• Defending Individual Liberty

    I had the honor this week of floor managing House Joint Resolution 2003, an amendment to the Iowa Constitution, to unanimous approval in the House. The bill will add “electronic communications and data” to those items afforded protection against unreasonable search and seizure. In order to amend the Constitution, the bill must receive passage in both chambers during two General Assemblies. Since the amendment passed the Iowa House today with a 96-0 vote, it needs to pass through the Senate this session and then through both chambers again next session. Following that, it will be added to the 2018 ballot for a vote of the people. After clearing all these hurdles, it will go into effect July 1st, 2019. Iowa would then become the 4th state in the country to provide such constitutional protections to its people.

    I filed this bill because our Iowa Constitution as well as state and federal laws are woefully inadequate in protecting our citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. Our founders intended for government to be unable to read a person’s mail or access their files without a warrant. Unfortunately, these protections do not currently extend to emails and electronic data files. The Iowa Constitution states that people should be secure in their “persons, homes, papers, and effects,” yet none of those applies to communications or data transmitted via wireless connection or stored in the cloud. In fact, under the Federal Electronic Communications Protection Act, data stored on a remote server for more than 180 days is considered “abandoned property” and can be accessed by the government with a simple letter stating the need for the data in an ongoing investigation. At the state level, our electronic surveillance law specifically excludes Wi-Fi connections, meaning the government can legally hack your data stream when you’re surfing the web, texting, or buying a Christmas gift online.

    If bad actors can steal your identity, if the NSA can access your emails, and if foreign governments can hack your bank or personnel files, we all should be concerned. This amendment will provide a firewall of protection between state actors and the people, requiring a warrant for state actors to access your electronic communications and data. While this is vitally important, it’s not enough. I’m also working on a statutory update to the Iowa code, which would provide similar protections in the civil and criminal arenas. Taken together, these protections will ensure that our right to communicate and conduct our lives privately is protected.

    U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts wrote: “Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life’… The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.” Passage of this amendment will secure the “protections for which the Founders fought” for our and future generations. One of the things I ran on was defending individual liberty, and this bill goes a long way in that regard.

    To aid in its passage, please contact your Iowa State Senator and tell them you support HJR 2003. If we don’t pass it this year in the Senate, it will be seven long years before we can put these protections into effect. By acting now, we can establish this firewall of protection in just three years.

  • Funnel Week Bills

    We’ve just completed the first funnel week, the week in which all individually-sponsored bills must be voted out of a committee. Those bills that don’t make it through the funnel are dead until the beginning of the next session. This deadline is imposed in order to ensure bills have sufficient time to make it through both chambers during the legislative session.  Now is a good time to give everyone an update on some of the bills I’ve drafted and/or shepherded through the funnel.

    My synthetic drug bill made it unanimously through the Public Safety Committee.  This bill would make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute synthetic drug offenses, improving upon current code which makes prosecution almost impossible. Additionally, the bill lowers the penalty for crack cocaine in accordance with the Public Safety Advisory Board’s recommendation to better align crack and powdered cocaine penalties. It just doesn’t make sense for an abuser of crack cocaine to receive a significantly worse penalty than an abuser of powdered cocaine, particularly when this causes a disparate impact upon minorities. Finally, as part of overall drug penalty reform, the penalty for possession of the smallest amount of cocaine is reduced for first-time offenders. This is part of an effort to shift the focus from incarceration to treatment for minor drug offenses.

    My child endangerment bill made it through the Judiciary Committee. This bill would add child endangerment resulting in death, when it involves intentional uses of unreasonable force, torture or cruelty, to the list of crimes requiring a mandatory 35-year sentence before eligibility for parole. As the law stands now, a person can beat a baby to death, receive a 50 year sentence, and be immediately eligible for parole. I’ve met with family members who have gone through such a tragedy, and they can’t understand why the person who killed their child isn’t treated the same as those who commit second degree or attempted murder.  This reform is long overdue.

    My bill establishing joint physical care of a child as the presumptive standard in custody situations cleared the Judiciary Committee.  This bill treats fathers and mothers equally when it comes to parental responsibility and care.  While joint care is the presumptive standard, the court can adjust that based on the best interests of the child or with parental agreement.

    My constitutional amendment adding “electronic communications and data” to those things afforded protection against warrantless government search and seizure, made it through the Judiciary Committee.  When our country’s founding fathers drafted the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, they intended to protect citizens against the government reading their mail or accessing their personal files without a warrant.  This amendment updates that intent for the 21st century, ensuring that government authorities in Iowa can’t access email or electronic data without a warrant.  This necessary update is consistent with our state motto, “Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.”

    In addition to my own bills, I’ve chaired 2 other bills through the funnel. The first is abill that combats human trafficking by prohibiting traffickers from applying for and using a credit card in a human trafficking victim’s name. This will take away a tool that traffickers use to profit from and trap their victims. The second bill adds bio-based industrial lubricants to those that receive preferential treatment for state contracts. This expands the preference beyond just recycled lubricants, improving competition, helping the environment, and leveraging Iowa’s agriculturally based bio-lubricant sector.

    It’s an honor to serve the people of Marion, Bertram, Ely and the surrounding parts of Linn County. If you have any questions, comments, feedback, would like to meet or would like to visit the Capitol, please contact me at [email protected] or on my cell at 319-651-7316.