Bill Would Bring Back the Death Penalty in Iowa for One Heinous Crime

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — State. Senator Brad Zaun’s bill that would reinstate the death penalty in Iowa for those who sexually assault and then murder children survived the Legislature’s famous Funnel Week.

Zaun (R-Urbandale) joined The Iowa Star Monday on NewsTalk 1040 WHO to talk about the legislation and other bills moving forward in the Legislature.

Senate File 14 would reinstate the death penalty in the Hawkeye State for adults convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering children.

Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1965, but proponents of the Senate bill point to cases like those of Roger Bentey in arguing for reinstating capital punishment. Bentley kidnapped 10-year-old Jetseta Gage from her Cedar Rapids home in 2005 before brutally raping and murdering the little girl. He’s serving life in prison.

Zaun said he’s not a death penalty advocate, but in this case capital punishment could serve as a deterrent. The idea is to give pause to someone who would kill the principle witness to their sexual assault crime.

“What we’re trying to do is deter them from obviously killing the person that they brutally raped,” Zaun told The Iowa Star on “Need to Know With Jeff Angelo.”

Opponents raised concerns about the costs of carrying out the death penalty and the possibility of sending an innocent person to die.

The bill previously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Zaun chairs. But it did so narrowly, 10-8, with two Republicans joining all six Democrats on the committee in voting against. It was enough to move the legislation through “Funnel Week,” the deadline for proposals to pass out of committee or die in the session.

Scores of bills came up for consideation last week.

Other bills that survived include legislation from both houses that would ban so-called gender-affirming care, such as hormone therapy, puberty blockers and sex changes for anyone under 18.

“You can’t get a tattoo until you’re 18. You can’t vote until you’re 18. You can’t get liquor or alcohol until you’re 21,” Zaun said, adding that he is very much against anyone under 18 receiving gender reassignments.

Zaun said the Republican-controlled Legislature would continue to work on limiting the tax burden for Iowans, who, according to a new survey by Wallethub, are shouldering the sixth highest overall tax burden in the nation. Iowa’s combined taxes are 23.6 percent higher than the national average, the study finds.

Zaun said Iowa’s move to a flat tax — on its way to 3.9 percent with the potential to eliminate the state income tax altogether — will change those standings. The problem, he said, is Iowa’s high property taxes, ranking it among the top 10 worst states for property taxpayers.

“There’s a lot of people that come to Iowa and they’re shocked at how high their property taxes are,” Zaun said, adding that the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee is looking into property tax reforms this season. Those reforms, however, will take time, because of the complexity of the state’s property tax laws.

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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Brad Zaun” by Iowa General Assembly. Background Photo “Iowa State Capitol” by Iqkotze. CC BY-SA 2.0.


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