Lawmakers today return to the statehouse for what is -scheduled- to be the last week of the 2005 Legislative session, but legislative leaders predict it’ll be next week or beyond before their work is done. The major stumbling blocks are a showdown over the death penalty and quibbling over how much to spend in next year’s state budget. Governor Tom Vilsack sums up the 2005 legislative session this way. “It’s kind of like a glacier,” Vilsack says. “It could change the landscape. (It) could be significant, but it’s moving very slowly.” Legislative leaders from both political parties say budget discussions are the most pressing matter to resolve. Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, talked about budget matters this weekend during an appearance on Iowa Public Television. Lamberti says it’s “still up in the air” as to whether there’ll be an increase in the state tax on cigarettes. Lamberti expects the Senate to consider that tax hike this week. Sometime this week, or perhaps next week, the Iowa Senate will likely have a showdown over the death penalty, too. Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, intends to offer an amendment on capital punishment to a bill that cracks down on sex offenders. “This should be amended for the limited death penalty for child killers,” McKibben says. McKibben’s proposal will call for the death penalty in cases when someone commits two “class A” felonies against a child — such as kidnapping and murder. The move is prompted by the kidnapping, molestation and murder of Jetseta Gage, a 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl. But once McKibben offers that death penalty amendment, Senate Co-Leader Michael Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, will table the entire bill permanently. “The votes aren’t there in the Senate to pass a death penalty,” Gronstal says. McKibben says the issue should be debated, whether there are enough votes to pass it or not. “I’m going to stand up for folks (who) are out there workin’ hard today, tryin’ to make a livin’ and have me down here to push the issues that they want to hear,” McKibben says. A Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” has found two-thirds of Iowans favor reinstating capital punishment in Iowa.
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