The 2005 Iowa Legislative session ended with the political parties feuding over state spending, but this year’s session may be remembered most for significant legislation on crime. The legislature’s first big crackdown on crime came with passage of a bill that backers believe will dramatically reduce the number of meth labs in Iowa. The new law, which takes effect today, makes it harder to buy large quantities of some common cold medications because those over-the-counter cold meds that contain pseudoephedrine are used to make meth. Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, was a key architect of the meth bill. “These pukes that produce this poison deserve a hotter place in hell,” Baudler says. Then came the death of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage of Cedar Rapids. A convicted sex offender is accused of her kidnapping, rape and murder. The crime prompted legislators to take several steps, like doubling penalties for some sex criminals and forcing sex offenders who’re released from prison to wear electronic monitoring bracelets. Senator Chuck Larson, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, says the death of Jetseta Gage was the catalyst for those changes. “Obviously this is incredibly sad and these were changes that many of us had attempted to make long before this case emerged,” Larson says. The case also prompted a tug-of-war over the death penalty. Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, used his power to prevent a debate of the issue in the Senate. “I think I’ve been incredibly clear about this. I do not think the death penalty is an effective deterrent,” Gronstal says. Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, had been among those pushing for senators to take a vote on the death penalty. “I really hurt right now…It hurts when you have 67 to 75 percent of Iowans wanting to hear us debate,” McKibben says. Other crime-busting bills included the move to double the fine for speeding. That’s part of the bill that will soon raise the speed limit on Iowa Interstates to 70 miles an hour.
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