Results mixed as funnel deadline passes

Efforts to pass laws addressing the presence of elderly sex offenders in nursing homes have met with mixed results as a legislative deadline passed Friday.

A proposal from state Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, that would require the state government to seek proposals from firms interested in operating a nursing home specifically for elderly sex offenders was stymied for this year’s legislative session because it was not approved by a committee before the deadline.

“That just keeps going nowhere,” Miller said.

A bill written by state Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, directing the state Department of Human Services to hire a firm to recommend how to handle elderly sex offenders remains alive following the deadline. The measure provides $150,000 for the study.

“I will support whichever bill gets to the finish line first,” Beall said of the legislation introduced by himself and Miller.

The legislative deadline, called the funnel, whittles down the number of bills eligible for consideration. Any bill that is not approved by a committee in the chamber in which it was introduced before the funnel is effectively dead for the session.

Tax and spending bills are exempt from the funnel.

The management of elderly sex offenders became an issue in the area following incidents in Gowrie and Pomeroy.

The U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services fined the Gowrie Care Center $2,150 last year for failing to properly supervise an 86-year-old man who had three sex crime convictions.

In 2011, William Cubbage, a sex offender who was then 83, allegedly raped a 95-year-old woman in the Pomeroy Care Center, where both he and the woman lived.

Miller has made repeated attempts to advance legislation dealing with elderly sex offenders.

Last year, she first introduced the bill requesting proposals from firms that would operate a special facility. In 2012, she introduced a bill calling for the appointment of a committee that would be charged with examining the options for creating a site to house elderly sex offenders. Neither bill advanced.

“I’ve covered that every way I can,” she said.

She said she’s not sure why her legislation on the issue never advances.

”They just keep telling me they’re looking at it and looking at it,” she said.

Miller said she believes the number of elderly sex offenders will only continue to grow.

”We have a responsibility to families,” she said. ”You could have a child walking down the hall in one of these facilities and get attacked. It’s not just about older people that can’t move or get out of bed.”

Beall said the study proposed in his bill would look at needs 20 years into the future.

“We don’t currently know how many sexual predators there are now in nursing homes and in our correctional facilities,” he said. ”The study will look at what other states are doing.”

He said the study would be done by Nov. 1 so that legislators could act on it during 2015.