Tuesday Reads –Safety Zones

Lee/Covering Iowa Politics’ Charlotte Eby and Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson have coverage of last night’s public hearing on changes in Iowa’s sex offender laws. And no, Speaker Murphy did not have to clear the chamber this time.

At its core, the measure under consideration would scale back the current law barring those convicted of offenses against children from living withing 2,000 feet of a school or daycare. The bill applies that restriction only to those convicted of the most serious crimes, while creating new safety zones in places where kids congregate. Sex offenders would have to get special permission to enter those zones.

A parade of law enforcement officials showed up at the hearing to praise the safety zones concept. They’ve argued for years that the current law is hard to enforce and scatters registered offenders, making them harder to track. And it does nothing to restrict where offenders go. Safety zones would change that.

A few critics complained, rightly, about the fact that such an important change in state policy was crafted in a closed-door working group. Lawmakers could take up the bill today.

So what’s the governor think. Oh, it’s way too early for him to have an opinion. Let the bill pass and see how the phone calls and emails are running. Maybe a focus group and some polling.

So where else is Sunshine failing to fall?

The House approved health care “reform” legislation that increases access to coverage for kids but hands the more difficult issue of big health insurance access gaps to (drum roll please) a nine member study panel. Swell. It’s worth noting the current bill came after a two-year study.

Lawmakers, however, had little time for study before the vote. The bill was e-mailed to House members shortly before the debate.

Not that there was much left of what the Senate passed. The House stripped out language, according to The Des Moines Register, that would have set up an insurance exchange to help small businesses buy coverage. Businesses that could not afford private costs could have bought state health insurance. The insurance industry and some doctors’ groups no likee, so the House bowed, flinched and studied. Brave group.

This is why Democrats fought so hard to control the Legislature, so they could study health care reform. Mission Accomplished.

This was, of course, the famous House gutting of the Senate’s version that prompted Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, to come unglued and use the “N” word a while back. So I bet Hatch was steamed again Monday.

The bill now returns to the Senate. Sen. Jack Hatch, a Des Moines Democrat who shepherded the earlier effort there, predicted that his chamber would change what the House passed. He declined to elaborate.

A wise man learns to play his cards close to the vest, and to stop flipping out. But I bet the Senate caves.

Also still stuck in the Statehouse sausage factory is Gov. Culver’s massive bonding proposal. That includes millions for flood recovery related projects of interest around these parts.

James Q. Lynch writes that Culver is still hunting for votes, which is not a great sign in the final hours of the session. Some Democrats have also suggested they may need GOP votes to get it passed. Good one.  Maybe, if Culver pledges to replace the Judicial Building with a giant gilded monument to traditional marriages, he can peel off some Repubs.

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