Last Thursday evening, I was heading home from the Capitol when I received a call informing me of a Des Moines police officer who had resigned because he was caught peeping into a locker room. This news sickened me. It sickened me because of the invasion of privacy committed against his victims; but also because this man would walk away free, under current law. Current law make it more difficult to PROVE he’d committed a crime. This story caught my attention because I have legislation currently filed that would have allowed us to prosecute him for something we all consider an invasion of privacy. While it’s disappointing this man will not be punished, I’m encouraged the process is moving toward addressing the issue in the future.
Under my bills, Senate Files 14 and 15, offenses of invasion of privacy change from serious misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor and are punishable by up to two years in jail and a $6,250 fine. It also expands the definition of invasion of privacy to merely looking through a window at someone regardless of the clothing they may or may not be wearing. These common sense bills need to be passed in order to protect our privacy when we are at home and other places we believe are safe from prying eyes.
School Funding in the Spotlight
This week the House passed Supplemental State Aid at 1.25 percent. This is what the Governor proposed in his budget. In the Senate, we have not drafted a bill to set Supplemental State Aid, so we will be working from the House bill. I anticipate an amendment offered by Senate Democrats to set the rate of state aid higher than the 1.25 percent in the House bill. From there, the bill will likely go to conference committee, and a compromise will be reached. I will be advocating for a timely setting of a reasonable and sustainable allowable growth. 1.25 percent does not meet the budget guarantees for some districts, but the 6 percent many are advocating is not sustainable under the current budgetary constraints. A reasonable rate falls somewhere in the middle. I also will be promoting a quick passage of the bill as school districts are required to begin working on their budgets, and without a set rate, they are stalled from moving forward. I hope we can reach a compromise that will produce the best education for our children while at the same time, keeping a close eye on our fiscal house.
Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda Mental Health Facilities Slated for Closure
In the Governor’s budgeted plans, the mental health facilities at both Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda will cease to operate. This raises serious concerns for me, as well as for county officials and sheriff and police departments and hospitals across the state. I’ve spoken with magistrates and regional mental health managers from across District 14 who expressed concerns about how these closures will affect the availability of beds in the future when a serious gap in the system exists with them in operation. While the closures could realize a savings of $8 million for the state budget, it is important to explore how these closures will affect the most vulnerable Iowans, as well as how it will affect county budgets and hospital emergency room operations across the state. I am keeping in close contact with members of the Health and Human Services Committee about the closures in hopes that a solution can be found. Please contact me with your concerns or ideas related to this situation.