The Iowa House early this morning unanimously approved SF 445 after adding important sentencing reform provisions that FAMM and other advocates have promoted. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to pass, and then to Gov. Terry Branstad for his signature.
If signed into law, SF 445 would eliminate the mandatory minimum sentences for the lowest-level, Class C drug felonies and make about 200 people currently serving those sentences eligible for parole starting July 1, 2017. The bill would allow judges to reconsider sentences for Class C and D felonies anytime within a person’s first year in prison. Finally, it would reform the state’s out-of-date disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences, reducing it from 10:1 to 2.5:1.
“This bill is a modest step, but it is a step in the right direction,” said FAMM president Kevin Ring. “Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for low-level offenders and narrowing the indefensible disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences will allow Iowa’s leaders to better allocate anti-crime resources. We strongly urge Gov. Branstad to sign this commonsense legislation.”
SF 445 enjoys the support of the Iowa Department of Corrections, Attorney General Tom Miller, as well as numerous conservative organizations like the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks, and the American Conservative Union.
In 2016, Branstad signed into law a more limited sentencing reform bill, which FAMM also supported. That reform cut in half the time certain prisoners serving mandatory minimum sentences must serve before becoming eligible for parole.
Ring said FAMM appreciated the broad and consistent bipartisan support that sentencing reform has received in the Iowa House, led by reform champions Rep. Zach Nunn (R, District 30), Rep. Rick Olson (D, District 31), Rep. Ashley Hinson (R, District 67), and House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow (R, District 43).
Full information about FAMM’s work in Iowa is available here.