DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate passed SF 479, a bill that would restrict state funds for cities and counties that reduce funding for law enforcement agencies, by a bipartisan 41 to 7 vote on Wednesday.
Cities and counties that reduce funding for law enforcement agencies in their jurisdiction under the legislation would be ineligible to receive state funds unless the municipality reduced its entire budget by an equal or greater amount than the law enforcement agency is reduced. Cities and counties can also provide written justification to the Iowa Department of Management. Under the bill, sufficient reasons would be for things like one-time capital, equipment, or vehicle purchases in the prior fiscal year; lower personnel costs due to entry-level personnel replacing previous personnel; merger or consolidation of jail services, communication and dispatch services, or the merger of law enforcement agencies; or reductions due to reduced population of a law enforcement agency’s jurisdiction.
The bill is a response to calls to defund the police.
State Senator Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, offered two amendments. One would have allowed cities or counties not to comply with the law if the state takes away a revenue source (traffic enforcement cameras). That amendment lost 17 to 31. Boulton offered a second amendment made changes to the collective bargaining law, and it was ruled not germane.
State Senator Jackie Smith, D-Sioux City, would allow law enforcement and firefighters to apply for disability benefits when they discover a workplace injury exists, including post-traumatic stress disorder. It also required cumulative injuries to be covered as workplace injuries. The amendment was ruled not germane to the bill.
Boulton complained about Republicans not adopting the proposed amendments to the bill.
“We’re not even going to give the dignity of debate to concepts about protecting law enforcement officers when they’re injured in the line of duty, or whether or not they should have quality health insurance. No local government has defunded its police department. But there’s certainly been changes to the health insurance benefits for police officers in this state. That’s a real thing that’s happening in our communities,” he said.
Boulton stated that the legislation could have unforeseen consequences.
“If this legislation passes, the real irony of this whole thing, it’s going to be harder for local law enforcement to ask for additional funding without the fear of permanently increasing budgets and making it impossible for a local government entity to ever step away from that decision. We’re talking about special enforcement operations for a current problem in a community. You want to step up law enforcement for that with a one-year program, try to run a pilot program. Be careful because you are going to permanently alter your city or county budget to do so. You’re going to make it harder for local governments to increase police funding with this legislation,” he added.
Boulton and Smith were two of nine Democrats who joined Republicans voting for the bill.
State Senator Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, echoed Boulton’s concern about unintended consequences and that the legislation could prevent cities from looking for efficiency and innovation.
“Nobody in this body wants to defund the police. But let’s take a more intelligent and thoughtful approach here. Don’t hamstring city governments in ways that remove the incentive for innovation,” he said.
Quirmbach voted against the bill.
State Senator Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, the bill’s floor manager, said more funding not less is required to address police misconduct.
“Last June, the Iowa Legislature came together in a bipartisan manner to pass police reforms to add additional accountability and training for law enforcement that benefits both the community and police. Amid this progress in Iowa, there are growing calls to defund the police across the country. The answer to police misconduct is not to defund and eliminate police. It’s to invest and continually invest to change the conduct through continual training,” she said.
Cournoyer said defunding the police won’t bring about the change that is wanted but could make things worse, pointing to Minneapolis, which reduced the police budget by $8 million only to see crime rates increase and then decide to reinvest $6.4 million to attract new police officers.
“Now more than ever, they are asked to do more than just enforce our laws. They are called upon to be social workers, conflict mediators, traffic directors, mental health counselors, detailed report writers, neighborhood patrollers, and the list goes on. And that’s all in the span of one shift. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of officers spend only a fraction of their time responding to violent crime. We need law enforcement to keep us safe. We need to appreciate them and ensure that they have the resources and support they need,” she stated.