House Republicans propose cutting the budgets for key divisions within the Iowa Department of Human Rights in half, a move Democrats oppose and a cut far deeper than Republican Governor Branstad’s proposed six percent reduction. Representative Ralph Watts, a Republican from Adel, says the ultimate goal is to get rid of divisions within the agency that focus on minority and equality issues.
“I’m not suggesting that they don’t have a voice,” Watts says. “I am suggesting that it may not be proper, ongoing, for the state to pay for that voice.” Divisions within the Department of Human Rights advocate for women, African Americans, Latinos, native Americans and those of Asian descent.
Representative Ako Abdul Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines, says that’s how it should be. “We will actually have individuals falling through the cracks if the state backs off of this responsibility to provide a voice,” Abdul Samad says. Watts defends the proposal.
“We aren’t lessening anyone’s human rights,” Watts says. “What we are doing is trying to establish what it is proper for the state to pay for.” Watts says Republicans hope the agency’s director would shift money around so the divisions that help deaf and disabled Iowans are spared from the cuts.
However, those divisions are within the area of the Department of Human Rights’ budget which would be cut from $1.1 million down to less than $600,000 under the G.O.P. plan. The House Republicans’ proposal now goes to the Democratically-controlled Iowa Senate for review.