There’s been another spat in the state senate over the death penalty. Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, announced Wednesday morning that he’ll convene a subcommittee meeting on a bill that would reinstate capital punishment in Iowa for those who kidnap and kill a child. McKibben has scheduled the meeting for next Tuesday, February 7 at noon in a conference room in the statehouse. Democrats immediately cried foul, saying McKibben has no authority to schedule any meeting. Since the Senate is evenly divided with 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, all meetings in the Senate must be agreed to by a Republican and a Democrat leader.
Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Iowa City, says there will be no meeting.
“He doesn’t really have the authority to call a subcommittee meeting,” Dvorsky says. McKibben says he made the move for a reason. “I want it to be clear to Iowans that the Democrats continue to stonewall this issue,” McKibben says. “Without scheduling a subcommittee meeting, I don’t think you can say that they clearly have done that.”
Dvorsky says it’s clear there won’t be a meeting. “He can use the room as any other senator anytime to do what he wishes, but it won’t be an official subcommittee,” Dvorsky says. McKibben insists he’ll try to hold that meeting. “This is really the time for Senate Democrats to show their true colors,” McKibben says.
McKibben last year invited a cousin of Jetsetta Gage — the Cedar Rapids girl sexually assaulted and slain last spring by a convicted sex offender — to speak at a statehouse news conference. After the man accused of killing Gage was convicted this week, the girl’s relatives spoke out in favor of the death penalty. But McKibben doesn’t expect to have those family members testify at the statehouse next week, partly because McKibben says he doesn’t want to ruffle the feathers of the Democrats. “Initially I would like to try in a bipartisan way to see if we can move the bill forward without a lot of extra things,” McKibben says.
But Dvorsky says McKibben’s been grandstanding on the death penalty issue since the Jetseta Gage story broke. “I believe Senator McKibben is trying to make a point and he uses sort of any opportunity that there is to promote his interest in passing a death penalty bill,” Dvorsky says. Dvorsky, who is Catholic, says he is “morally opposed” to the death penalty.