Legislative Bill Creating Tension Between DOT and ISP Departments

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- For over eighty years, the Iowa State Patrol has been synonymous with road safety.  "Pre-1960 there was a poll in the state of Iowa that asked who do you hold in the highest esteem?  Number one was God and number two was the Iowa highway patrol., said Republican Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake.  The Iowa State Patrol is revered across the state but a bill, which just passed the Senate on Tuesday with overwhelming support, is threatening to some.  "It's kind of like the Army and the Marines. There's always interservice rivalries," said Rep. Worthan.

It would give Iowa DOT Motor Vehicle Enforcement officers the go ahead to issue speeding tickets to all vehicles going 20 mph over the speed limit and other egregious violations.  Worthan said, "OWI, reckless driving, drag racing, those things would all be included."
DOT Director of Motor Vehicles Mark Lowe hopes the bill can be amended to included all speeding violations.  "There are a lot of instances which someone can be traveling under 20 miles per hour of the speed limit but still way too fast for the circumstances."

Last October a judge overturned a Southeast Polk High School student's speeding ticket from MVE officers.  The driver Peyton Atzen was traveling above 20 miles over the speed limit, and Representative Worthan said that's what got the ball rolling.  "Trying to clean that up in the Iowa code to make sure the DOT officers can address aggressive violations."
Atzen, also claimed the MVE officers were deceptive and drove in marked cars identical to state troopers.  Something Worthan says state troopers have been upset with for some time.  "There's some hard feelings there no doubt but do we go back the other way and make them take the shields off? I don't know."

However, Worthan says there's no doubt the ninety-four staffed members within the MVE could be a positive show of strength as the Iowa State Patrol has been struggling with a staff shortage. Worthan said, "We can buck that number up if we allow DOT officers to ticket non-commercial vehicles."

If the bill passes, Representative Worthan said legislators could discuss cutting administration numbers or merging the two organizations together in the future to cut costs since they are performing similar services.