Fill the boot for philanthropy

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Public safety folks are dedicated to our local communities. They keep us safe, and we should do what we can to help them help others. That’s why I am sponsoring Senate File 163.

Known as the “boot bill,” SF 163 would help professional fire fighters and other public safety organizations raise money for charity from passing motorists, and volunteer departments could raise money for their own local public safety efforts.

Filling the boot is a common way of raising funds for charity, but it’s not legal in every Iowa community. SF 163 creates an application and approval process that can be used in cities and counties where these fundraisers currently may be considered illegal.

This is a priority that Iowa firefighters have shared with me during their visits to the Statehouse. They say Iowa needs to make this change because some cities, including Burlington, Davenport and Des Moines, have ordinances to stop panhandling, which are written in such a way that they also prevent occasional fundraisers in which drivers drop a charitable donation into a firefighter’s boot as they pass.

Senate File 163 does not eliminate the role of local government. Local authorities would need to approve each request for such a fundraiser, including where and when the event is held. They could even charge an application fee to cover their costs. In addition, liability insurance would be required to cover the charitable organization, local authorities and everyone involved in the event.