Senate legislation closes loopholes, protects communities from sex offenders

One of my chief concerns as a state senator is public safety. Fortunately, I have a number of great partners – police, firefighters, first responders, district attorneys – who spend countless hours protecting people and prosecuting those who seek to do harm. As a legislator, it is my job to make sure these dedicated public servants have the tools they need to carry out their jobs.

The state senate has just taken action to improve one of those tools – the laws protecting children and communities from sex offenders.

The measures would address critical issues raised by a recent Court of Appeals ruling that prevents local governments from enacting laws restricting sex offenders, as well as the safety concerns highlighted in a recent senate coalition joint investigation and report. In that report, “Keeping Our Children Safe From Sex Offenders,” the senate coalition uncovered numerous instances of convicted pedophiles living within 1,000 feet of grade schools with pre-kindergarten programs or stand-alone universal pre-k programs.

In light of the Court of Appeals decision it is clear that state action is needed now so local governments can reclaim the ability to impose their own restrictions when special circumstances arise. This package of bills would also close loopholes in our current laws and improve our notification standards in regard to the whereabouts of dangerous sex offenders.

A bill I sponsor (S.3296) that is included in the package closes a loophole in current law and will prohibit Level 3 sex offenders from entering child care facilities as a condition of their sentencing. This makes sure that children at daycare facilities are not in the crosshairs of sexual predators, providing a needed layer of protection and giving parents added peace of mind.

Here is a brief summary of the other eight bills:

S.3295 would address the Court of Appeals ruling by enabling municipalities to respond to the needs of their community and create local laws relating to sex offenders. Communities would be able to put additional restrictions in place so long as they are not less restrictive than state laws;

S.1520 addresses concerns raised by the coalition’s joint investigation by prohibiting certain convicted sex offenders from knowingly being within 1,000 feet of any place where pre-kindergarten or kindergarten instruction is provided. The measure also requires the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to receive regular updates of all elementary and secondary school locations to ensure residency restrictions for Level 2 and 3 sex offenders are being followed;

S.22 requires schools to distribute information about Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living in a school district to parents of the students. This would give parents an extra assurance that each household has the valuable information that could protect their children from dangerous predators;

S.712 reduces the amount of time it takes to make a risk level determination for convicted sex offenders so that they are not placed on probation, discharged, or otherwise released into the community without the necessary protections and registration requirements in place;

S.2269 prevents convicted Level 1, 2, or 3 sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a building used exclusively as an elementary or high school;

S.2950 prohibits Level 2 or 3 sex offenders from residing within 1,500 feet of their victims’ residences;

S.2981 fixes a loophole that allows sex offenders to spend significant amounts of time at a residence other than the primary one registered with the state. This measure amends the definition of a residence and requires offenders to comply with registration requirements to include any location at which the offender spends more than two days a week; and

S.3811 increases the information available to the public when a convicted sex offender is in contact with the community. Level 2 and 3 sex offenders would be required to disclose their employment in addition to their residence on the state’s registry.

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