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'Back the Blue' bill passes Iowa House, but what does it do?

The Iowa House passed the bill on Wednesday. In short, the changes in the bill protect law enforcement officers and punish rioters.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A controversial bill passed by Iowa lawmakers Wednesday makes extensive changes for protecting law enforcement officers and punishing rioters. 

Senate File 342 passed the Iowa House 63-30 with seven legislators absent or not voting on it. 

Supporters of the legislation call it the "Back the Blue" bill while those against it say it's retaliatory against the protests from last summer.

So, what does the bill do specifically? 

In short, changes in the bill protect law enforcement officers and punish rioters.

The legislation adds peer counseling support with confidentiality for officers. It also addresses sheriff's salaries, making them comparable to surrounding communities.

"This does not protect the bad ones, I got a highlight that, this is about protecting the good law enforcement officers, not the bad ones," said Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Washington.

Perhaps the most controversial part of the bill could be the installation of qualified immunity for officers, which means officers cannot be sued civilly if they are operating under the law. 

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The legislation also ups the penalties on rioting and violent protests, including upping penalties for blocking roadways. This protects officers left in those situations.

Klein said the legislation is not an attack on First Amendment rights. 

"I've got no problem with peaceful protests those are a great and wonderful thing but when they turn violent that's a whole different ball game so we're going to up the penalties and rioting and violence," Klein said. 

The legislation also addresses the Brady List, which is a list compiled by county attorneys' offices of the officers they are keeping an eye on. They're often referred to as "do not hire" lists. 

Under the bill, officers cannot be fired for being on this list. 

"Some people think we're giving them a pass. Absolutely not," Klein said. "All we're saying is the list test to be known and the reason for being on the list test to be known but the underlying offense is absolutely a fireable offense not protecting anybody who is stealing tampering with evidence those are all fireable offenses as well."

Finally, the last big piece in this legislation says cities and counties cannot have official policies on their books saying law enforcement cannot enforce certain parts of the law. 

Counties and cities that don't adhere to that will lose state funding. 

The vote on this bill was not along party lines— there were Democrats who voted for it.

One of them is Jasper County Rep. Wes Breckenridge, who is a former member of law enforcement. 

However, the majority of Democrats view the bill as falling short. 

"This bill could be better," said Rep. Jennifer Konfrst. "Could be better. More inclusive. Could continue the important work started last summer. Instead, this bill doesn't do enough to keep our public safety workers safe while working hard to look at how we can make our criminal justice system better for everyone."

Konfrst said collecting data to determine if there are inequities at traffic stops is just one way the bill could have been better. She also made it clear she and other Democrats support law enforcement despite a "no" vote on the bill. 

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