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Legislature votes for smarter, tougher, safer law

April 30, 2009
State Sen. Tom Rielly (D-Oskaloosa)

"Tumultuous," "endless," "frenzied," "frustrating," "exasperating," "trying"-all words that describe this legislative session.

Today, however, another word comes to mind: pride. I don't mean pride in a self-congratulatory or boastful manner. I am proud of the courageous efforts of a few legislators who took on a contentious, thankless and politically risky issue: fixing Iowa's sex offender law.

In spite of people's fears about making changes, these brave legislators said "politics be damned" because the current law is flawed and needs fixing. They believed they could craft a bill that is smarter, tougher and safer than our current law. While I'm hesitant to name specific people for fear of leaving someone out, Senators Pat Ward, Keith Kreiman and Steve Warnstadt, and Representatives Clel Baudler, Dwayne Alons, Rick Olson, Deb Berry and Jim Lykam did the heavy lifting to guide the bill to passage in the Senate and the House.

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The legislation, the Adam Walsh bill, calls for "exclusion zones." Under this bill, anyone who has committed a sex offense against a minor: Cannot be on school, childcare center or library property without the express permission of the administrator; cannot be in school vehicles without the permission of the administrator; cannot loiter within 300 feet of school, childcare center or library property; cannot work at an elementary or secondary school or childcare center; cannot loiter within 300 feet of premises intended primarily for use by minors, including public playgrounds, pools and recreational or sport-related activity areas

This proposal also helps law enforcement keep track of sex offenders by requiring offenders to provide such details as vehicle license and registration numbers, passport and immigration documents, and Internet identifiers. Many offenders would need to report to the sheriff's office more frequently to verify their information and their whereabouts. In addition, the Iowa Sex Offender Registry website would identify residency restrictions and exclusion zones for offenders.

This proposal is getting strong support from Iowa's law enforcement community, including the Iowa State Sheriffs & Deputies Association, the Iowa State Police Officers Council, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

I was honored to line up with a bipartisan group of legislators to vote for this important effort. It passed the Senate 49-0 and the House 93-3. I truly believe this sex offender legislation is smarter and tougher, and it will make our communities and our children safer.

This is a legislative column by Senator Tom Rielly, representing Iowa, Poweshiek, and Keokuk counties, and portions of Mahaska and Tama counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to

To contact Senator Rielly during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. On weekends he can be reached at home at 641-673-0359.

E-mail him at

Senator Tom Rielly is chair of the Transportation Committee. He also serves on the Agriculture, Commerce, Economic Growth, Environment & Energy Independence, and Local Government committees.



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