County prosecutors, police and sheriffs around Iowa say the state law which forbids convicted sex offenders from living within two-thousand feet of a school or day-care is unworkable. It appears the law is on solid footing, however, because Governor-elect Chet Culver is not interested in getting rid of the residency restrictions for sex offenders.
"I support it 100 percent. We need to do everything we can to protect our kids," Culver says, adding he "doesn’t expect" legislators to vote to get rid of the law. Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby of Marion says she’s not interested in "weakening" the law and will vote to spend more to keep an eye on paroled sex offenders.
"We need to fund adequately the analysis process for offenders. Which are the most likely to re-offend? Which are the most serious of the offenders? We need to do a much better job of that," Lundby says. "Secondly, we need to adequately fund and monitor the bracelet program or the electronic monitoring program to make sure that we know — in real time — where sex offenders are." County prosecutors forcing sex offenders to obtain permission if they wish to enter an area — like a school — where children are likely to be rather than restricting where they may live.
Lundby is more than skeptical. "Permission slips for people to be around day cares or schools or parks?" Lundby asks. "Well, for God sakes, if they can’t enforce the 2000 foot rule, who are they going to enforce permission slips?" Lundby says legislators shouldn’t even be contemplating the idea of getting rid of the restriction on where sex offenders may live. "Why aren’t we looking at what other programs we can put with the 2000 foot rule to make it stronger and to do a better job?" Lundby asks. "Why is the answer to do away with it and let sex offenders with permission slips roam freely around the State of Iowa?"
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says he respects the county officials who’ve stepped forward to speak out. "We’re going to listen to them," McCarthy says. He contends Lundby is treating their concerns with "contempt." McCarthy says it’s "arrogant" to discount the opinions of police, prosecutors and others who’ve complained. "It’s possible to make a law tough and smart and to accomplish it in a way that’s politically viable," McCarthy says.
But that opinion is rare among statehouse leaders. House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City says he’s going to side with parents on this one. "As a person who lives 2000 feet from a school and watching a lot of children walk by our front door every day on their way to school, you as a parent do not want somebody between your kids and the schoolhouse door," Rants says. Last year, Governor Tom Vilsack said it was not "politically possible" for legislators to vote to get rid of the residency restrictions for sex offenders.