A key lawmaker says the Iowa Legislature will have to make changes in the new living restrictions for sex offenders. Representative Lance Horbach, a Republican from Tama, says the new law that forbids sex offenders from living within two-thousand feet of a school or day care has flaws. Horbach says neither the legislature nor the public has a “tolerance” for sex offenders, but the law’s unintended consequence has moved those sex offenders out of larger communities where there’s an active police department to small towns where there is no regular police presence. Horbach says small towns don’t have parole officers or treatment programs, either.
Horbach says one step lawmakers may take is to say “low-risk” sex offenders are not subject to the living restrictions. Horback cites a specific case that he says highlights the need for such a change. Horbach says an 18 year boy had sex with a 14 year old girl and the girl’s parents notified authorities. Later, the couple married and had two children. Now, the family has to move out of their community because of the new law.
“There will be conversations as to a check and balance type of system for the extreme case of a low-risk person who the legislature and the people did not intend to fall within that description of a sexual offender but did,” Horbach says. Governor Tom Vilsack said yesterday (Wednesday) that it was not “politically possible” to undo the residency restrictions for sex offenders.
Horbach agrees that legislators will not try to repeal the local ordinances Iowa towns are passing to try to force sex offenders out of their communities. Horbach says it’s unlikely the legislature would step in and tell a community they cannot “perfect” the state’s law restricting sex offenders from living within two-thousand feet of a school or day care.
Horbach will convene a public hearing late this month to talk about the issues surrounding the new law. “As harsh as we get…there are people who are going to just through circumstances fall outside of everything that we’ve done to protect our children,” Horbach says. “Our legislation will have to grow as we find out the weaknesses and it’ll also have to grow as we find out unintended consequences and fix it so it actually works.”