A bipartisan group of 33 senators have approved a bill that makes it a felony in Iowa to “sabotage” critical infrastructure.
The move comes after protesters set fire to equipment used to construct a crude oil pipeline through the state. In addition to pipelines, the bill classifies roads, bridges and telecommunications equipment as well as electric, gas and water utilities as protected “critical infrastructure.”
“Sabotage is defined as any act that is intended to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service to critical infrastructure property,” said Senator Tom Shipley, a Republican from Nodaway who was the only “yes” vote on the bill to speak during tonight’s debate.
Those found guilty of the kind of sabotage described in the bill could be sentenced to 25 years in prison. Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said that kind of prison time should be reserved for “really bad dudes.”
“Don’t turn every protester into a Class B felon. Some of you might know or be related to people who protested at some time, maybe tried to shut down a street or a bus company,” Hogg said. “People do that. We live in a free society.”
Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, was another one of the 16 “no” votes on the bill.
“This bill is about helping the big pipeline companies slap back at the protests of their flagrant abuse of eminent domain,” Quirmbach said.
A similar bill is eligible for debate in the Iowa House.
Two woman were arrested last summer after telling authorities they intentionally tried to damage valves and set fire to equipment to try to stymie development of the Dakota Access pipeline. In August, FBI agents raided the Catholic Worker House where the women were staying to collect evidence in the case.