A Senate committee has approved a bill that seeks a crackdown on sexual predators, but senators are still working behind the scenes to make changes in the legislation. One of the bill’s provisions would declare that convicted sex offenders cannot live within a thousand feet of a school or day care. But Senator Maggie Tinsman, a Republican from Bettendorf, says the court’s already struck down an Iowa law that restricted sex offenders from living within two-thousand feet of a school. “I would think if 2000 feet is unconstitutional, so is 1,000 feet,” Tinsman says. And she’s not sure a law restricting where sex offenders may live would be effective. “I think that gives a community a false sense of security,” Tinsman says. Tinsman says it says nothing about where a sex offender may work and does not forbid them from entering a school. “Where they live is not as important as where they go, so I would rather have electronic bracelets,” Tinsman says. The House has voted to require sex offenders who’re released from prison to wear an electronic device so someone can monitor their movements. Senator Chuck Larson, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, says establishing a “safe zone” around schools where sex offenders cannot live should work, and not be knocked down by the courts. “There’s a significant difference between 2000 feet and a thousand feet and a thousand feet will open up many different opportunities where people can live versus the 2000 feet,” Larson says. Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, has also been insisting the bill include the death penalty for those who kidnap and murder someone, as was the case in the death of the 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl, a case that has spurred legislators to action. Senator Robert Dvorsky, a Democrat from Iowa City, opposes the death penalty but concedes public sentiment for capital punishment is high today.”Anytime an incident like this happens, that happens,” Dvorsky says. He believes a lot of Iowans don’t understand that once someone is convicted and sentenced to life in prison, they are never eligible for parole and spend the rest of their life in prison. “As soon as the facts are out, the numbers (of Iowans supporting the death penalty) starts dropping again,” Dvorsky says. But others, like Larson, the Republican Senator from Cedar Rapids, will still press for Senate debate of the issue. “The death penalty is an important issue that merits debate and consideration,” Larson says. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a wide-ranging bill dealing with sex offenders late this (Thursday) morning. The House passed the same bill earlier, but a group of senators are still meeting, devising changes for that House bill.
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