The Iowa Senate has unanimously voted to combine a series of crime-related proposals into one bill. Senator Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, opened the debate with a reference to the Urbandale woman who authorities believe was killed by her boyfriend this weekend.
“She has a kindergartener who will be saying goodbye to his mom today,” Petersen said, her voice breaking with emotion. “Our role in the legislature is to do all we can to protect Iowans from violence and to ensure our laws are written clearly so that perpetrators don’t get away with sexual exploitation, abuse, tormenting or violence because of gaps in our criminal code.”
Increasing the penalty for human trafficking to a forcible felony was one of the proposals included in the package, along with enhanced penalties for abuse that occurs between two people who are dating.
“Our criminal code does not recognize that violence in dating relationships is often as dangerous as violence in married or cohabitating relationships,” Petersen said. “These abusers should be penalized similarly.”
The bill, when it passed the Iowa House, expanded Iowa law so any school employee or volunteer at a school activity can be charged with sexual exploitation of a student. Under current Iowa law teachers, administrators, coaches and counselors can be charged with that crime. House members must now decide whether to accept senators’ decision to expand the bill to cover additional subjects.