Problems that have plagued our nation and state for generations are demanding attention, especially following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by police in Minneapolis.
Iowans and Americans everywhere are coming together to say “enough is enough.” It’s time that our actions condemn hate and racism. It’s time that our actions advance equality and justice for all.
There is so much work to be done here in Iowa, but we don’t need to start from scratch. Many bipartisan bills have been proposed and are just waiting to be called up by legislative leaders.
We can start right away by passing criminal justice reforms before the Legislature adjourns the 2020 session. Iowa has significant disparities in arrests and incarceration of black citizens—only 4% of Iowa’s population is black, but more than 25% of our prison population is black.
There is strong bipartisan support to restore voting rights to felons who’ve served their sentences. Many of these Iowans have returned home; they’re working, paying taxes and contributing to their communities. They’ve served their time and deserve to participate in their government.
HJR 14 would amend the Iowa Constitution to do just that. The resolution passed the Iowa House during the 2019 session, 95-2. In the Senate, unfortunately, it stalled in Judiciary Committee.
We have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure all Iowans are truly free. We must fix unequal treatment under the law, end racial profiling and improve community policing. We need to address health disparities, income inequality, educational opportunities, access to voting and more.
Senate Democrats are ready to make racial justice a reality for all Iowans.
Senator Janet Petersen of Des Moines is the Senate Democratic Leader.