A new law makes it a crime for a paroled sex offender to loiter in places where kids congregate.
Governor Chet Culver signed a wide-ranging bill into law this morning which not only sets up those sorts of "exclusionary zones" for sex offenders, it makes it illegal for sex offenders to be employed at schools, libraries, swimming pools and video arcades.
Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Gene Meyer says there are also new requirements for registration, so more comprehensive data will be available on the state’s sex offender registry.
"I feel this bill represents the most comprehensive update to the state’s sex offender law since it’s enactment some 15 years ago," Meyer says.
The legislation does make changes in sex offender living restrictions, so only the most dangerous paroled sex offenders will be banned from living within 2000 feet of a school or day care. Cops and sheriffs complained that living restriction was unworkable, as many sex offenders didn’t register their addresses.
Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield who is a retired state trooper, worked on the legislation behind closed doors for weeks. "For politicians, the issue of sex offenders is not an easy one to speak on," Baulder says.
"One must tread carefully between public perception, public safety and an unenforceable law. I am proud to say that the men and women who worked on, wrote and passed this legislation acted as public servants, not politicians."
Governor Culver praised legislators for working across party lines. "I’m afraid too often in politics and in government we focus on the differences between the political parties, so I’m here, in part, to celebrate that this was about as impressive an effort as possible in terms of bringing Democrats and Republicans together," Culver said.
Culver signed the bill in a ceremony staged outdoors, on the steps of the state capitol. A handful of legislators and about 70 law enforcement officers from around the state stood behind the governor as he signed the legislation.
Louisa County Sheriff Curt Braby, president of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association, was among them. "This bill is going to give us the tools to make Iowa a little bit safer and all of our kids a little bit better off," Braby said.
Attorney General Tom Miller praised Braby and other sheriffs as well as county attorneys for pressing for the changes in Iowa’s sex offender laws.
"The legislation that’s been passed is good legislation that’s going to make Iowans safer and law enforcement more effective and it took some courage to do this and it took some time," Miller said. "I especially appreciate those who worked a number of years to accomplish this."
Click on the audio link below to listen to all of what was said about the bill at today’s event.