September 2, 2014

Senators shout over sex offender policy (audio)

Democrats in the Iowa Senate have voted to prohibit people who’ve been in the state prison unit for violent sexual predators from ever being transferred to a nursing home.

It’s reaction to a case involving an 83-year-old man who was sent by a judge from the state prison system’s sexual predators unit to a Pomeroy nursing home. He later assaulted a 95-year-old women in that home. Republicans in the Senate refused to support the Democrats’ move to prohibit the worst of the worst sexual predators from being placed in nursing homes.

Republicans argued instead for a House Republican plan that would force nursing homes to notify residents and their families if anyone on the state’s sex offender registry was living in the home or planned to move in. The debate sparked a heated exchange between Republican Senator Shawn Hammerlink and Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal.

“Congratulations Senate Democrats…You don’t have to notify your grandmothers that a sex offender and a sexually violent predator are going to be their neighbors,” Hammerlink said. “…I have no idea why you’re putting your grandmothers in that situation.”

Gronstal responded: “Congratulations Senator Hammerlinck. You convinced Senate Republicans that allowing sexually violent predators into nursing homes was a good idea.”

Senator Tom Hancock, a Democrat from Epworth, argued the prisoners kept in the “sexual predators unit” have no business ever being sent to a nursing home.

“Put ‘em back in the institution where they belong,” Hancock said. “…We’re keeping our grandmothers and grandfathers safe.”

Hammerlinck disputed that. “You let rapists next to grandmothers,” Hammerlinck said.

After all the shouting, however, Hammerlinck and all the other Republicans joined all the Democrats in supporting the senate’s final version of the bill which included the provisions Hammerlinck had criticized.

“It’s still better than what we currently have,” Hammerlink said. “There’s a study on what to do with these violent predators, since we don’t know where to put ‘em.”

All these ideas are a temporary solution, giving the governor and his staff time to wade through all the tricky legal issues and come up sometime next year with a permanent policy for how nursing homes deal with sex offenders.

AUDIO of 27-minute Senate debate of House File 2422.