A bill that bans on monitoring devices within public restrooms, locker rooms and other locations where people have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” was sent to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s desk on Wednesday afternoon. SF 499 originally passed in the Iowa Senate unanimously 49-0 on March 11. The Iowa House passed the measure on an 82-14 bipartisan vote.
The bill reads in part:
The state or a political subdivision of the state, including but not limited to a public library, public school, or other government office open to the public, shall not use a monitoring device in a toilet, bath, or shower facility; locker room; common area within such a facility or room, including an area where a sink or changing table is located; or other space open to the public where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
If signed into law the bill would require public schools, public libraries, public hospitals or other government facilities to remove such devices by July 1, 2017, if they are currently in use. Public hospitals do have an exception if the device is necessary to protect the health and safety of a patient during treatment.
The bill also nullifies any municipal ordinance that allows such devices.
The Iowa ACLU approached the legislature to address this issue when a patron at the Iowa City Public Library discovered a video recording device in the public restroom earlier this year. The Iowa City Public Library in 2005 had installed a video recording device in the common area of their public restrooms in response to an incident at the Des Moines Public Library.
“A registered sex offender grabbed and kidnapped a 20-month-old toddler and sexually assaulted her in the men’s room after he had locked the door. This caused my public library board to read this news coverage about this tragic incident and deliberate over what protections they had in place,” State Representative Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City) said in opposition to the ban during floor debate.
Lensing stated no one watches the videos in real time, videos are discarded after seven days, and the cameras were not recording toilet stalls and pointed away from urinals. She said that the library board also deemed the videos confidential so the public could not view them.
State Representative Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton) called the bill a knee-jerk reaction over one location that had these devices and expressed disappointment that the Iowa ACLU did not try to work this out with legislators from the area.
State Representative Greg Heartsill (R-Chariton) was the floor manager for the bill in the House. He asked during the floor debate, “who defines what a common area is?”
He noted that when someone shuts the door to a public restroom, they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. He also said the videos are subject to FOIA requests so they still could be released to the public. Heartsill asserted that the expectation of privacy outweighs potential safety concerns and devices installed outside these locations can act as a deterrent without violating privacy.
He also stated that since the devices are not monitored in real time they are not much of a deterrent.
No organization registered against the bill.
Only 14 legislators voted against this bill. They are State Representatives Ako Abdul-Samad (D-Des Moines), Ruth Ann Gaines (D-Des Moines), Mary Gaskill (D-Ottumwa), David Jacoby (D-Coralville), Timothy Kacena (D-Sioux City), Monica Kurth (D-Davenport), Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City), Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City), Amy Nielsen (D-North Liberty), Jo Oldson (D-Des Moines), Rick Olson (D-Des Moines), Kirsten Running-Marquart (D-Cedar Rapids), Cindy Winckler (D-Davenport) and Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton).