The two top Republicans in the Iowa legislature say they’re preparing legislation to respond to the death of George Floyd and protesters asking for racial justice. Hundreds of peaceful protesters marched past the state capitol last night.
“Those voices are being heard and we’ve had conversations with the speaker and with the governor about taking a very positive step forward,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, said early this morning during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight on Iowa PBS.
On Thursday, Democratic lawmakers proposed banning most police choke holds, making it illegal to hire officers with a record of serious misconduct and ensuring the attorney general can investigate police actions.
“I think it would be a very good step forward if we could craft a bill that incorporates these ideas, maybe others,” Whitver said, “but we want to make sure we’re listening and these are good ideas that they are bringing forward and we want to see if we can get it done.”
Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley said he met privately on Wednesday with the Democratic Leader of the House and Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, an African American from Des Moines who’s been in the midst of the protests, to discuss positive actions the legislature might take now.
“We had a conversation. I said: ‘With the timeline that we’re working within the legislature, what are some things that we can do immediately to have an impact immediately on the situation before us,'” Grassley said this morning, “and I’m hopeful that some of these things are in response to us having those conversations and I think we can have a productive piece of legislation come from that.”
This week lawmakers reconvened the 2020 legislative session after a hiatus for the initial pandemic response and hope to complete work soon on policy and budget matters.
Grassley said Republicans want to “work with the Democrats” to find some common ground.
“I think this conversation we’re having right now is very productive because it’s at the issue that’s at hand,” Grassley said of a bill addressing police misconduct, but salso indicating there will be a broader discussion about legislative action in 2021 to address racial disparities.