Senate Presses For Assembly Action On Sex Offender Legislation

James L. Seward

June 20, 2005

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and members of the senate majority conference today called on the Assembly to act on legislation approved by the senate to strengthen Megan’s Law and the state’s Sex Offender Registry to protect the public from sexual predators.

Senators were joined at a Capitol news conference today by Mark Lunsford of Florida. Lunsford’s nine year old daughter Jessica was killed by a convicted sex offender in Florida earlier this year. Lunsford urged the Assembly to pass tougher sex offender legislation.

"Strengthening Megan’s Law to protect people, especially children, from sexual predators is the senate’s top priority and, despite the fact that the senate has passed dozens of bills to crack down on sex offenders, the Assembly has only committed to holding hearings and that’s not good enough," Senator Bruno said. "With one week left in the 2005 session, I urge the assembly to join us in passing these bills so they can be enacted into law before another parent loses a child to a sex offender. The time for talk is over, the time for action is now."

"For the last decade, the senate has championed stronger laws that protect children from dangerous sexual predators, but the assembly has continually refused to act," said Senator Dean Skelos (R, Rockville Centre). "This year, the senate held public hearings and passed comprehensive legislation to reform and strengthen Megan’s Law in 25 different ways. With four days left in the legislative session, the assembly leadership must do the right thing and allow these vital measures to reach the floor for a vote. The safety of our children and our communities depends on it."

"The public hearings my committee has held clearly demonstrate the strong public support for increased security and public notification of any sexual offenders living in a community," said Senator Michael Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), chairman of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime, and Correction. "Sexual predators cannot be rehabilitated and the statistics show the highest recidivism rates for these dangerous and depraved criminals. I look forward to continuing to work with community leaders to keep our children secure from sexual predators and I strongly urge the state assembly to pass these critically important pieces of legislation."

"Registration and notification will play a key part in protecting our children," Mark Lunsford said. "Until this happened to my daughter, I didn’t know how much danger we are all in. Putting these monsters on an honor system is nonsense, they have already shown us that they cannot be trusted. If they are wearing a tracking device, we would always know where they are and they would know that we knew where they are. If I had known that John Couey, a convicted sex offender, lived across the street, Jessica would be alive today. I was never notified about any sex offenders in my neighborhood. How can we protect our children without access to this information."

"I thank Mark Lundsford for coming to Albany today to continue in his mission to make changes that will protect New York’s children," Senator Martin Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn) said. "If the state assembly is going to let this session end without adopting these necessary child protections, they have failed the people and the families of New York. We owe our children these protections which will make Meagan's Law stronger."

On May 3, 2005 the senate announced that, on the 10th anniversary of Megan’s Law, it would hold hearings on legislative proposals to strengthen Megan’s Law. After several public hearings, the senate approved the "Tenth Anniversary Omnibus Sex Offender Registration Reform Act." The bill (S.4793-B, sponsored by Senator Dean Skelos) would strengthen Megan’s Law in 25 ways, including: mandatory notification by police when a registered sex offender moves into a community, lifetime registration of all sex offenders, requiring information about all levels of sex offenders to be posted on the Internet, and GPS monitoring for the worst offenders. The senate has also passed each of the 25 provisions of the omnibus bill as separate pieces of legislation.

"I applaud Mark Lunsford for his courage in speaking out to prevent others from the same fate as his daughter," stated Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mount Hope). "Prevention is what GPS monitoring is all about. Hard evidence indicates that level three sex offenders will most likely repeat these heinous crimes. Therefore, we need to arm our law enforcement officials statewide with the best technology available to protect our children and families."

Nine counties either have in place, or are preparing programs to use electronic tracking devices to keep track of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, including: Westchester, Washington, Suffolk, Nassau, Monroe, Schenectady, Albany, Dutchess and Ulster.

In addition, the senate approved legislation (S.3273), sponsored by Senator Dale M. Volker (R-C-I, Depew), that provides for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators after they’ve completed their prison sentence to protect the public from criminals likely to commit repeated acts of sexual violence.

"The state senate continues to create innovative criminal justice programs and policies to prevent sex offenders from destroying the lives of our young people," said Senator Dale M. Volker. "I firmly believe that our civil commitment legislation will fairly treat habitual sex offenders so that while they are incarcerated, that they get the treatment they need in order for them to be reintroduced into society. However, if treatment fails, or if the sex offender refuses treatment, we must always side on the safety of our children and young people and keep these offenders behind bars until they are rehabilitated."

The assembly has not acted on any of the sex offender bills passed by the senate.