Lawmakers in the Iowa House passed an all-encompassing bill they said strengthens legal protections for the police and increases penalties for protest-related offenses.
The bill, also known as the “Back the Blue Bill,” comes as a response to last summer’s protests across the state.
The bill upgrades rioting charges from a misdemeanor to a felony and increases punishments for blocking highways and streets as well as destroying public property.
It also makes shining lasers at the police a crime.
Republicans say the bill is meant to deter crime.
“What we’ve seen is not peaceful protesting,” Rep. Jarad Klein (R-Washington County) told KCCI. “What we’ve seen is destruction and damage in our communities.
Democrats said they liked some portions of the bill, including adding benefits for injured police officers, but argued it is divisive and criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ inaction on racial justice measures.
“I think this bill unnecessarily pits law enforcement against groups like Black Lives Matter and other protesters,” said Rep. Christina Bohannan (D-Iowa City).
The bill is currently headed to the Iowa Senate. If it passes the state Senate, it will go to Reynolds’s desk for approval.