DES MOINES — Flanked by police and prosecutors, Gov. Chet Culver has signed into law an overhaul of Iowa’s sex offender laws that prohibits released offenders from setting foot on places where children gather.

The measure signed Thursday by Culver retains a ban on sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of places like schools, libraries and day care centers, but it limits that restriction to those who have committed the most severe crimes against children.

Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf said although there is never a 100 percent guarantee, having these areas off limits will make them better protected.

“My understanding is that it will add another layer of work for law enforcement,” Wolf said in an interview with the Clinton Herald. “But it is a wanted layer.”

Wolf also was concerned that the 2,000-foot rule alone seemed to give people a false sense of security.

“This is going to be worth it because it is going to provide additional safety,” Wolf said.

In addition, the measure puts in place a ban on offenders entering those facilities without permission, and it establishes a 300-foot “no loiter” zone around such sites. The Corrections Department will have the authority to decide which offenders can be required to wear electronic monitoring devices letting officials track their movements.

The measure was a carefully crafted compromise that was bargained throughout this year’s legislative session.

“There’s no place in Iowa for those who abuse our children,” said Culver. “This has been in the works for years.”

The issue is a delicate one for lawmakers, who earlier had banned sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of places where children gather. That law had meant that in many cities, released sex offenders had no place to live.

Critics said it was more important to monitor sex offenders’ whereabouts during the day rather than where they spent the night. Tampering with the law, however, left lawmakers open to the charge that they were going easy on child sex offenders.

“For politicians, the issue of sex offenders is not an easy one to speak to,” said Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, a retired Iowa Highway Patrol trooper who helped craft the measure. “I know this was not an easy decision. This law will build a safer Iowa. It’s a tremendous tool for law enforcement.”

Attorney General Tom Miller, who also pushed for the change, said the new laws would make Iowa safer.

“They took a tough stance,” he said.

The measure also updates the state’s sex offender registry.

The signing comes as Culver nears the midnight Tuesday deadline for acting on measures approved by this year’s Legislature.

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