|NMU||CALIFORNIA||Freedom of Information|
California lawmakers let Megan’s Law expire
- As of Dec. 31, 2003, the public and the media will lose access to the state’s sex offender registry, which tells residents where convicted offenders now live.
Sep. 22, 2003 — California state legislators refused to extend Megan’s Law last week, leaving the public and the media with no access to the state’s sex offender registry.
With California lawmakers scrambling to act on legislation before going into interim recess for the rest of the year, the bill to extend Megan’s Law until 2007 fell three votes shy of passage early Saturday morning, 51-0. Most Republicans refused to vote on the measure, which required a 2/3 majority, or 54 votes, for approval. The law will now expire Dec. 31.
“I found it absolutely incredible that the Legislature adjourned allowing Megan’s Law to expire,” Gov. Gray Davis told The Sacramento Bee Wednesday.
Assemblywoman Nicole Parra (D-Hanford), who sponsored extension of the bill, accused members of the Republican minority of playing partisan politics in withholding their votes.
“They had their political reasons [for not voting],” she said. “But no reason excuses the fact that the whereabouts of some 80,000 sexual predators will no longer be known to the public.”
Police departments will still be able to notify residents that a former sexual predator, deemed to be a risk by police, is living in their community. However, the public and the media will no longer be able to access the general registry. There are more than 70,000 ex-convicts who have registered in California as a sex offender.
The Associated Press reported that some lawmakers cited problems with the registry in not voting for the bill. They wanted to expand the public access provisions, including making the registry available on the Internet. Currently, Californians can only access the registry by contacting their local law enforcement agency.
The state’s Department of Justice admitted in August, after an Associated Press investigation, that it had “outdated, incomplete or no information” on 28,440 registered sex offenders.
But according to Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the lack of votes were due to “partisan games.”
“Without extending the life of California’s Megan’s Law, there is no program to expand or improve,” he said in a press release.
Parra’s bill also included a provision that would have authorized college police departments to disclose information about sexual predators living, working or attending class on campus. States have until Oct. 1 to pass such a bill to receive federal funding, which, Lockyer said, would amount to $5.1 million for California.
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press