Capitol Report

Keeping students safe in schools is a top priority for House Republicans for all Iowans. That’s why the Public Safety Committee advanced House Study Bill 675 to ensure students have the protection they deserve all day. HSB 675 has two parts, the first addresses the need for school resources officers inside buildings and the second creates a professional weapons permit and with extensive training for school employees.

School resource officers (SRO) are an asset to schools and the community seeking better security and safety in their schools. The SRO’s connection with students and staff allows them to see problems developing before they get out of hand. The officers bring a sense of safety and security to a sometimes chaotic place. Unfortunately, some schools have removed school resources officers from their buildings, and others either can’t afford their services or their community does not have enough peace officers to serve as SRO’s.

HSB 675 is working to change that. The bill requires school districts with more than 8,000 students to have an SRO in schools with grades 9-12. These large school districts can opt out of the requirement, but that will require a vote of the school board to reject this important security. Parents deserve to know if their school boards are against SRO’s. Smaller schools are encouraged to have SRO’s and both small and large schools can apply for school security personnel grants that will provide up to $50,000 of matching state funds to each school district who wishes to have school security personnel. In addition to law enforcement officers, schools can also hire private school security officers who meet the background checks and training standards.

While school security officers serve an important function, they cannot be in two places at once. HSB 675 also gives schools the option of allowing employees to qualify for a special professional permit for school employees. This is a completely optional program for the schools and their employees. If a school chooses to move forward with this program, staff can volunteer to join. A school employee must pass a standard weapons permit background check every year and complete extensive specialized training. The training includes;
– Prescribed firearm safety training course
– One time in person legal training, including training on qualified immunity
– Annual emergency medical training
– Annual communications training
– Yearly live scenario training
– Quarterly live firearms training

A school employee who meets all these qualifications shall be entitled to qualified immunity from criminal or civil liability for damages when reasonable force is used in the school.

House Study Bill 675 provides two different ways for schools to protect their students, both with school security officers, and well-trained armed school employees. This bill has advanced out of the Public Safety committee and will be ready for floor debate soon.

State Government Approves Bill on First Responders

Last week the State Government Committee passed a monumental piece of legislation to further protect the first responders across Iowa who protect and rescue Iowans every day. House File 2183 (now House File 2482) was reported out of State Government Committee unanimously. The bill, as amended by the Committee, changes Iowa Code to ensure that all types of cancer are covered for Iowa’s firefighters. Currently there are only 14 types of cancer that are covered under the presumption that it was contracted while on active duty as a result of the job. There are over 200 types of diagnosable cancers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters. Research shows that due to the carcinogenic materials and the significantly greater exposure to chemicals, gases, vapors, and particles that firefighters are 9% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population and 14% higher risk of dying of cancer than the general population. If enacted this legislation would provide coverage to all cancers and alleviate concern when a firefighter gets a life altering diagnoses that they have to wonder if their cancer treatment will be covered.

House File 2183 will move to the House floor for the consideration of the full legislative body. House Republicans have over the past several legislative sessions strongly supported legislative efforts in the House to provide expanded coverage for firefighters’ pension funds.