Iowa may have to establish a special nursing home for elderly sex offenders and other criminals, according to a handful of local lawmakers.
''These individuals should not be turned loose,'' state Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, said Saturday morning. ''We will have to have a facility where these individuals will be contained.''
Miller and other legislators addressed the issue during an Eggs and Issues forum in Fort Dodge held months after a registered sex offender living at the Pomeroy Care Center in Pomeroy reportedly sexually assaulted another resident of the facility.
The lawmakers also talked about the state budget and education reform.
Regarding the budget, state Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, said Iowa is facing a $60 million shortfall in Medicaid, the federal and state health insurance program for the poor.
He said increased enrollment in the program and a reduction in federal money caused the deficit.
Gov. Terry Branstad is pushing a major education overhaul this year, and during Saturday's forum one element of it attracted some strong criticism. The governor has proposed to have school districts automatically flunk children who don't read at the expected level by the end of third grade.
State Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, said that rule reflects the ''smug arrogance of the big school board under the golden dome to think that we know what's best for a third-grader.''
About 60 people attended the forum at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.
State representatives Stewart Iverson, R-Clarion, and David Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, joined Beall, Miller and Shaw there.
Eggs and Issues is sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and Iowa Central.
In the Pomeroy case, William Cubbage, 83, is accused of sexually assaulting a 95-year-old woman at the care center in August 2011. Cubbage was convicted of sex crimes in 2000, 1997, 1991 and 1987.
He moved into the nursing home in November 2010. He was removed from it following the alleged assault and was placed in the Newton Correctional Facility.
In response to a question from the audience, Shaw said the state government may have to buy a small nursing home and staff it with personnel trained to deal with sex offenders.
He noted that Branstad has proposed a law requiring nursing homes to notify families of residents when a sexual offender moves into the facility. Shaw said stronger measures are needed.
''We need something with some teeth to it,'' he said.
Iverson and Miller also said a separate facility for elderly offenders may be needed.
Although Cubbage was reportedly ordered by a judge to live in the nursing home, Iverson and Tjepkes said care facilities don't have to accept offenders.
Beall said he believes the legislature will take action on the issue of sex offenders in nursing homes this year.
''It's all about the budget, the budget, the budget,'' Iverson said.
Lawmakers are beginning work on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2013. State law limits spending to 99 percent of the revenue the government receives.
Iverson said last year was the first time in a decade when lawmakers brought spending into line with revenues. He said they will do so again this year, and may even write a budget that spends less than 99 percent of the revenue.
The state is expected to collect $240 million more in revenue this year, according to Iverson. He said one-third of that will be used to plug the deficit in Medicaid.
Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org