A leading Republican in the Iowa House says it may be time to let local communities decide which sex offenders must abide by the state’s 2000-foot rule.

Tama Representative Lance Horbach says the state law that prohibits child sexual abusers from living near a school or day care was meant to punish middle age men who target toddlers. But he points to a case in his district that involved an 18 year old boy with a 14 year old girl, who later got married. The couple now lives in his community, a family with 3 kids — and they had to move out.

Horbach says he hopes for a “local variance opportunity” where the husband could go before a local board or sheriff’s panel and state his case to be allowed to remain in the community, so it would be decided by “the people he lives next to.” Representative Horbach says communities would not have to grant a variance if they don’t want to, but they should be given that opportunity.

Horbach says the legislature’s not in a position to go over every case that might be an exception to the law and determine if this is the kind of sex offender they intended to target. “Who better to make that decision than the people who actually live in that community?” He says they could set up a variance board, have the offender go before a city council or judge or whatever they prefer. Horbach points out that giving local communities the power to do that also grants them the discretion to toughen the law if they want.

One who doesn’t favor his proposal is a leading Democrat in the Iowa Senate. Bloomfield lawmaker Keith Kreiman says he opposes any loophole to the state’s 2000 foot rule.
The law applies to people who’ve “done sex offenses against children,” Kreiman says. He doesn’t think there’s any need to differentiate on the basis of the facts of individual cases, saying “They’ve already committed one crime against children.” “No,” says Kreiman, “I think the legislature determined as a policy for the entire state three years ago, who it applied to and how severe it would be. I don’t believe in giving the variances.”

Kreiman says it could become a loophole, and he thinks it would put more children at risk. Senator Kreiman says the state’s distance requirement should be left unchanged for awhile to see how it works. The law was adopted in 2002, but just went into affect this fall after a lengthy court challenge. Senator Kreiman and Representative Horbach made their comments today (Friday) during the taping of the Iowa Public Television show “Iowa Press.”