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Archive for May, 2012

I’m going to start training away after a LONG trip. I started out from Sioux City and got to see the sights and sounds of St. Louis–Cardinal Stadium, etc.–all from the van. I just kept driving and driving. I slept just after Nashville in the back of the van on the floor having eaten a carton of M&M’s and shortbread cookies per my no-healthy-food-for-a-week plan if that’s what I can call it. I found a hundred billboards for peaches, pornography, and pecans along the way juxtaposed against the stunning beauty of God’s green earth rolling in green cauliflower-like waves over the Smoky Mountains. And I thanked God that everything I take for granted he still sees fit to provide me with.

 Update: After reading Ephesians 3:1-10 this morning, I am stunned by the master narrative of opening up His grace to me. I have been repeating in my head what I need to learn more and more: that His grace is enough; that I have been crucified with Christ; and that I must press on (being never alone nor forsaken).

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Senate File 93 was the domestic strangulation bill,The bill had passed the Senate, 50-0 in 2010 and the full House Judiciary Committee before dying by funnel. The bill passed the Senate again 48-0 in 2011 but was not taken up in the House despite widespread support from the State Bar Association, Attorney General’s Office, County Attorneys’ and Sheriffs’ Associations, and domestic abuse advocacy groups.

At issue is enhancing the penalty of strangulation in the domestic abuse statute (708.2A) to an aggravated misdemeanor (up to 2 years and a $1875 fine) or a Class D felony (up to 5 years and a $7500 fine) if bodily injury is present. The reason that the legislation is important goes to the preventative nature of the law, past strangulation being the single greatest predictor of lethality in the arena of domestic abuse. Of 135 women murdered in Iowa in the last decade, 20 were killed by strangulation and studies show that 56% of women lethally strangled had previously been strangled before. Such tough on crime legislation sends a message, puts in enhanced penalties for subsequent abuse, and truly protects victims.

For a few on the political Left, giving greater penalties and proving this particular crime prove worrisome. However, the burden of proof always rests with the prosecution and law enforcement education in the 26 other states where felony strangulation has become law has given heightened awareness to this particular crime. For a few on the Right, creating a specific crime within the domestic abuse statute is problematic because “everyone should be treated equally,” e.g. if a husband strangles his wife versus another man in a bar fight, why should they be treated differently?

The reason for differentiating is that I know of no case where two men fighting at a bar has subsequently resulted six weeks later in one them “finishing the job.” Because of the cyclical nature of abuse, the domestic abuse statute carries greater penalties for subsequent acts and includes a mandatory arrest (allowing a 24-hour cooling off period) and a batterer’s education course.

After a lengthy caucus discussion by both sides, the bill passed on January 26, 16-2 out of the House Judiciary and faces one final floor vote before heading to the Governor’s desk. One hurdle remained: avoiding an amendment which would either weaken the penalty or place it outside of the domestic abuse statute. Such an amendment would result in the bill bouncing back to the Senate and jeopardize nearly five years of work on a bill that recognizes Iowa’s domestic abuse statute is weak in this area.

The end? Without amendment, as is, Governor Branstad signed the bill that passed 95-1. He turned to give me the pen for having floor-managed the bill. I gave it to Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City) and said, “You worked a lot harder on it than I did.” And that was true. I only had a year and a half trying to get it through–she’d been working on it for five years.

Today, Vicki Lensing and I were two of four Iowa lawmakers honored by the Iowa Council Against Domestic Violence–it’s nice that some things do get done and on a bipartisan basis.

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