Youth issues focus of legislative forum

With just a few days before the 2013 legislative session, area leaders on youth issues took an opportunity to talk with two local legislators during a forum. The forum featured Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, and Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, and was held Thursday at the Marshalltown Public Library and hosted by Child Abuse Prevention Services.

Among the issues discussed was the expected education reform plan. Both legislators said it will come into clearer focus Tuesday as Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to unveil his education reform plan during his Condition of the State address.

Smith said he would like to continue to see commitment to early childhood education as he feels preschool programs are proven to work.

“I hope that we can continue to promote these kinds of efforts,” Smith said.

Sodders made news recently for his opposition to the decision by the Iowa Department of Transportation to deny driver’s licenses to those immigrants allowed to stay and work or go to school as part of Deferred Action. Sodders believes something can get done to allow these immigrants to get licenses and said the House Republicans are on board to change it as well.

“I actually think we’ll see something change on that,” Sodders said.

Jana Enfield, director of Child Abuse Prevention Services of Marshalltown, wanted to be clear to the legislators that a recent recommendation about shortening the length of time child abuse perpetrators would be put on a child abuse registry is wrong.

Enfield said in some cases they want to reduce that length of time on a registry from 10 years to five years for the perpetrators. One type of crime would be those who were in care of a child who were found to be responsible for illegal drugs in the child’s body.

“I am livid that those would be reduced,” Enfield said.

Smith told Enfield he would offer to be put on the subcommittee for this proposal to address her concerns. Enfield was one of 30 people in the crowd who work with youth issues who attended the forum.

“That’s why we’re here,” Enfield said. “Kids don’t have a voice. We are their voice.”