The head of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission warns there’ll be delays in investigating complaints of discrimination because budget cuts have sharply reduced his staff of full-time workers. Ralph Rosenberg’s agency investigates claims of discrimination on the basis of race, age, sexual orientation and other factors. He told a budget panel at the statehouse that more and more of the commission’s work is being done by volunteers.
“We now have more people who are not staff working for our agency than we have staff,” Rosenberg said. “That’s a way for us to stretch our budget because we realize that – currently and for the future – we’re not going to have additional state dollars.” One lawmaker questioned how consistent the commission can be with volunteer help, but Rosenberg calls it a short-term fix for tough budget times.
“Cases won’t be decided as quickly. We hope they’re going be decided just as fair,” Rosenberg said. “We’ll have greater delays. We’ll have delays in trying to train groups. For example, if landlords want us to do training…we just might not be able to get out to one of their associations as quickly or bring as many staff.” Rosenberg is referring to training for landlords who want to avoid violations of the civil rights statute.
On another issue, Rosenberg urged the legislature to approve subpoena power for the civil rights commission. He says issuing subpoenas during the investigation of a complaint will lead to quicker, fairer decisions.