Expansion of state’s sex offender laws squelched

Staff and wire reports

House Democrats have squelched Republican attempts to get an expansion of the state’s sex offender registration law on the special session calendar.
A House committee ruled Tuesday that toughening the state’s so-called Megan’s Law could not be considered in the session.
Then, by a 35-28 vote on the House floor, Democrats killed the GOP’s attempt to end-run the committee and put the bill before the full House.
Republican Rep. Daniel Foley of Roswell, the bill’s sponsor, fumed that the decision of the House Rules and Order of Business Committee was erroneous and ‘‘a disgusting display of partisanship.’’
‘‘It’s a shame the Democrats want to turn protecting children into a partisan issue,’’ the lawmaker said.
Clovis Rep. Anna Crook, also a Republican, said four other bills related to sex crimes were introduced in the House Monday. They were:
n House Bill 2, an omnibus sex offender bill, introduced by Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque;
n House Bill 3, establishing a 20-year probation for sex offenders, by Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants;
n House Bill 4, creating a sex offender management board, Rep. Thomas Swisstack, D-Rio Rancho;
n House Bill 5, creating a 21-year parole for sex offenders, Rep. Ron Godbey, R-Cedar Crest.
The committee determined that Foley’s legislation could not be considered because it wasn’t listed in the proclamation Gov. Bill Richardson issued for the session.
‘‘It does not deal with enhanced penalties … or creating new crimes,’’ said House Majority Leader Danice Picraux, D-Albuquerque, the vice-chairwoman of the committee.
According to a copy of the proclamation, the relevant legislation to be considered should be limited to:
“An act amending and enacting sexual offender laws to increase allowable parole and probation periods, creating a new class of crime pertaining to sex crimes against children and providing increased penalties for those classes of crimes, creating a new offense of second degree criminal sexual contact of a minor, providing mandatory minimum sentences for second degree criminal sexual penetration and criminal sexual contact of a minor, creating the sexual offender oversight board and increasing sentencing for kidnapping of children with intent to commit a sexual offense.”
Crook said she questions the reasoning behind Picraux’s explanation. “I’m not on the House Rules Committee, so I didn’t hear the discussion. But, I was told Foley’s bill contained some of the same language the other bills do,” she said.
The sex offender management board proposed in legislation backed by Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson would have the authority to review the sex offender notification law and recommend changes, said House Majority Whip James Taylor, D-Albuquerque.
Taylor called Foley’s complaints ‘‘petty Republican politics.’’
But House Republican Leader Ted Hobbs of Albuquerque, another committee member, said the panel’s ruling was a departure from precedent.
‘‘This was not a consistent decision with what they’ve done in the past,’’ said Hobbs, who voted with other Republicans to keep Foley’s bill alive.
The governor says tougher sex offender legislation is his priority in this special session, which began Monday. Republicans complain they’ve tried to get similar bills passed for years, without any luck.
‘‘Where were they the last five years? Now it’s priority one,’’ Foley said.
His legislation would require sex offenders to renew their registrations with county sheriffs more often — every 90 days rather than annually — and to remain registered for life, rather than 20 years.
And Foley’s bill would require convicted sex offenders to provide DNA samples to the Corrections Department when they register.