Iowa's sex offender rules costing state money

Difference from federal guidelines denies Iowa $150,000 in grant money

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Iowa misses out on about $150,000 a year in federal money that it could receive to upgrade and expand its sex offender registry program because lawmakers won’t increase the minimum time a sex offender has to stay on the registry to comply with federal guidelines.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 calls for the creation of a uniform, nationwide sex offender registry database and provides money for states that make moves in that direction.

"We’re about 85 percent compliant," said Steve Lukan, who took over as director of the state’s Office of Drug Control this year after serving 10 years in the Iowa House of Representatives.

The missing compliance comes into play in sex offender tiers. The Adam Walsh Act recommends sex offenders be tiered into three categories — those who have to register for 15 years, those who register for 25 years and those who register for life. Iowa’s law only has two tiers — a 10-year time period and a lifetime period.

Because the laws don’t match, Lukan estimates the state loses out on about $150,000 each time grant funds are dispersed. He’s also not sure it will change.

"The handful of times the Legislature has looked at that issue and the Legislature has just chosen not to go in that direction. The last time we voted on it was ’09 and the Legislature thought the they were just fine with the 10, they thought the 15 and the 25 were too much, or some thought it was getting weak if you were to move somebody that would have been at a life category that you’d put them in the weaker category." Lukan said.

"The Legislature looked at it and said, ‘Is it worth voting on this to save $150,000?’ And the policymakers decided it probably wasn’t worth the hassle to open up the debate, because when you open up the debate, the risk, unfortunately, is somebody decides to — again I have to be careful — is they are going to be the legislator who’s tough on sex offenders and they’re going to start throwing out amendments that maybe are a little off-target and you take the debate in a direction you didn’t want it to go."

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