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Racial profiling bill fails to get committee vote before funnel deadline

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) -- Several aspects of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds' 'Back the Blue Act' survived funnel week, but a ban on anti-racial profiling fell short. At the end of funnel week, any bill that does not make it out of committee can no longer move forward.

The bill was the Governor's effort to build upon the police reforms she signed into law following nationwide protests last year. During her Condition of the State address in January, she said it would continue the state's progress toward racial equality, while also keeping police officers safe.

Republican state lawmakers divided the bill into several smaller parts, several of which did make it through committees. The racial profiling aspect never got a subcommittee hearing.

Last June, when the country was feeling the civil unrest prompted by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Iowa lawmakers passed the More Perfect Union Act which reportedly included a racial profiling ban at one point. Lawmakers failed to come to a compromise on that point.

The bill would have banned racial profiling. It would have also required law enforcement agencies to report race and ethnicity data on traffic stops.

State Representative Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, said not including the anti-profiling language reverses the state's progress since passing police reforms in June.

"This legislation should not pass without including anti-racial profiling language," Smith said. "It should not pass without implicit bias training being part of this ‘Back the Blue’ package."

Smith and other Legislative Black Caucus members are calling on Reynolds to veto the measures without the anti-profiling language.

“Until our governor stands up to her promises and includes language that ensures our communities of color are safe and not subjected to racial profiling as she promised, I’m gonna ask she vetos the legislation," he said.

While speaking to reporters during his virtual media availability on Thursday, House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said the bill did not have enough support to make it through the committee.

“There was some concern as far as what the impacts may be and how that would impact law enforcement their ability to do their job," Grassley said.

Republican lawmakers advanced several other aspects of the "Back the Blue Act' including strengthening penalties for assaulting police officers and denying state funds to cities or counties who attempt to defund police departments.

"You can do two things at one time," Smith said. "You can stand up for law enforcement and also stand up for the communities they police at the same time and have accountability and that is what we are asking of our Governor."

Last year, the push for police reform was a bipartisan effort. Smith and the other members of the Black Legislative Caucus were key architects of that bill. This year, Smith said he hasn't heard from the Governor's office, and work on this year's legislation has not been bipartisan.

Grassley said he does not believe Democrats have brought him ideas to consider.

"I’m not aware of anything that has been brought forward that they would like to propose that they can point to that we have not specifically considered," he said.

House Speaker Grassley said that even though the bill did not pass out of committee, they could be added as amendments to different bills later in the session.

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Daniel Perreault

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