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IOWA PRESS #2728 - SEN. ANDY MCKEAN AND REP. CHUCK LARSON
March 12, 2000

Borg: THE CURRENT SESSION OF THE 78TH IOWA GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONTINUES TO FOCUS ON MID-APRIL ADJURNING, AND THAT MEANS ALL STANDING COMMITTEES HAVE AN EYE ON THE CALENDAR OF BILLS TO BE DEBATED. WE'LL GET A PROGRESS REPORT FROM THE CHAIRMEN OF THE LEGISLATURE'S JUDICIARY COMMITTEES, SENATOR ANDY MCKEAN OF ANAMOSA AND REPRESENTATIVE CHUCK LARSON OF CEDAR RAPIDS ON THIS EDITION OF IOWA PRESS.

FUNDING FOR IOWA PRESS WAS PROVIDED BY FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS. AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

THIS IS THE SUNDAY, MARCH 12TH EDITION OF IOWA PRESS. HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: CRIME ISSUES CONTINUE TO BE A HIGH-PRIORITY ITEM FOR THE IOWA GENERAL ASSEMBLY. DURING THE PAST SEVERAL LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS, ISSUES RELATED TO CRIME AND PUBLIC SAFETY HAVE BEEN THE FOCAL POINT OF A NUMBER OF LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES, MOST NOTABLY, SENTENCING REFORM. THAT REFORM LEGISLATION HAS BROUGHT MANDATED SENTENCES AND LONGER SENTENCES, AND WITH IT SOME PRISON OVERCROWDING. THE OVERCROWDING PROBLEM, THOUGH, IS BUT ONE ISSUE FACING THE LEGISLATURE'S JUDICIARY COMMITTEES, AND THE CHAIRMEN JOIN US TODAY TO PROVIDE PERSPECTIVE. SENATOR ANDY MCKEAN OF ANAMOSA CHAIRS THE IOWA SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, AND REPRESENTATIVE CHUCK LARSON IS HIS COUNTERPART IN THE IOWA HOUSE. GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO IOWA PRESS. AND ACROSS THE TABLE FROM YOU, STATEHOUSE REPORTERS DAVID YEPSEN OF THE DES MOINES REGISTER AND KATHIE OBRADOVICH OF THE LEE NEWSPAPERS.

Obradovich: SENATOR, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FOLKS HAVE BEEN SPENDING A LOT OF TIME ON UP THERE DURING THE SESSION THIS YEAR HAS BEEN SENTENCING REFORM, AND I WAS HOPING THAT YOU COULD TAKE A FEW MINUTES JUST TO EXPLAIN WHAT SENTENCING REFORM IS AND HOW YOU'RE GOING TO TRY TO GO ABOUT IT THIS YEAR.

McKean: WELL, I'M GLAD TO HAVE THAT CHANCE. I THINK WHAT WE HAVE PASSED IN THE SENATE -- WE PASSED IT LAST WEEK WITH A FAIRLY STRONG VOTE -- WAS AN EIGHT-PIECE EFFORT TO TRY TO WORK TOWARD SOME CONSTRUCTIVE CHANGES IN OUR SENTENCING SYSTEM. AND I THINK THEY MARK THE BEGINNING OF A MORE RATIONAL APPROACH TO SENTENCING THAT WILL PROTECT THE PUBLIC BUT WILL ALSO HELP ENCOURAGE A MORE EFFICIENT USE OF SCARCE CORRECTIONAL RESOURCES.

Yepsen: WHAT ARE THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL PARTS OF THAT?

McKean: WELL, WE ALWAYS HAVE TO GET TO THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL PARTS, BUT THERE'S SOME PARTS TO IT THAT ARE VERY SIGNIFICANT BUT PERHAPS NOT QUITE SO CONTROVERSIAL, WHICH I'D LIKE TO MENTION ALSO, IF I COULD. NUMBER ONE, WE ARE VERY INTERESTED IN TRYING TO ENCOURAGE TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS WHERE IT'S APPROPRIATE AND WHERE IT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. ONE OF THE PRONGS WE'RE TAKING A LOOK AT IS TO GET OUR OWI OFFENDERS INTO TREATMENT MORE QUICKLY AND MORE EFFICIENTLY.

Yepsen: IS THAT CONTROVERSIAL?

McKean: I DON'T EXPECT IT TO BE CONTROVERSIAL, BUT IT'S AN IMPORTANT STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

Yepsen: WHAT ELSE?

McKean: THE SECOND AREA THAT I THINK IS OF SIGNIFICANCE IS HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH DIFFICULT, DANGEROUS, VIOLENT OFFENDERS WHO ARE GOING TO BE RELEASED INTO SOCIETY. FOR MANY YEARS WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT SUPERVISED RELEASE AS A CONCEPT, AND ONE OF THE BILLS PASSED BY THE SENATE WOULD BE A PILOT STUDY IN THAT AREA, AND WE WOULD BE KEYING IN ON PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN CONVICTED OF A CRIME OF LISCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD. WHAT WE WOULD DO IS WE WOULD, IN EFFECT, ADD TWO YEARS TO THEIR SENTENCE, AND THOSE ADDITIONAL TWO YEARS WOULD BE TWO YEARS OF SUPERVISED RELEASE.

Yepsen: IS THAT CONTROVERSIAL?

McKean: NO, IT'S NOT CONTROVERSIAL.

Yepsen: WHAT ARE THE POINTS OF CONTROVERSY HERE, SENATOR? I'M TRYING TO GET AT WHAT THE NUB OF THE DEBATE IS.

McKean: I KNOW THE PRESS ALWAYS LIKES CONTROVERSY, AND I'LL MOVE ON TO THE MORE CONTROVERSIAL FEATURES, AS WELL. A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO WE PASSED THE 85-PERCENT SENTENCES, AND I WAS A SUPPORTER OF THAT AND I'M SURE --

Yepsen: TELL US WHAT THAT DOES.

McKean: WHAT THAT DOES IS FOR CERTAIN VIOLENT OFFENSES, IT REQUIRES THAT THE DEFENDANT SERVE 85 PERCENT OF THEIR SENTENCE. UNDER PRESENT IOWA LAW, IN MOST CASES, INDIVIDUALS OFTEN SERVE APPROXIMATELY 50 PERCENT OF THEIR SENTENCES DUE TO GOOD TIME. I MIGHT MENTION, AND THIS IS ANOTHER PART OF THE REFORM PACKAGE, IS WE'RE GETTING RID OF THE GOOD TIME IN IOWA; WE'RE REPLACING IT WITH SOMETHING CALLED EARNED TIME SO THAT DEFENDANTS DON'T AUTOMATICALLY THINK THEY'RE GOING TO GET GOOD TIME. THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO EARN IT. BUT, GETTING BACK TO THE 85-PERCENT SITUATION, THESE INDIVIDUALS ARE REQUIRED TO SERVE 85 PERCENT OF THEIR SENTENCES. THESE ARE FOR VIOLENT OFFENSES. ONE OF THE RESULTS HAS BEEN THAT WE HAVE SEEN AN INCREASE IN OUR PRISON POPULATION, BUT I WOULD ARGUE THAT THESE ARE PRECISELY, FOR THE MOST PART, THE KIND OF PEOPLE WE WANT TO SEE IN PRISON.

Obradovich: REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, I WANTED TO GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO WEIGH IN HERE. THESE BILLS ARE GOING TO BE COMING OVER TO THE HOUSE, AND SOME OF THEM DO SOME THINGS THAT WOULD REDUCE, FOR EXAMPLE, PEOPLE WHO ARE ARRESTED FOR THIRD-DEGREE BURGLARY; THEY MIGHT NOT SPEND AS MUCH TIME IN PRISON. IS THAT THE WAY YOU THINK THAT THE DIRECTION SHOULD BE GOING AT THIS POINT?

Larson: I'M VERY, VERY CAUTIOUS ABOUT THAT. LET ME SAY FIRST, IOWA IS A UNIQUE STATE. WE'RE ONE OF THE 10 STATES IN THE NATION THAT HAS THE LOWEST INCARCERATION RATE ACROSS THE COUNTRY. SO IT'S VERY, VERY DIFFICULT FOR SOMEONE TO BE SENT TO PRISON IN IOWA; IT DOES NOT HAPPEN VERY, VERY OFTEN. OUR PRISON POPULATION HAS LEVELED OFF OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS. WE NOW HAVE 200 BEDS THAT ARE OPEN, AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS HAS OFFERED COUNTIES TO HOUSE COUNTY INMATES IN THE STATE INSTITUTIONS. SO I'M CAUTIOUS ABOUT MAKING MAJOR CHANGES THAT COULD POTENTIALLY PUT SOMEONE ON THE STREET WHO IS DANGEROUS.

Obradovich: WELL, HOW DO YOU BALANCE THAT, THEN, WITH WHAT SENATOR MCKEAN WAS TALKING ABOUT AND WHAT DEAN MENTIONED AT THE TOP OF THE SHOW WITH PRISON OVERCROWDING? IF YOU'RE NOT WILLING TO LET SOME PEOPLE OUT OF PRISON WHO ARE LESS-VIOLENT OFFENDERS, THEN HOW ARE YOU GOING TO EVER RESOLVE THE ISSUE OF CROWDING?

Larson: I THINK THAT'S BEEN DONE. THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS HAS TAKEN SOME VERY SMART MOVES IN RELEASING PEOPLE WHO OWE TIME IN OTHER STATES OR IN THE FEDERAL INSTITUTION. THEY'RE NOW SENDING THOSE PEOPLE OUT OF STATE OR HAVING THEM DO THEIR TIME IN THE FEDERAL INSTITUTION SO IOWA TAXPAYERS DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR IT. SECONDLY, THEY'RE ALSO SENDING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, OR PEOPLE FROM OTHER COUNTRIES THAT HAVE COMMITTED OFFENSES IN OUR STATE, THEY'RE SENDING THEM BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY WHERE THEY SERVE THEIR TIME. SO SOME OF THOSE SMART CHANGES HAVE ENABLED US TO KEEP THE MOST DANGEROUS PEOPLE IN LONGER. THE OVERALL AVERAGE AMOUNT OF TIME THAT A PRISONER SERVES IN IOWA HAS STAYED THE SAME, YET WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO LEVEL OFF THE POPULATION INCREASE.

Obradovich: SO ARE YOU SAYING THERE'S NOT A PROBLEM, THAT ALL THE WORK THAT SENATOR MCKEAN HAS BEEN DOING IS NOT NECESSARY?

Larson: NO, THE WORK THAT SENATOR MCKEAN HAS DONE, THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE BILLS ARE GOOD, SMART MOVES. THEY'RE NOTHING MAJOR, NOTHING DRASTIC, BUT THEY'RE MOVES THAT MAKE THE SYSTEM WORK BETTER.

McKean: I WOULD ADD, IF I COULD, THAT I THINK THE SENTENCING COMMISSION IN ITS EFFORTS WAS VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE POTENTIAL FOR FUTURE PRISON OVERCROWDING. AS YOU KNOW, THERE ARE PROJECTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN MADE THAT INDICATE THAT WE'LL HAVE SIGNIFICANT INCREASES IN PRISON POPULATION. OF COURSE, WE'VE LEARNED OVER THE YEARS TO TAKE PROJECTIONS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. HOWEVER, THE WHOLE THRUST OF OUR EFFORT, I THINK, IS TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC SAFETY, AND IN ADDITION TO BEING TOUGH ON CRIME, TO BE SMART ON CRIME, AS WELL. WHAT WE WANT TO DO -- REPRESENT LARSON AND I HAVE WORKED TOGETHER ON THIS OVER THE YEARS, AND I THINK QUITE EFFECTIVELY -- IS TO KEEP DANGEROUS, VIOLENT PEOPLE IN PRISON WHERE THEY NEED TO BE SO THEY CAN'T HARM YOUR FAMILY OR MINE BUT TO START TAKING A LOOK AT SOME OF THOSE OTHER OFFENSES THAT DON'T INVOLVE THREATS TO THE PUBLIC SAFETY AND TO START ASKING OURSELVES THE QUESTION: "IS THERE ANY WAY THAT WE CAN DEAL WITH SOME OF THESE PROPERTY OFFENSES IN A MORE EFFICIENT WAY, IN A MORE EFFECTIVE WAY, AND IN A LESS COSTLY WAY?"

Yepsen: SENATOR, AREN'T YOU JUST TRYING TO EASE PENALTIES? ISN'T THE PURPOSE OF THIS BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT TO SPEND THE MONEY TO BUILD PRISONS?

McKean: NO, I WOULDN'T AGREE WITH THAT AT ALL. I THINK WE'RE TRYING TO FIND APPROPRIATE PUNISHISHMENTS FOR OFFENSES, AND DO IT IN A PROPORTIONAL MATTER.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WHY DO WE HAVE TO TINKER AROUND WITH ANY OF THIS? CRIME IS HEADED DOWN IN IOWA. ISN'T THE CURRENT SYSTEM OF SENTENCING WORKING? WE'RE GETTING THESE BAD CHAPS OFF THE STREETS SO THEY CAN'T HARM OUR FAMILIES. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE CURRENT SYSTEM? WHY DO WE NEED TO CHANGE ANY OF IT?

McKean: I THINK THE REASON WE NEED TO BE CHANGING IT IS BECAUSE THERE'S EVERY INDICATION THAT WE MAY BE SEEING SOME INCREASES IN THE FUTURE, AND WE CERTAINLY WANT TO HAVE LONGER SENTENCES FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE DANGEROUS. BUT, DAVID, IS IT THE BEST USE OF $30,000 A YEAR TO BE KEEPING PEOPLE IN PRISON WHO COULD PERHAPS BE MORE EFFECTIVELY TREATED IN OTHER VENUES?

Yepsen: DOESN'T THAT DEPEND ON WHETHER THEY'RE MUGGING YOU AT NIGHT?

McKean: IT MIGHT, BUT I THINK WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT WE'VE IDENTIFIED IN OUR BILLS, I THINK THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO TREAT THEM.

Yepsen: MR. LARSON, THE SAME QUESTION. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE CURRENT SYSTEM? IT SEEMS TO BE WORKING.

Larson: THE CURRENT SYSTEM WORKS VERY, VERY WELL. CRIME IS DOWN.

Yepsen: THEN WHY DO WE HAVE TO CHANGE ANYTHING?

Larson: THE CHANGES THAT ARE BEING PROPOSED THIS YEAR ARE MINOR CHANGES TO STREAMLINE THE PROCESS AND MAKE IT WORK MORE EFFICIENTLY; THEY'RE NOT MAJOR CHANGES. JUST TWO OR THREE WEEKS AGO, THE FRONT PAGE OF "THE DES MOINES REGISTER," THEY ANNOUNCED THAT CRIME IN DES MOINES IS AT A 30-YEAR LOW. THE LAST TIME WE HAD THIS FEW BURGLARIES AND ROBBERIES WAS WHEN WE HAD SINGLE RED LIGHTS ON TOP OF OUR SQUAD CARS. THE REASON WE'RE DOING THINGS RIGHT IS BECAUSE ABOUT 10 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE COMMIT 80 PERCENT OF THE CRIMES, AND WE NOW FINALLY HAVE THOSE 10 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE LOCKED UP.

Obradovich: REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, THIS IS AN ELECTION YEAR, AND LETTING PEOPLE OUT OF PRISON IN AN ELECTION YEAR IS USUALLY NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A GOOD THING FOR REPUBLICANS TO BE DOING; YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE GETTING TOUGHER ON CRIME. WE HAVEN'T SEEN -- WE'VE SEEN A FEW BILLS BUT NOT REALLY THE VOLUME THAT WE'VE SEEN IN PAST YEARS TO LOCK PEOPLE UP FOR LONGER PERIODS OF TIME.

Larson: WE PASSED A MAJOR BILL LAST YEAR, AS YOU KNOW, THE METHAMPHETAMINE BILL, THAT HAS HAD A VERY POSITIVE IMPACT ON OUR COMMUNITIES. JUST TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO SEND SOMEONE TO PRISON, I USED TO PROSECUTE IN JONES COUNTY, WHERE SENATOR MCKEAN IS FROM, AND WE HAD FIRST-, SECOND-, AND THIRD-OFFENSE METHAMPHETAMINE DEALERS THAT WE COULD NOT GET INTO PRISON. THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IS VERY RELUCTANT ABOUT SENDING THEM. THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS IS CAUTIOUS. SO LAST YEAR WE DID PASS A LAW, FIRST OFFENSE IN DEALING METHAMPHETAMINE, YOU DO GO TO THE COMMUNITY BASED CORRECTIONS, SECOND OFFENSE YOU GO TO PRISON. THOSE ARE IMPORTANT CHANGES WE HAVE MADE, BUT I THINK THAT ILLUSTRATES HOW DIFFICULT IT IS IN IOWA TO SEND SOMEONE TO PRISON. AND AGAIN, I'LL GO BACK TO THE FIGURE THAT WE ARE ONE OF THE 10 LOWEST INCARCERATING STATES IN THE COUNTRY.

McKean: I'LL ALSO ADD THE INFORMATION TO IT. WE HAVE AMONG THE VERY LONGEST SENTENCES IN THE COUNTRY. AND I THINK THAT'S VERY APPROPRIATE IN CERTAIN OFFENSES THAT INVOLVE VIOLENCE AND INVOLVE A THREAT TO SOCIETY. BUT I WOULD ALSO SUGGEST THAT OF OUR 7,200 INMATES, 1,200 ARE SERVING TIME FOR BAD CHECKS OR FOR BREAKING INTO VEHICLES OR THIRD-DEGREE BURGLARY, AND THESE ARE THE KIND OF FOLKS THAT I'M WONDERING IF THERE ARE BETTER WAYS OF DEALING WITH THEM. AND REPRESENTATIVE LARSON AND I, WHO HAVE WORKED TOGETHER VERY WELL OVER THE YEARS, ARE PUTTING OUR HEADS TOGETHER AND ARE TAKING A LOOK AT THIS ISSUE TO SEE WHAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED.

Borg: I KNOW THERE'S MUCH MORE TO BE SAID IN SENTENCING REFORM, BUT WE NEED TO MOVE ON TO THOSE OTHER ISSUES THAT I MENTIONED EARLIER. CHUCK LARSON, WHAT ABOUT GUN SAFETY AND, PARTICULARLY, THE GOVERNOR ASKED THE LEGISLATURE TO CONSIDER AND PASS TRIGGER SAFETY LOCKS. IS THAT GOING TO BE DONE?

Larson: THE GOVERNOR'S BILL CAME DOWN ON THE EVE OF THE FUNNEL, AND WE DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO REVIEW IT AND MAKE SOME OF THE CHANGES WE WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE MADE. AS EVERYONE KNOWS, GUN ISSUES ARE ALWAYS A HOT DEBATE AND YOU HAVE TO BUILD CONSENSUS AROUND ISSUES. WE ARE WORKING ON A PROPOSAL RIGHT NOW THAT WOULD TAKE THE GOVERNOR'S LANGUAGE, BUT IT WOULD ALSO COUPLE HIS PROPOSAL WITH A TAX CREDIT FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO BUY A GUN SAFE THAT'S VALUED OVER $1,000; IT WOULD BE A $500 TAX CREDIT. THE REASON THIS IS A SMART DIRECTION TO GO IS BECAUSE THE VAST MAJORITY OF GUN CRIMES THAT ARE COMMITTED ON THE STREETS ARE COMMITTED WITH STOLEN WEAPONS, AND THE MORE WE CAN DO TO KEEP THEM OUT OF CRIMINALS' HANDS, THE BETTER.

Yepsen: SO THE TRIGGER LOCKS ISSUE IS NOT DEAD? IT'S BEING HOOKED TOGETHER WITH THE GUN VAULT ISSUE.

Larson: NO, IT IS NOT DEAD.

Yepsen: IS THAT GOING TO PASS IN THE SENATE, SENATOR?

McKean: I BELIEVE IT WOULD PASS IN THE SENATE, AT LEAST SOME VERSION OF IT. BUT I WANT TO MAKE A POINT, IF I COULD, BECAUSE I THINK EVERYBODY IN IOWA AND ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY IS HEARTSICK OVER SOME OF THESE TERRIBLE TRAGEDIES THAT ARE OCCURRING. BUT ALL OF THESE IDEAS THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT -- AND THEY ALL HAVE MERIT AND ARE WORTH CONSIDERATION IF THEY CAN REDUCE VIOLENCE -- WE'RE JUST NIBBLING AROUND THE EDGES. I THINK WHAT WE'RE SEEING IS THAT THERE'S A REAL CRISIS IN OUR FAMILIES, AND A CRISIS IN FAITH AROUND OUR NATION, AND THAT'S A PROBLEM THAT, UNFORTUNATELY, THE IOWA LEGISLATURE CAN'T SOLVE.

Obradovich: BUT, SENATOR, ISN'T IT ALSO TRUE THAT A PROBLEM THAT YOU FACE IS THAT GETTING GUN CONTROL MEASURES THROUGH A REPUBLICAN-CONTROLLED LEGISLATURE IS A VERY DIFFICULT PROPOSITION?

McKean: I THINK THERE IS -- IT IS PERHAPS SOMEWHAT MORE DIFFICULT, BUT I BELIEVE THAT MOST REPUBLICANS ARE WILLING TO TAKE A LOOK AT SOME RESPONSIBLE MEASURES.

Yepsen: SO FLESH THIS OUT A LITTLE BIT FOR ME, MR. LARSON. WHAT ALL IS GOING TO BE IN THIS PACKAGE? YOU DO THE GOVERNOR'S TRIGGER LOCK PIECE, YOU DO A TAX CREDIT FOR PURCHASING A GUN VAULT. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT'S IN THIS PACKAGE?

Larson: THOSE ARE THE TWO PRIMARY COMPONENTS AS OF RIGHT NOW. THE REASON THERE ISN'T A MAJOR OBJECTION TO IT IS YOU NEED REALIZE THAT ALL THE MAJOR GUN MANUFACTURERS TODAY DO SELL A WEAPON WITH A TRIGGER LOCK OR A LOCKED BOX OR CASE. THAT'S WHY THERE ISN'T A LOT OF RESISTANCE TO THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE THAT'S ON THE MINDS OF A LOT OF PEOPLE, AS SENATOR MCKEAN MENTIONED, IS SCHOOL SAFETY. WILL THERE BE ANYTHING MORE THE LEGISLATURE WILL BE DOING TO PROTECT CHILDREN IN SCHOOLS?

McKean: I DON'T EXPECT TO SEE ANY ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION THIS YEAR. I THINK THERE ARE EFFORTS UNDERWAY, AND I THINK A LOT OF SCHOOLS ARE TAKING MORE PRECAUTIONS. OF COURSE, ONE OF THE GRIM REALITIES WE HAVE TO FACE IS YOU CAN TRY EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO TRY TO PREVENT SCHOOL VIOLENCE. IF SOMEBODY REALLY HAS IT IN THEIR MIND TO GET INTO A SCHOOL AND COMMIT A VIOLENT ACT, THAT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO STOP.

Obradovich: SENATOR, YOUR COMMITTEE HAS ALSO SENT OUT A BILL THAT WOULD REDUCE THE BLOOD-ALCOHOL CONTENT FOR DRUNK DRIVING FROM .10, WHICH IS THE CURRENT LEVEL, TO .08. THAT BILL HAS NOT COME UP ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE. ARE WE GOING TO SEE THAT DEBATED YET THIS YEAR?

McKean: I SINCERELY HOPE SO. I THINK IT'S A VERY IMPORTANT BILL, AND THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT BILL WOULD SAVE LIVES. I KNOW THERE IS SOME TALK THAT YOU'RE INTERFERING WITH NORMAL SOCIAL DRINKING. THAT'S BUNK. AT .08 YOU ARE SERIOUSLY IMPAIRED AND POSE A SERIOUS THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY. I DON'T WANT TO ASK YOU THIS QUESTION, BUT I'D LIKE TO ASK DAVID YEPSEN.

Yepsen: WE GET TO ASK THE QUESTIONS.

McKean: BUT I WANT TO ASK YOU ONE. I'D LIKE TO KNOW HOW MUCH APPROXIMATELY YOU WEIGH.

Yepsen: I'M NOT GOING TO SAY THAT ON TELEVISION. I WEIGH 200 POUNDS.

McKean: YOU WEIGH 200 POUNDS? OKAY, LET'S FIND OUT HOW MUCH IT WOULD TAKE FOR YOU TO REACH THE .08.

Obradovich: HE'S A TEETOTALER.

McKean: I'D LIKE THE PUBLIC TO KNOW THIS BECAUSE I THINK THERE'S A LOT OF MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT THIS.

Borg: GO AHEAD.

McKean: MAY I?

Borg: YES.

McKean: MR. YEPSEN, IF YOU ARE TO BELIEVE HIS WEIGHT, 200 POUNDS, WOULD HAVE TO HAVE FIVE DRINKS IN ONE HOUR ON AN EMPTY STOMACH TO REACH .08.

Yepsen: WELL, I WOULD NEVER DO THAT KIND OF THING, SENATOR. NOW THAT WE'VE TOLD THE PEOPLE OF IOWA ABOUT MY DRINKING HABIT, I'D LIKE TO GET TO THE PROSPECTS OF THIS LEGISLATION IN THE HOUSE. IS IT .08 OR NOT?

Larson: .08 DID NOT HAVE THE VOTES TO PASS OUT OF COMMITTEE THIS YEAR; IT WAS TWO VOTES SHORT. I KNOW THAT GUIDE ONE INSURANCE AND MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING ARE ACTIVELY BUILDING A CAMPAIGN TO BUILD SUPPORT FOR PASSAGE.

Yepsen: MR. LARSON, I WAS ONCE TOLD BY A LEGISLATOR THAT ONE OF THE REASONS THIS KIND OF LEGISLATION DOESN'T PASS IS BECAUSE A LOT OF LEGISLATORS FIND THEMSELVES IN THIS SITUATION. YOU'RE OUT AT A RECEPTION, YOU'RE HAVING A FEW DRINKS, MAYBE THEY GO OVER THIS FIVE DRINKS IN AN HOUR. IS THAT WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON HERE?

Larson: I DON'T THINK SO. THIS IS AN ISSUE THAT CUTS ACROSS PARTY LINES. I HAVE REPUBLICANS SUPPORTING IT; I HAVE DEMOCRATS SUPPORTING IT. I HAVE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS OPPOSED TO IT ALSO. IT'S A UNIQUE ISSUE THAT IS JUST GOING TO TAKE TIME, AND I THINK MADD AND GUIDE ONE INSURANCE WILL NEED TO BUILD STRONG SUPPORT.

Obradovich: SENATOR, HISTORICALLY, LEGISLATORS HAVE ALSO BEEN ABLE TO PICTURE THEMSELVES HAVING A FEW DRINKS IN A BOAT, AND YET A BILL TO APPLY MORE SIMILAR LAWS TO DRUNKEN BOATING AS TO DRUNKEN DRIVING HAS FINALLY MADE IT THROUGH THE HOUSE. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT THE SENATE IS GOING TO FINISH UP THIS YEAR?

McKean: ABSOLUTELY. BUT I WANT TO MAKE ONE MORE POINT ON .08. I THINK ONE OF THE REASONS THAT WE MAY BE HAVING A LITTLE BIT OF DIFFICULTY IN GETTING THAT PIECE OF THE PUZZLE PASSED IS BECAUSE WE HAVE TOUGHENED UP DRUNK DRIVING LAWS TREMENDOUSLY IN THE STATE OF IOWA. REPRESENTATIVE LARSON AND I HAVE WORKED IN CONCERT ON THIS AND --

Borg: ARE YOU SAYING YOU'VE HIT THE POINT OF RESISTANCE?

McKean: YES, I'M SAYING WE'VE HIT THE POINT OF RESISTANCE. THE LAWS ARE VERY TOUGH. THE CONSEQUENCES ARE VERY SERIOUS. WE'VE SEEN A DRAMATIC DECREASE, I'M GLAD TO SAY, IN DRUNK DRIVING DEATHS AND FATALITIES, WHICH I ATTRIBUTE IN PART --

Borg: SENATOR, WE NEED TO MOVE TO OTHER ISSUES --

Yepsen: NOW, THAT WE'VE SPENT SO MUCH TIME WITH MY DRINKING, SENATOR, THERE'S SOME OTHER ISSUES WE'VE GOT TO DISCUSS HERE. ONE OF THEM IS EXTENDING THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS IN RAPE CASES. DNA EVIDENCE NOW IS A NEW FORM OF EVIDENCE THAT YOU DIDN'T USED TO HAVE. WILL THE LEGISLATURE DO THAT?

McKean: I THINK WE'RE CERTAINLY INCLINED TO DO THAT AND WORKING TOWARD THAT. I THINK IT'S AN EXCITING NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT THAT COULD SERVE SOME VERY VALUABLE PURPOSES.

Yepsen: MR. LARSON, WHAT'S THE NEW STATUTE GOING TO BE?

Larson: ABSOLUTELY. OUT OF EVERYTHING WE'VE DONE THIS YEAR, PROBABLY THE SINGLE BILL THAT WILL HAVE THE GREATEST IMPACT ON VICTIMS' LIVES IS EXTENDING THE STATUTE OF LIMITATION FOR RAPE AND SEX ABUSE CASES FROM THREE AND FIVE YEARS TO TEN YEARS, WHICH MEANS THERE'S A LONGER WINDOW FOR PROSECUTORS TO TRY TO DEVELOP A CASE AND PROSECUTE THE INDIVIDUAL WHO COMMITTED THE OFFENSE. THE OTHER INTERESTING THING IS WITH DNA, NOT ONLY IS IT HELPING US CONVICT PEOPLE WHO HAVE COMMITTED THESE OLDER CASES, BUT IT'S ALSO SETTING PEOPLE FREE.

Obradovich: SENATOR, ANOTHER ISSUE THAT WON'T GO AWAY IN THE LEGISLATURE IS THE ISSUE OF ANIMAL ABUSE. IT'S ONE THAT'S BEEN DISCUSSED SEVERAL YEARS. IT SEEMS LIKE EVERY YEAR THERE'S ANOTHER ATROCIOUS CASE THAT GETS PEOPLE UPSET. YOUR COMMITTEE HAS TAKEN SOME STEPS TO TRY AND GET A VOTE GOING AGAIN THIS YEAR. WHAT'S INVOLVED IN THAT?

McKean: YES, WE HAVE. WE TAKE THAT ISSUE VERY SERIOUSLY. SOME OF THESE CRIMES HAVE BEEN JUST UNSPEAKABLE WHERE PEOPLE STAPLE A CAT'S TONGUE TO A WALL OR PUT AN ANIMAL IN A MICROWAVE OR THOSE INCREDIBLE THINGS THAT OCCUR. AND WHAT THE SENATE HAS DONE IS WE'VE DEVELOPED A NEW CRIME FOR ANIMAL TORTURE, WHICH WOULD BE A FELONY. IT'S OUR OPINION THAT IT WOULD ADDRESS THOSE SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ARE SO OUTRAGEOUS AND WOULD BE CERTAINLY A STRONG STATEMENT THAT WE DO TAKE THIS MATTER SERIOUSLY BUT WOULD NOT INTERFERE WITH NORMAL FARMING OPERATIONS.

Obradovich: REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, FARMERS HAVE BEEN A BIG OBSTACLE TO THIS IN THE PAST. THEY ARE CONCERNED THAT IT WILL KEEP THEM FROM KEEPING PESTS OFF THEIR FARM. IS THAT GOING TO BE A PROBLEM AGAIN THIS YEAR?

Larson: NO, ACTUALLY THE FARMERS HAVEN'T BEEN A PROBLEM BECAUSE WE EXCLUDED NORMAL HUSBANDRY PRACTICES. THE ISSUE HAS BEEN IS THE OFFENSE FOR ANIMAL ABUSE GOING TO BE STRONGER THAN THAT FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE. SO WHATEVER LEGISLATION IS PASSED HAS TO BE VERY NARROWLY TAILORED SO THE OFFENSE IS NOT GREATER IF YOU WERE TO HIT YOUR CAT VERSUS YOUR WIFE. THAT'S A SERIOUS ISSUE BECAUSE DOMESTIC ABUSE IS A PROBLEM. THESE ARE THE SOME OF THE MOST DANGEROUS PEOPLE IN OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.

Yepsen: MR. LARSON, WE NEED TO MOVE ON; WE HAVE OTHER TOPICS WE HAVE TO GET TO. INCREASING THE PENALTIES FOR TOBACCO PURCHASES. THERE IS SOME TALK AROUND THE HILL THAT IN AN EFFORT TO GET YOUNG PEOPLE TO NOT BUY CIGARETTES ILLEGALLY THAT YOU TOUGHEN THE PENALTIES. IS THAT GOING TO HAPPEN?

Larson: IT WILL THIS YEAR.

Yepsen: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

Larson: OUR CURRENT PENALTIES ARE A JOKE; IT'S $25 FOR ATTEMPTING TO PURCHASE TOBACCO OR FOR POSSESSION AS A MINOR. THEY'RE VERY, VERY LOW. WE ARE GOING TO INCREASE THEM TO $100 FIRST OFFENSE; $200 SECOND OFFENSE; THIRD OFFENSE, WE'LL TAKE THEIR DRIVER'S LICENSE. WE HAD THE SAME PROBLEM WITH TEEN DRINKING; UNTIL WE HEIGHTENED THOSE PENALTIES, WE HAD A PROBLEM, AND NOW WE DON'T.

Obradovich: SENATOR, THE HOUSE JUST SENT YOU TWO BILLS LAST NIGHT. ONE IS TO EXPAND THE METH LAW TO INCLUDE AMPHETAMINES, WHICH ARE AN INCREASING PROBLEM IN THE STATE. THE OTHER WOULD DO A BROAD LAW ON DRUG PARAPHENILIA THAT SOME HAVE ARGUED IS TOO BROAD, THAT IT COULD GET PEOPLE IN TROUBLE FOR HAVING A COFFEE CAN. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THOSE TWO BILLS?

McKean: TO BE BRIEF, FOR A CHANGE, MY TAKE IS THAT WE'LL PASS THEM BOTH.

Borg: I'D LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT INTERNET CRIME. ITâS BEING LOOKED AT ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL. REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, IS ANYTHING APPLICABLE HERE TO ENFORCE WITHIN THE STATE IN THE WAY OF REVISION OF LAWS?

Larson: IT IS. WITH THE ADVENT OF THE INTERNET AS A FORM OF COMMUNICATION, WE ARE FINDING THAT IT'S BEING USED TO STALK OR HARASS. WE DID PASS LEGISLATION OUT OF THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE -- IT'S ON THE FLOOR NOW -- THAT WOULD MAKE IT AN OFFENSE, A SERIOUS MISDEMEANOR, TO COMMIT HARASSMENT VIA THE INTERNET.

Borg: WHAT ABOUT FRAUD?

Larson: FRAUD? FRAUD CAN STILL BE PROSECUTED UNDER OUR CURRENT SYSTEM.

Yepsen: WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN, SENATOR, WITH THE LEGISLATION THAT'S FLOATING AROUND UP THERE TO OPEN UP THE WAY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL HIRES OUTSIDE COUNSEL? THERE WAS QUITE A BIT OF CONTROVERSY THAT ATTORNEY GENERAL MILLER PICKED A BUNCH OF HIS CRONIES ON THIS TOBACCO SETTLEMENT AND THEN THEY GOT WELL, OF COURSE, WITH HUGE FEES. IS THE LEGISLATURE GOING TO CHANGE THAT? ARE YOU GOING TO OPEN THAT UP, REQUIRE THAT THIS BE PUT OUT FOR BID LIKE OTHER STATE CONTRACTS?

McKean: I THINK WE'RE GOING TO BE TAKING A VERY HARD LOOK AT IT. A LOT OF MONEY WAS SPENT FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND THE TOBACCO SETTLEMENT, AND I KNOW THAT THE SENATE WANTS TO MAKE SURE THAT THIS WAS DONE APPROPRIATELY AND PRUDENTLY. I THINK WE DEFINITELY WANT TO GET BEYOND THE POLITICS OF THE SITUATION. I DON'T CARE FOR TERMINOLOGIES LIKE HAVING CRONIES AND ALL THE REST OF IT. I THINK WE JUST WANT TO DO IT RIGHT SO THAT IN FUTURE CASES WE ARE SPENDING AN APPROPRIATE AMOUNT OF MONEY BUT ALSO THAT WE ARE GETTING THE PROPER KIND OF LEGAL REPRESTATION AS WELL.

Yepsen: WILL THAT FLY IN THE HOUSE, MR. LARSON?

Larson: I THINK IT WILL, AND WE'LL BE SENDING -- ACTUALLY WE'VE SENT THE BILL TO THE SENATE NOW AND SO THEY'LL BEGIN TO WORK ON IT. SUNSHINE IS IMPORTANT. ANYTIME YOU OPEN UP THE PROCESS AND HAVE A BIDDING PROCESS THAT OTHER PEOPLE CAN PARTICIPATE IN, YOU WILL CLEANSE --

Obradovich: ISN'T THAT KIND OF ACADEMIC, THOUGH, BECAUSE THE GOVERNOR IS UNLIKELY TO SIGN THAT BILL, DON'T YOU THINK?

Larson: I DON'T KNOW. I DON'T KNOW. I KNOW GOVERNOR BRANSTAD THREATENED VETOES IN THE PAST AND THEN SIGNED BILLS, SO WE'LL SEE WHAT WILL HAPPEN. BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS WITH THE CURRENT SYSTEM, WHEN THE ATTORNEY GENERAL CAN HANDPICK WHOMEVER, IT CREATES A PERCEPTION OF IMPROPRIETY, AND I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THAT OCCURRED. I HAVE A LOT OF RESPECT FOR OUR ATTORNEY GENERAL. BUT, IF WE CAN OPEN UP THE PROCESS SO OTHER PEOPLE CAN PARTICIPATE, I THINK IT WILL GET MORE CREDIBILITY AND CLEANSE THE CURRENT SYSTEM.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE'VE GOT JUST A MINUTE LEFT. THERE'S AN ISSUE UP THERE CALLED COVENANT MARRIAGE, WHERE COUPLES COULD VOLUNTARILY DEDICATE THEIR MARRIAGES IN A WAY THAT OTHER PEOPLE DON'T. THAT BILL IS NOW DEAD. ARE THERE ANY PROSPECTS FOR RESURRECTING THAT PIECE OF LEGISLATION IN THIS SESSION?

McKean: I DON'T BELIEVE THAT WE CAN THIS SESSION. I THINK IT'S A VERY SIGNIFICANT ISSUE, AND I THINK WE NEED TO BE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO PROMOTE MARRIAGE AND PROMOTE OUR FAMILIES, AND I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT WE'LL BE CONTINUING TO WORK ON THIS ISSUE AND I HOPE THAT WE'LL HAVE A CHANCE TO CONSIDER IT NEXT YEAR.

Yepsen: WHAT'S THE COVENANT MARRIAGE PROSPECT IN THE HOUSE?

Larson: IT'S NOT A PROSPECT FOR THIS YEAR. THE SENATE DECIDED TO START THE BILL AND WAS UNABLE TO PASS THAT IN THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE; THEREFORE, WE MOVED ON TO OTHER ISSUES.

Borg: THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME TODAY AND YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

McKean: THANK YOU.

Borg: OUR IOWA PRESS PROGRAM TAKES A BREAK FROM ITS 1999-2000 SCHEDULE NEXT SUNDAY, MARCH 19. WE'LL BE BACK ON SUNDAY, MARCH 26, BOTH AT NOON AND 7:00 ON THAT DATE. AS YOU'VE NOTED BY NOW, WE'RE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR ANNUAL FRIENDS FESTIVAL ON BEHALF OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, AND WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR PAST SUPPORT AND LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR GENEROUS RESPONSE TO THE FRIENDS INVITATION THIS YEAR. YOU KNOW, IOWA PRESS IS NOW IN ITS 29TH SEASON HERE ON IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND DURING FESTIVAL 2000, ALL OF US ASSOCIATED WITH OUR WEEKLY PROGRAM WANT YOU TO KNOW HOW VERY MUCH YOUR SUPPORT IS APPRECIATED, AND HOW THE CONTINUING EXCELLENCE OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION REALLY DEPENDS ON YOU. SO ON BEHALF OF FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION WHO SUPPORT QUALITY, LOCALLY-PRODUCED PROGRAMMING, THANK YOU. I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH US NEXT WEEK AT 7:00 AND NOON ON SUNDAY, MARCH 26. UNTIL THEN, I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR BEING WITH US TODAY.