Iowa lawmakers OK toughening pimping penalties

A state panel has approved legislation giving prosecutors more options for helping minors mired in prostitution and increasing penalties for pimps who used children.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 20-0 Wednesday to approve the bill, which now goes to the House floor.

Under current law, all cases of prostitution are punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor. The bill would give county attorneys the option of referring minors involved with prostitution to Iowa's Department of Human Services as a child in need of assistance if an adult is believed to be involved.

Penalties would also increase for pimping involving a minor from a class "D'' felony to a class "C'' felony.

Democratic Rep. Todd Prichard says the bill is a start on a serious problem that few in Iowa understand.