Commitment to build Iowa State Patrol numbers

CAPITOL LETTERS

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE GARY WORTHAN

District 11, R-Storm Lake

Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee

By the time you read this, Supplemental State Aid and the transportation assistance bills will have been approved by the Governor. This nearly $90 million increase means that Iowa schools will spend $6,880 per student, a $144 increase from last year. Our local school districts can now go about preparing their budgets for next year with the certainty of a solid state aid number. With SSA settled, the Legislature can begin to set priorities and put together the rest of the budget. Budget negotiations with the Senate are in full swing and I believe we may have some agreements by the end of the month.

We have several freshmen legislators on the committees on which I serve, so it falls on the veteran lawmakers to floor manage committee bills, until we get the freshman up to speed and comfortable. As a result, I am floor managing more bills than would normally be the case. The bills that I am currently managing include: HSB37, a bill defining the duties of the Highway Patrol and the Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division;  HSB38, a bill that will establish the rules for the operation of ride-share electric scooters in Iowa;  HSB42 is the Iowa Workforce Department bill where we are making some minor changes to unemployment rules and allowing electronic notification of unemployment claims and appeals; HSB43 which makes changes to Iowa commercial driver’s license rules to conform with federal law;  HSB72 would increase the penalties for employees of the Department of Corrections who engage in sex acts with offenders who are under the supervision of the department; and HF72, a bill that I authored, that would establish a scheduled offense, similar to a speeding ticket, for impeding traffic by loitering in the far left lane of a multi-lane highway. I am also serving on the sub-committees for bills that will allow six and seven axle trucks to be registered with the special farm plate, a traffic cam bill, a bill dealing with the placement of communication towers, and a bill dealing with the governing boards of our local 911 systems. This all makes for a hectic schedule as we work sub-committee meetings in between our meetings of standing policy committees and our budget sub-committee meetings.

I am again serving as chairman of the House Justice Systems Budget Sub-committee. Justice systems appropriates funding for our court system from the our local county clerks of court, up through the Iowa Supreme Court, the Department of Corrections which includes nine prisons and all of our community based corrections operations. As well as the Department of Public Safety which is the Iowa Highway Patrol, the Division of Criminal Investigation(DCI), the Fire Marshalls office, the Crime Lab and all intelligence operations in the state, the Attorney General’s office and several smaller departments. The combined budget for justice systems will be in excess of $750 million this year.

 When I became chairman of the committee several years ago, staffing at the Highway Patrol was at a long time low of 345 troopers. Over the years it has been my goal to build numbers in the Patrol and also in the DCI. My goal is to have trooper numbers near 390 by the end of Fiscal Year 2020; this is still down from 455 troops back in the early 1990s. It is a slow process due to the fact that we are averaging about 20 troopers retiring every year. As we begin the budget process in earnest I will continue to put Iowan’s safety and access to justice first, as I advocate for our law enforcement community and our courts.

Our next forum in Storm Lake will be held on Saturday, March 16 at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe Resort.