# Sex Offenders

Happy Windsor Heights zip code day!

July 1, 2009 is a big day: the 4,800 residents of Windsor Heights are no longer divided by three zip codes. It couldn’t have happened without Congressman Leonard Boswell’s legislative efforts last year, and that probably wouldn’t have happened without Ed Fallon’s primary challenge. (Note: WHO’s Dave Price attended last night’s event celebrating our new zip code.)

Don’t feel left out if you’re among the 3 million Iowans who aren’t enjoying the good life in our state’s only inner-ring suburb. You too may be affected by one of the many laws that take effect today.

The Iowa House Democrats posted a partial list of these laws on their site, and Jason Hancock provided additional information at Iowa Independent, such as the margin by which these bills passed during the 2009 session. Many won unanimous approval or overwhelming bipartisan majorities in one or both chambers.

Most of the new laws are steps in the right direction for Iowa: increased foreclosure protections; $30 million in historic tax credits; expanded health care for children, low-income pregnant women and adult children under 25; broader eligibility for wind energy tax credits; more job protection for volunteer emergency providers, electronic logbooks to track pseudoephedrine sales. A few of the highlights on the House Democrats’ list deserve additional comment.

New rules for sex offenders: I’m glad that legislators replaced pointless sex offender residency restrictions that did nothing to protect children from predators, according to prosecutors as well as advocates for exploited children.  Too bad nobody listened to State Representative Ed Fallon, who was the only legislator to vote against the 2002 law and got bashed for that vote during his primary challenge against Boswell (see also here). Speaking of campaigns, Chris Rants was one of only three state representatives to vote against the new sex offender law. Will he make this an issue in the gubernatorial race?

Manure application during winter: On principle I think it’s a bad idea for legislators to interfere with the rulemaking process at the Department of Natural Resources. However, amendments greatly improved this bill from the version that passed the Iowa Senate. In fact, the new law includes tougher restrictions on liquid manure application than the rules that the DNR would have eventually produced. It’s important to note that these restrictions only apply to manure from hogs. Cattle farmers face no new limits on what to do with solid manure during winter.

Consumer fraud protections: Iowans rightly no longer need permission from the Attorney General’s Office to sue some types of businesses for fraud. Unfortunately, this law contains an embarrassingly long list of exemptions.

Nursing home rules: It’s pure chutzpah for House Democrats to write, “Nursing homes will face higher fines for incidents resulting in death or severe injury.” More like, nursing homes will no longer be fined for the violations most likely to result in death or severe injury, but are subject to higher fines for offenses regulators never charge anyone with.

Let’s end this post on a positive note. The septic tank inspection law approved during the 2008 session also takes effect today. Over time these inspections will reduce water pollution produced by unsewered communities in Iowa. Credit goes to the legislators who approved this bill last year and to Governor Chet Culver. He wisely used his line-item veto to block State Senator Joe Seng’s attempt to sneak a one-year delay of the septic tank inspections into an appropriations bill.

This thread is for any thoughts about Iowa’s brand-new laws. Probably none of them will be as controversial as the public smoking ban that took effect on July 1, 2008.

527 group sends another anti-Fallon piece on sex offenders

Wow, I never knew Red Brannan, one of the developers who would like to see a four-lane beltway constructed in rural northeast Polk County, was so mad when Ed Fallon voted against residency restrictions for sex offenders in 2002.

But that vote must have really gotten Brannan riled up, because today I got another direct-mail piece on the issue from the 527 group Independent Voices. On Tuesday a similar mailer arrived from the same group, which I transcribed here. Matt Stoller put a scanned image of the earlier mailer up at Open Left.

Today’s mailer has a large photo of an empty child’s swing, next to these words in large print:

Would you want a sex offender living near your kid’s school?

At the bottom in small print it says, “Paid for By Independent Voices, Red Brannan Chair.” Hey, at least there’s a union bug next to that line!

On the flip side the same photo of an empty swing appears faintly. There’s a smaller picture of Fallon near the bottom of the page, holding up one finger, as if lecturing. These words appear on the page:

Ed Fallon put kids at risk simply to make a political statement

When Ed Fallon had the chance to stop convicted sex offenders from living near our schools, he thought it was more important to make a political statement than to protect our kids. He cast the only vote against this prohibition in the state house.

Our kids have enough challenges, why would Ed let these predators live next to our schools?

Associated Press   October 14, 2005

Fallon concedes he is the only lawmaker who opposed the restrictions.

“There was a fear that if we don’t support this bill we’ll be viewed as weak on crime.”

Call Ed at 515.277.0424

Tell Ed our kids are more important than his politics. As him to oppose letting convicted sex offenders live near our schools.

The hypocrisy of this mailing is breathtaking. As I mentioned in the post about the previous mailer on this subject, residency restrictions for sex offenders do nothing to reduce crimes against children–prosecutors and children’s advocates agree on this point. The proponents of these laws are the ones who would rather “make a political statement” than protect our kids.

The Des Moines Register’s editorial board described the earlier mailer from Independent Voices as “the cheapest of cheap shots.”

This letter to the editor, published today, made several great points as well:

The 2,000-foot law was passed as a knee-jerk reaction to high-profile abuse cases. The result has been a drop in the number of sex offenders registering their address and the creation of rural communities comprising mainly sex offenders. What the law fails to take into account is the fact that only a small minority of sex offenders are playground pedophiles.

About 80 percent of abuse victims knew the offender and 43 percent are relatives. I ask both Fallon and U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, along with all other lawmakers, to take the time to develop sensible laws that promote rehabilitation and judge offenses on a case-by-case basis. Sexually active high schoolers shouldn’t be categorized with rapists and punished just as harshly.

– Jade Howser Nagel, Urbandale

The political posturing of the majority of Iowa legislators has drained law enforcement resources and led to fewer sex offenders registering their addresses. That doesn’t keep my two young kids or anyone else’s kids safer, and Red Brannan’s group should know this very well.

Will this mailing scare third district Democrats away from Fallon, or will it backfire? Your guess is as good as mine.

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