Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Iowa lawmakers went home for the year on May 5. In the coming weeks, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the legislature’s significant work that attracted relatively attention.

Two proposed state constitutional amendments passed both chambers and could appear on the 2020 general election ballot, if the House and Senate approve them in the same form during either 2019 or 2020.

Three other constitutional amendments cleared one chamber in 2017–in one case unanimously–then stalled in the other chamber as lawmakers completed this two-year session. Those ideas may resurface next year. But since changes to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures before landing on the general election ballot (the last step in the process), Iowa voters would not be able to ratify those proposals until November 2022 at the earliest.

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Exclusive: A review of the new, improved Waterloo Police use-of-force policy

More than two years after outside experts recommended a “complete review” of guidelines on the use of force, the Waterloo Police Department finally adopted a new policy in December 2017. Police leaders didn’t publicize the changes, and to my knowledge, no media have reported on the revisions.

In many ways, Waterloo’s updated use-of-force policy reflects national consensus on best policing practices. Some improved passages appear to be a response to notorious local incidents of officer misconduct.

On the other hand, several important principles on the use of force are missing from Waterloo’s new document.

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Fight racism by voting in local elections

Jeff Cox offers some reasons for Iowans who care about racism to “think local.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

Low levels of voter turnout in America are disheartening. Bernie Sanders showed that large numbers of young, new voters can be brought into the electoral system. But what about local elections for school board and city council elections, not to mention bond issues, and the sadly neglected party primaries for local officials?

Here are some reasons to “think local” about elections if you care about racism, with evidence taken from five recent Johnson County elections.

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It is time for an Iowa crime victim rights constitutional amendment

State Representative Marti Anderson is a Democrat serving her third term in the Iowa House. Before that, she was founding director of the Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division for 22 years. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It is time for an Iowa Crime Victim Rights Constitutional Amendment that will give constitutional standing to basic crime victim rights in the Iowa Code. Basic crime victim rights in the justice system include: the right to timely notification on the case and on the status of the offender; the right to be present at criminal proceedings; the right to be heard at sentencing and parole; the right to request restitution for financial loss; and the right to court consideration of their safety in all phases of the case.

Some Iowa victim advocates have worked for a crime victim rights amendment for several decades. I’ve filed an amendment each of my three sessions in the House. There are two major differences this year.

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Marsy's Law would provide better protections for victims

Tiffany Allison is president and founder of the Soaring Hearts Foundation, -promoted by desmoinesdem

Last week was National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, when victims across the country are honored for their forced participation in acts that changed the trajectory of their lives. It was a week to celebrate and support survivors in their journeys to healing and recovery.

I never thought I would have a reason to be a participant in that celebration.

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Why we oppose "Marsy's Law" legislation in Iowa

Beth Barnhill from the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Laurie Schipper from the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence contributed the following commentary. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA) and the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) oppose the bill known as “Marsy’s Law,” in its current form. This legislation proposes to amend Iowa’s state constitution to establish specific rights for victims of crime. However, Iowa law already provides statutory victims’ rights protections under Chapter 915.

While we remain unwavering in our support for crime victims, we believe a constitutional amendment is the wrong mechanism for effectively supporting victims. Legislation like Marsy’s Law undermines the systems and services that can better meet the comprehensive needs of victims of crime. What’s more, Marsy’s Law provides no meaningful remedy or adequate funding for services. It provides a false hope to victims, and prioritizes the rights of victims who pursue remedy in a courtroom over the vast majority of victims who choose not to.

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