Yesterday, in the middle of debate on various budget bills, the House voted on House File 589, the infamous “Ag Gag” bill from last session. Pursuant to what I assume was some type of agreement between the House and Senate leadership, the Senate amended the bill, passed it, and then sent it over to the House, where we were given less than an hour notice that we would be debating/voting on it. Which unfortunately meant that I didn’t have any opportunity to discuss it with, or get feedback from, constituents.
The amended bill is somewhat less problematic than last year’s version, but I still voted no (not that it mattered — the bill passed the House 69-28). It creates several new crimes (Animal Facility Interference, Crop Operation Interference, Animal/crop operation tampering) — the “tampering” behavior is already illegal; the “interference” behavior, which basically would be taking pictures/recording video, is probably protected by the 1st amendment — i.e., if someone charged with one of those crimes challenges the constitutionality of the legislation, I think they’d probably win.
I totally understand why agricultural operations don’t want animal rights activists obtaining jobs under false pretenses, and/or taking pictures that could be taken out of context. I also understand that the concern is that sometimes activists “stage” bad behavior, and photograph it, and then claim that it’s the agricultural facility that’s doing it. But there’s no evidence that this happens very often in Iowa, and creating multiple new crimes to deal with a fairly isolated problem seems like overkill to me. Which is why I voted no. But I can live with it.