Justice Reform Consortium has come to an end

JRC Comes to an End

In 2000, Jean Basinger and Rev. Carlos Jayne came up with an idea.  Build a consortium of non-profit organizations that cannot afford a lobbyist on their own, find common ground on issues, and have one lobbyist represent those issues before the Iowa Legislature.  Thus, Justice Reform Consortium (JRC) was born.

For 18 years, JRC lobbied to reform the criminal justice system, from one based on retributive justice to one based on restorative justice. It supported legislation that would provide increased funding for family connections, education, mental health and substance abuse treatment and reentry programs. The consortium of organizations believed that Iowa should be investing in drug and mental health courts and other community-based corrections, including those that serve the mentally ill who have become involved with the criminal justice system.

At the end of its run, JRC fought the enhancement or creation of new crimes unless there was empirical evidence that this approach would work as a deterrent on unwanted behaviors.  It was a necessary and at times an unpopular voice in the room.  The steering committee has determined that it is time to pass the baton.  We remain confident that others will continue to lend a voice for these important issues.

We thank the many supporters over the years for their financial gifts and time.  It has been greatly appreciated!

Final Report

 This is not only the final report for Justice Reform Consortium for the 2018 Legislative Session, it is the final report that Fawkes-Lee & Ryan will submit.

With a couple of exceptions, the following report contains only those bills that brought about a vote. It does not include bills in which the JRC declared “undecided”, every bill that did come to a vote, or bills without a “significant” connection to the work of JRC.

√ – a legislator’s vote was compatible to the position of the JRC.

x – a legislator’s vote was not compatible to the position taken by the JRC.

a – a legislator was not present, or did not vote on the bill.

p – a legislator had a conflict of interest and “passed” on the bill rather than vote.

n – a legislator was not serving in the chamber at the time the vote was taken.

The vote counts may be found online at:  Senate Votes, and House Votes.

There are many reasons why legislators vote for or against a bill.  If you have a question as to why your legislator voted a certain way, your representative or senator should be willing to give you an explanation.  We encourage you to sit down with your legislator(s) and discuss the issues with which you have a concern.


 #1HF 2399JUVENILE JUSTICEThe Iowa Department of Human Services proposed a measure that would have turned the Iowa Boys Training School at Eldora over to the Iowa Department of Corrections, changing the focus from rehabilitation to one of punishment.  JRC, along with other allies, worked diligently to prevent the bill from moving beyond its passage in the House.  HF 2399 passed the House 59-38video and was sent to the Senate.  The Senate did not consider the bill.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √. 

#2.  HF 2443JUVENILE JUSTICEThis bill offers several changes in Iowa’s law on Juvenile Justice.  Much of the bill addresses the confidentiality of juvenile delinquency records and allows disclosure in certain circumstances to particular people – such as judges, county attorneys, guardians ad litem, juvenile court officers, limited school officials, and others.  The bill also amends current law to provide that a hearing is required to be held within two working days of the time of a child’s admission to a shelter care facility and within one day of a child’s admission to a detention facility.  JRC SUPPORTED this bill. An “AYE” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.  HF 2443 passed the House unanimously, 98-0video. It also passed the Senate unanimously, 48-0 –video.  The governor has signed the bill into law. 

#3.  HF 2450CRIMINAL JUSTICE:  There have been close to 360 inmates in the United States who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, sentenced to prison, and have been exonerated through the process of DNA testing.  This bill, a project of the State Public Defender, allows a defendant who has been convicted of a felony or aggravated misdemeanor the opportunity to seek from the court an order to require that DNA analysis profiling be performed on evidence of a forensic sample in the case for which the person stands convicted if the DNA has not been analyzed previously.  HF 2450 passed the House 97-0video It was sent to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate but was never brought out of committee. A subcommittee had met, but did not advance the bill.  JRC SUPPORTED this bill. An “AYE” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √. 

#4.  HF 2492  – APPROPRIATIONS:  A bill that appropriates money for the Justice Systems (Dept. of Corrections, Dept. of Justice [Attorney General], Civil Rights Commission, Dept. of Public Safety, and several others).  An amendment on the floor of the House during debate, offered by Rep. Gary Wortham (R-Storm Lake), would have eliminated a pilot program established in Linn, Polk and Scott Counties that relies upon a risk assessment to release people charged with crimes (and pending trials) rather than the outdated use of bonds and bondsmen.   Rep. Rick Olson (D-Des Moines) offered an amendment to strike the prohibitive language from the bill, but a vote on the amendment failed.  The vote was not recorded.  Senator Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) offered an amendment in the Senate to strike the language and the vote was recorded.  Unfortunately, the amendment failed. Also, it would be unfair to list the recorded votes for this amendment because Sen. Bisignano had to vote against his own amendment in order to file a motion of reconsideration.   JRC OPPOSED this particular part of the bill because the section is an offensive and unjust provision harmful to poor persons accused but not convicted of a crime which denies them pre-trial release without bond with judge approval.  The bill passed on a party line vote.  Governor Reynolds exercised her line-item veto authority to strike Rep. Wortham’s amendment, restoring the pilot programs to those counties using them.  However, the item veto applies only through the end of the year[1]. The following is her veto message:

“House File 2492 is approved on this date with the following exceptions in Sections 5 and 17, of which I disapprove:

“The State of Iowa is currently taking part in a Public Safety Assessment (PSA) pilot program that provides judges with an objective, data-driven approach that they can use in pretrial proceedings when exercising their discretion. Sections 5 and 17 end that pilot program immediately.

“I disapprove of these sections because I believe that we should consider and study ways to create a fairer pretrial system that protects the public. But I also understand that the legislature and other stakeholders have questions about the PSA and whether it considers all of the appropriate factors. For that reason, I am instructing the agencies of the executive branch to continue their participation in this pilot program until December 31, 2018. At that time, the pilot will be concluded and further use of this assessment suspended until the data from the pilot can be analyzed. If, after studying the data and research conclusions, it is found that this program will be in the best interests of the public, then new legislation should be considered that authorizes the PSA or similar risk-assessment tools. I want to also emphasize that, even during the short pendency of the pilot project, the PSA does not and should not replace the judge’s discretion. The PSA is but one piece of information and the ultimate decision rests with each person sitting on the bench.”

The bill adds new sections to the Iowa Code, even though Republican leadership throughout the years has emphatically said that it would not use policy language in appropriations bills.  For example:


NEW SECTION. 719.9 Use of unmanned aerial vehicle —— prohibitions.

  1. As used in this section: a. “Facility” means a county jail, municipal holding facility, secure facility for the detention or custody of juveniles, community-based correctional facility, or institution under the management of the department of corrections.
  2. “Unmanned aerial vehicle” means a vehicle or device that uses aerodynamic forces to achieve flight and is piloted remotely.
  3. A person shall not operate an unmanned aerial vehicle knowing that the unmanned aerial vehicle is operating in, on, or above a facility and any contiguous real property comprising the surrounding grounds of the facility, unless the unmanned aerial vehicle is operated by a law enforcement agency or the person has permission from the authority in charge of the facility to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle in, on, or above such facility.
  4. This section does not apply to an unmanned aerial vehicle while operating for commercial use in compliance with federal aviation administration regulations, authorizations, or exemptions.
  5. A person who violates this section commits a class “D” felony.



PRISON READING ROOMS Sec. 21. Section 904.310A, Code 2018, is amended by striking the section and inserting in lieu thereof the following: 904.310A Information or materials —— distribution. 1. Funds appropriated to the department or other funds made available to the department shall not be used to distribute or make available any commercially published information or material to an inmate when such information or material is sexually explicit or features nudity. 2. The department shall adopt rules pursuant to chapter 17A to administer this section.


The judicial branch and the department of corrections in cooperation with the division of criminal and juvenile justice planning of the department of human rights, and the judicial district departments of correctional services, shall study the effectiveness and recidivism rates of persons assigned to the specialty courts of the judicial branch. The national center for state courts may be utilized in order to complete the study. The judicial branch shall file a report detailing the cost-effectiveness of the specialty courts including any recommendations with the general assembly and the fiscal services division of the legislative services agency by January 15, 2019.

As mentioned above, we do not publish the vote count on this particular piece of legislation.  JRC declares as “undecided” on this annual bill because content of the bill can change rapidly and because of the balance of good legislation with bad.

#5.  HF 2436 PROBATION:  An interesting bill introduced by Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion), it calls for an interim study committee to include recommendations relevant to the future use of intermediate criminal sanctions and policies surrounding technical and serious violations with the goal of reducing recidivism and admissions to prison for probation revocations, and increasing transparency and accountability.  The bill passed the House unanimously (98-0video), but was held up by a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee.  JRC SUPPORTED this bill. An “AYE” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#6.  HF 2435 ASSESSMENTS:  This legislation, creating a domestic abuse lethality screening assessment, will come up again in a future general assembly.  Lethality screening assessments are popular with legislatures throughout the United States.  JRC is leery of this legislation because it may run afoul of Iowa’s Constitution, Article 1, Section 17[2], which prohibits excessive bail.  HF 2435 passed the House 98-0video.  The Senate Judiciary Committee did not take it up for consideration after a subcommittee had recommended it for passage with an amendment.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#7.  SF 2375CRIMINAL JUSTICEThis bill eliminates the statute of limitations for prosecution of most sex offenses.  Currently, there is a 10-year window after a victim turns 18 years-old to prosecute a perpetrator for a sex crime against the victim.  This bill eliminates any period of time between the sex crime and the ability of the state to bring charges.  The bill passed the Senate unanimously, 50-0.  video It was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, but was never considered.  JRC OPPOSED this bill. A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √. 

#8.  HSB 569 & SSB 3134DEATH PENALTY: Both of these bills were intended to reinstate capital punishment in Iowa.  Each bill had its own characteristics.  The House bill, HSB 569, would have allowed the death penalty in almost every 1st degree murder.  It failed to pass out of a House Public Safety subcommittee at the end of a dramatic meeting with heavy emotion and an overflowing room of supporters and opponents.  Rep. Greg Heartsill (R-Chariton) was the lone vote in favor of moving the bill to the full committee.  Reps. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines) and Steven Holt (R-Denison) voted “No” on the bill’s advancement.  The Senate bill, SSB 3134 did pass out of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee with a split vote along party lines (Those voting for passage included: Sens. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola); Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig); and Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs).  Those voting against the bill were Sens. Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant) and Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines).  However, Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) declared shortly after the bill was recommended by the subcommittee that it was not going to be brought up before the full Senate Judiciary Committee, thereby killing the bill for the 2018 session.  JRC was a major player in the massive and coordinated effort to thwart the attempts in both chambers.  JRC STRONGLY OPPOSED both bills.  There is no vote display on these bills.

 #9.  SF 2382CRIMINAL JUSTICE:  Senator Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs), an officer with the Iowa Department of Public Safety (Narcotics), has made this legislation a priority of his.  The crime bill has sixty-one sections.  It covers so many different issues it could be considered to be logrolling, which is unconstitutional.

The constitutional problem is with the title of the bill.  Article III, Section 29 of the Iowa Constitution says:

Every act shall embrace but one subject, and matters properly connected therewith; which subject shall be expressed in the title. But if any subject shall be embraced in an act which shall not be expressed in the title, such act shall be void only as to so much thereof as shall not be expressed in the title.

The title of the bill relates to the “criminal code”, but it covers so much more.  The bill addresses subjects such as the “medical examiner” and “drivers’ licenses”.

Another serious problem with the legislation is a segment of the bill in which convictions in another state may be “counted as previous offenses” for the purpose of enhancing penalties.  This provision may violate the Iowa Supreme Court’s opinion in State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015) (concluding that under the right to counsel provision of article I, section 10 of the Iowa Constitution, a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.) The problem arises when two persons have similar circumstances in Iowa, but have not had similar circumstances in others states.  An individual who has been convicted of a simple misdemeanor in another state, and has been afforded the right to counsel is going to be charged with a subsequent offense, enhancing the penalty.  However, an individual who was convicted in another state of the same simple misdemeanor, but has not been afforded the right to an attorney at the time, will have a legitimate right to invoke the holding in YoungThe two individuals will not be treated identically, raising the issue of equal protection under the Iowa Constitution’s Article I, Section 6 – Laws Uniform[3].

There are many other problems with the bill.  Section 41 of the bill takes away the right to appeal, even in felony cases if the person pled guilty. If a person appeals after a guilty plea there are many reasons why the person might appeal. They might appeal the sentence or may believe their lawyer was ineffective enough to have another court to review their case.  Section 43 eliminates the ability to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal. Section 44 pertains to verdicts being challenged on direct appeal. This provision would change the way courts look at evidence in deciding cases.

SF 2382 passed the Senate 47-2 video and was sent to the House.  Rep. Chip Baltimore (R-Boone) drastically amended the bill coming out of a subcommittee, and the House Judiciary Committee passed the bill along with the amendment on to the floor of the House.  Several other amendments were offered by Rep. Baltimore in the closing days of the session in order to strike a compromise, but it appears as though none of the proposed amendments were acceptable.  Sen. Dawson’s most important section in this bill is the provision creating definitions of “simulated firearms” and “simulated explosives” and their nexus to first degree robbery.  JRC STRONGLY OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#10SF 2365 NEW CRIMES:  This bill creates the crime of interference with a service dog/animal (simple misdemeanor), defines service dog/animal, and establishes housing restrictions for service animals.  SF 2365 passed the Senate 49-0video.  The bill had moved out of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and was placed on the House Debate Calendar, but it was never considered in the final days of the session.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#11SF 2371 ENHANCED PENALTIES:  SF 2371 enhances the criminal penalties for individuals engaged in human trafficking of victims who are under the age of 18 from a class “C” felony to a class “B” felony.  This bill passed the Senate 49-0video.  A House Judiciary subcommittee recommended passage but the Committee did not take it up for consideration.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

 #12.  HJR 2010 & SJR 2010 – CRIMINAL LAWThese two resolutions would amend the Iowa Constitution to implement what is known as Marsy’s Law, an attempt to incorporate victims’ rights into the Constitution.  JRC OPPOSED these two identical measures.  JRC printed the position of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence in a 2018 Newsletter, Vol. 9, No.5.  It’s the best reasoning against this effort:

 Invest in comprehensive victim rights and potections for victims of violent crimes – ICADV is unwavering in our support for all victims. We oppose Iowa’s Marsy’s Law (SSB 3040; HJR 2003) because experience tells us there are much more effective ways to support victims. Amending the constitution is a symbolic gesture that won’t make the criminal justice system any friendlier to victims. Establishing rights without legitimate remedy gives false hope to victims and diverts resources away from systems and services that can meet the comprehensive needs of Iowa victims. We believe this bill negatively impacts services and support for all victims, including the vast majority who will never set foot in a courtroom. The proposal contradicts essential principals of American justice and would upend our severely underfunded legal system to the detriment of victims. Iowa law already includes comprehensive victim rights and protections [Iowa Code Chapter 915]. Before amending the constitution, we should ensure we have adequately supported the systems and services that enable victims to access and benefit from statutory protections. The insensitivity and indifference experienced by many victims is not a constitutional failing. It is a failing of common decency by people, society and social systems themselves. Click here to read our full statement on Iowa’s Marsy’s Law. Click here to read our Victim Service Providers concerns of Marsy’s Law.

 HJR 2010 and SJR 2010 were not brought up for a vote this session, but we expect they will be re-introduced in the 2019 session.

#13HF 2401 SEX OFFENDERS:  The Attorney General’s Office claimed this law was a technical cleanup bill.  The original bill, House Study Bill 641, looks nothing like its offspring, HF 2401.  The original bill was requested by the Iowa Dept. of Human Services.  The AG apparently hijacked it on its way out of committee.  The AG said this bill was a response to State of Iowa v. Iowa District Court for Jones County, a case that held “a department of corrections retroactive policy change on earned-time sentence reduction was precluded by a previous Iowa Supreme Court decision and violated the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the United States and Iowa Constitutions.”  The language of the bill is questionable in whether it clarifies the problem.  The bill passed the House 96-1video.  A subcommittee in the Senate Judiciary recommended passage, but it was never considered by the full Committee.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#14.  HF 2404 RESTITUTION/VICTIMS:  An award of restitution made to the victim’s estate or heirs at law shall not be reduced by any third-party payment, including any insurance payment, unless the offender is a named or covered insured.  The bill passed both houses unanimously (House 98-0video)(Senate 48-0video) and has been signed by the governor.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#15.  SF 2343 CRIMINAL LAWSupposedly, there are many incidents of people in the Davenport area attempting to outrun police vehicles, and this is the solution – forfeiture of the person’s motor vehicle, but only if the person who attempted to elude the police is the registered owner of the vehicle.  Constitutional issues of Equal Protection and Due Process are very evident in this measure.  The bill passed the Senate 41-9video and was not considered in the House.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

 #16SF 2282 JUDICIAL BRANCHIt’s amazing that this bill could have passed out of the Senate, much less out of a Judiciary Committee, but it did.  It supposedly instructs the Iowa Supreme Court that it cannot strike down a statute as unconstitutional unless a supermajority (5-2) of justices declare it to be unconstitutional.  It passed the Senate 26-24video.  It was dead on arrival in the House.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#17.  SF 2235 NEW CRIMES:  This unnecessary and redundant legislation requested by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security creates the new crime of Critical Infrastructure Sabotage and carries some hefty penalties – a class “B” felony and a fine of $85,000 to 100,000 for “critical infrastructure sabotage”.  “Critical infrastructure sabotage” means any unauthorized act that is intended to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public relating to critical infrastructure property. JRC has expressed concerns that the fine could be considered an “excessive fine” in certain circumstances and could violate the Eighth Amendment.  JRC believes the language is too broad in that it does not make exceptions for a labor strike; a possible protest protected by the First Amendment; an incident in which someone runs into an electric pole that knocks out power for a large portion of a city; and several other unforeseen circumstances.  It passed the House 69-31video, and passed the Senate for the final time 35-13video.  Governor Reynolds signed the bill into law.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#18.  SF 2230 ENHANCED PENALTIES:  This legislation is a priority bill of the Iowa County Attorneys Association (ICAA).  Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton) brought this to our attention in a Tweet.  Rep. Wolfe and Rep. Rick Olson (D-Des Moines) attempted to fix this bill on the House floor during debate, but it appears as though no one was listening.  The bill contains a serious flaw that will allow a kidnapper to elude conviction on the basis of being a parent.  Fawkes-Lee & Ryan, on behalf of Justice Reform Consortium (JRC) requested a veto on this bill.  SF 2230 passed the Senate 50-0video and passed the House 82-16video.  Despite our veto request, Governor Reynolds signed the bill into law within a few days of receiving it, even though the rush was not necessary.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#19.  SF 2197 ENHANCED PENALTIESThis bill provides enhanced criminal penalties for motor vehicle theft when the vehicle is subsequently used in the commission of a felony.  It passed the Senate 37-13video.  It was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary where it was assigned to a subcommittee and failed to move beyond the subcommittee.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#20.  HF 2238 VICTIMS/RESTITUTION:  An insurer may be a victim for purposes of Chapter 910 (Restitution) if insurance fraud in violation of section 507E.3 or 507E.3A has been perpetrated against the insurer.  The bill passed both chambers unanimously (House 98-0video; Senate 48-0video) and has been signed into law by the governor.  JRC OPPOSED this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.

#21.  HF 2193CRIMINAL JUSTICEThis bill would allow an out-of-state company to set up a system of texting people who have court dates, fees due, etc.  The fee for this service (an additional 6%) would be in addition to fines, surcharges, etc.  HF 2193 passed the House 98-0video  The Senate did not consider this bill.  A “NAY” vote is a vote with the JRC position and is displayed as √.  #22.  SF 415OTHER ISSUES:  This legislation is often known as the “Good Samaritan” bill.  It provides immunity from prosecution when a person contacts authorities (most often law enforcement, but may also include school administrators and medical personnel) to seek emergency assistance to a friend who has overdosed on alcohol.  The intent is to encourage underage persons to report medical emergencies involving alcohol rather than attempting to avoid charges associated with doing the right thing.  Unfortunately, the bill was meant only for alcohol overdoes and not drugs, too.  The bill passed the Senate 49-0 last year.  The House Judiciary Committee considered the bill this year and recommended an amendment (weakening the immunity) and passage.  However, House leadership did not take the bill up for consideration.  Although JRC SUPPORTED this bill, a record of the vote is not appropriate for this year’s analysis because the only vote took place last year. The following bills were passed by both chambers and signed by the governor.  JRC took no position for or against any of the following:


A Board of Parole bill, it changes language in Chapter 908 (Violations of parole or probation), removing references to other states and foreign governments, and repeals Code section 908.7, which allows an alleged parole violator to waive the parole revocation hearing. It passed both houses unanimously and has been signed by the governor.


Currently, it is unlawful to possess “while confined in a secure facility for the detention or custody of juveniles, detention facility, jail, correctional institution, or institution under the management of the department of corrections, or while being transported or moved incidental to confinement.”  For some reason, that language does include a “community-based correctional facility”.  Notice that the person must be “confined”.  The bill passed both chambers unanimously and has been signed by the governor.


The bill creates a third exception to illegal electronic and mechanical eavesdropping by permitting the use of a monitoring device. The bill defines “monitoring device” to mean a digital video or audio streaming or recording device that records, listens to, or otherwise intercepts video or audio communications placed outside of a person’s dwelling or other structure that is not in a shared hallway and is on real property owned or leased by the person.  The bill passed the House unanimously.  Senator Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines) was the lone “nay” vote in the Senate.  Governor Reynolds signed the bill into law.

The vote counts may be found online at:  Senate Votes, and House Votes.


[1] As delighted as JRC is in the line-item veto, we believe the governor extended her constitutional authority by changing the language [law), not just striking the language.  When the governor states that “I am instructing the agencies of the executive branch to continue their participation in this pilot program until December 31, 2018”, she is amending the effective date of a portion of an act approved by the Legislature, violating the separation of powers.  Article III, Section 15 states: “The governor may approve appropriation bills in whole or in part, and may disapprove any item of an appropriation bill; and the part approved shall become a law.”  It does not allow the governor to amend a law, only to “disapprove any item”.

[2] Bail — punishments. SEC. 17. Excessive bail shall not be required; excessive fines shall not be imposed, and cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted.

[3] Laws uniform. SEC. 6. All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.