The Legislature’s initial push to reform sentencing laws has hit a big snag at the statehouse. Representative Gene Maddox, a republican from Clive, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which failed to endorse a Senate-passed sentencing reform bill. Maddox says legislators are backing away from the bill because they don’t want to appear “soft on crime.” Maddox says there are also three cops on his committee — two are retired and one’s a current police officer — and that is another important dynamic. Maddox says after much debate, it appears lawmakers can only agree on one thing..Maddox says lawmakers may change the penalty for dealing crack cocaine to make it equal to the penalty for selling powdered cocaine. Critics contend the penalty’s currently lower for powdered cocaine because it’s a drug more likely to be used by the rich. In December, House Republican Leader Chuck Gipp of Decorah said the legislature would consider major sentencing reform to ease the prison overcrowding problem.
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