Democrats in the Iowa House tried to block legislation they say will weaken the state’s ability to investigate child labor abuses, but Republicans say they want to make it easier for good employers to hire kids.

House Republicans passed a bill that would let businesses keep child labor permits on-site rather than submit them to the state. Representative Lance Horbach, a Republican from Tama, says “bad apples” aren’t following the law anyway.

“If an employer wrote down, ‘I’m going hire a 12 year old kid and I’m going to have him light gasoline fires,’ do you really think they’re going to send that in to the Child Labor Division?” Horbach asked. “If they’re a bad employer, do you think they’re going to put down: ‘We’re going to abuse this kid?'”

Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says the bill goes too far.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be able to stand up for child labor protections in Iowa,” she said. “Stand with protecting our children, not (with) those who want to exploit them.”

Running-Marquardt says many of the violations of child labor laws are found when staff in the state Workforce Development agency read through the child labor permits businesses file.

“Who are we trying to protect here? Is it our children?” Running-Marquadt asked. “No, I believe it’s those who may want to exploit our children.”

Horbach says shuffling through the permit paperwork is wasted time.

“We have one child investigator. Every second they are working on paperwork they are not out investigating,” Horbach said. “Let’s give them as much time opportunity to investigate as possible.”

It’s unlikely this Republican-crafted bill will survive in the Democratically-led Iowa Senate.