Well, its some progress. From the Bangor Daily News:
AUGUSTA, Maine — Legislation that would restrict a community’s ability to control where sex offenders live in town is headed to the full Legislature after a last-minute compromise received a favorable vote in committee on Friday.
A second bill that would allow some sex offenders to petition to be left off the statewide registry also won the endorsement of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
As originally introduced, LD 385 would have prohibited municipalities from enacting local ordinances that restricted how close convicted sex offenders could live to schools, parks and other places where children congregate. Bill supporters said such laws, while well-intentioned, further punish sex offenders who have served their time and could result in a total ban on sex offenders within some towns.
The version that received an “ought to pass” vote from a majority of the committee would allow towns to prohibit sex offenders from living within 750 feet of public or private schools.
Towns could also extend that prohibition to areas around other municipal-owned properties, such as parks. Additionally, the bill would only apply to adult sex offenders convicted of felony offenses against children under age 14.
Kate Dufour of the Maine Municipal Association said while her group and its members won’t be happy with the 750-foot limit, at least the bill preserves some level of local control.
The measure seeks to address criticisms that Maine’s sex offender registry is doubly punitive because it forces people to retroactively register long after they have finished serving time for their offenses. LD 1157, sponsored by Sen. Stanley Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, does not automatically remove anyone from the registry. Instead, the bill would allow anyone convicted between Jan. 1, 1982, and June 29, 1992, to petition to not be listed in the searchable registry. To be eligible, the person must not be a repeat violent offender, must have been discharged from jail before Sept. 1, 1998, and cannot be convicted of subsequent felonies.
The current bill does not seek to create such a tiered system, however.
With respect to the first bill creating safety zones, I see two positive aspects: (1) The towns cannot just make up any crazy zone they want and (2) The restriction appears to be targeted at sex offenders with a history of attraction to children under 14-as opposed to 15 year olds or adults.
With respect to the second bill filtering sex offenders off the registry between 1982 and 1992, I wish it were stronger. While at least the legislature ismaking someattempt totackle an injustice that ispolitically toxic, I see a number of issues:
1. The bill still seems to require an application by thoseeligible to be taken off the registry. No beurocrat is going to want to stick their neck out to be the one that allows someone to be removed from the registry that could turn out to be a repeat offender. Just make the proposed new filter automatic-not discretionary;
2. If this legislation passes it could have some interesting effects on the current litigation challenging the statute. At least some-if not many-of the plaintiffs may nolonger have standing. The court may otherwise be at least mindful, if not influenced, by the curent legislative direction. Recently the State requested a stay of discovery for some of the latter Plaintiffs in that matter for the reason that it had the sense that the earlier tranche of Plaintiffs was further along the process and the decision in that tranche may well controll the final outcome of the case for all Plaintiffs. As an interesting aside the cases have been styled "State v. John Doe I, II, III" etc. When we got to roman numeral number XXX there was some official hesitaion given the subject matter.
3. While the statute does not create a tiered system for those offenders after 1992 at least there is some effort at gradation for thosebefore 1992. I think the problem still remains for those convicted later that should be entitled to some privacy based on the nature of the particular offense. But hey, its progress.