DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa lawmakers on Thursday gave preliminary approval to legislation seeking tougher kidnapping penalties after the kidnapping and killing last year of a teenage girl.
The Des Moines Register reported that a House subcommittee backed a bill that would increase the punishment for kidnapping if the victim was 15 or younger.
The legislation would raise the prison sentence for such crimes to 25 years and would block those convicted of certain crimes from receiving a reduction in sentence.
Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, chairman of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, said he hopes to prevent future kidnapping tragedies.
“This was a horrible set of circumstances that all came together to result in a massive tragedy,” he said. “All that we can do now is try to do what we can to keep those circumstances from coming together again.”
The bill now moves to the full House committee.
Lawmakers in the Senate are working on similar legislation. Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, chairman of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was hopeful that both bodies could compromise on a bill to send to the governor.
The legislation comes in response to the death of 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard, who is believed to have been killed by registered sex offender Michael Klunder. Klunder then killed himself.
Klunder's 41-year prison term was cut in half under Iowa law, which shaves sentences by 1.2 days for every day served.
Prison officials said he did not meet the criteria to be locked up as a sexually violent predator, so they had to release him without supervision when his term expired. As a registered sex offender, Klunder did have to check in periodically with the local sheriff.
State tax exemption on military pensions advances
DES MOINES — Legislation that would exempt military pensions from the state income tax is moving rapidly through the Iowa Senate.
A Senate committee approved the legislation during a brief hearing Thursday. It is expected to soon move to the full Senate for a vote.
Sen. Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, said the bill would honor veterans and might attract more military retirees to Iowa.
The military pension exemption is a top priority for Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who has made support for veterans a key part of his budget plan this year.
According to the Branstad administration, the pension exemption would cost the state a projected $10 million a year in revenue.