The following is a legislative update from State Senator Amanda Ragan, representing portions of Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties:
On March 23, two inmates attempted to escape Anamosa State Penitentiary. They violently attacked and killed a nurse and correctional officer with hammers. They also held another staff member hostage and seriously injured a fellow inmate who attempted to render aid. It’s the first time an inmate has killed a worker since 1972.
This terrible tragedy never should have happened, and it was preventable. The warning signs have been there for a long time:
* Rising violence with offender assaults on staff escalating in recent years.
* Overcrowded prisons, by nearly 10% above inmate capacity.
* Cuts to staffing, with more than 600 employee positions lost over the last decade.
* Inadequate funding for prisons. In Anamosa alone, funding is $800,000 lower today than it was in 2016.
* Inability to negotiate workplace safety provisions since 2017, when Republican lawmakers stripped collective bargaining rights for public servants.
As legislators, it’s our job to keep the staff and public safe, especially in places like Anamosa.
I’m ready to take immediate action. This session, the Legislature must:
* Fully fund the prisons and fill all positions
* Conduct an independent investigation at Anamosa
* Implement new training procedures in our prisons
* Restore bargaining rights for prison workers and other public employees
2nd funnel limits bills
Last week, the Legislature passed a key deadline, the “second funnel.” For Senate policy bills to remain eligible for consideration, they had to be approved by a House committee, and House policy bills had to be approved by a Senate committee to remain alive.
The funnel helps legislators narrow our focus to what has a real chance of becoming law this year. Fortunately, some bad ideas have died, and many good opportunities could make it to the Governor’s desk.