold people in custody for additional time after they should have been released, simply because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asked them to. Holding someone in custody longer without charges is a serious action that requires a judge's authorization.
This bill seems to specifically target the 26 Iowa county sheriffs who have publicly decided to limit their cooperation with ICE on these warrantless detainer requests.
This bill did not survive the second funnel deadline, in part because 164 people prompted by an ACLU email request reached out to their legislators to urge them to vote against it.
The ACLU is working for communities in which police treat people the same, regardless of perceived race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion. Both the Senate (SF 2267) and the House (HF 2376) proposed bills designed to combat the problem in Iowa of discriminatory policing—often incorrectly called racial profiling because it encompasses unfair treatment based on more than just race. These bills were a good start but needed improvement.
Strong laws that successfully prohibit discriminatory policing should do the following:
- Define “profiling” in a comprehensive way that includes all impacted groups
- Require data collection that is based on officer perception of a person’s race, gender, age, and nationality
- Create an independent review board
- Create a private right of action.
This bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee but never made it to the floor for debate. The ACLU of Iowa will continue to work with legislators, impacted communities, and advocacy groups to craft a strong discriminatory policing bill that truly ensures that all people are treated fairly and equally by law enforcement.
For women to truly have an equal paying field, it's essential that accommodations be made for pregnancies in the working place. The Senate took up this important issue by proposing a bill (SF 2252) that would prohibit businesses from denying reasonable accommodations to pregnant women. This bill passed out of the Senate, but failed to make to make it out of the House Labor Committee. We will continue to work for legislation that assures that Iowa workers have equal opportunities in the workplace, regardless of gender.