Sex Predator Bill Would Keep Existing Local Residency Bans
An attempt to keep convicted sexual predators away from children while acknowledging that offenders must live somewhere passed a House panel Monday after the sponsor agreed to let stand strict rules already in place in Miami and other cities.
The bill would pre-empt new local laws in the future from being more strict than the state’s 1,000 residency bubble that prevents offenders from living too close to schools or other places where kids are. But in a nod to lawmakers concerned for strict local laws, an amended version of the bill approved Monday won’t eliminate those buffers already in place.
Speaking to members of the House Domestic Security Policy Committee, Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, said HB 119 would still keep sexual predators away from children while leaving alone existing stricter – and more controversial - standards like those enacted in cities in Miami-Dade County that have made it hard for convicted offenders to find a place to live there.
The bill prevents convicted sexual predators from loitering with 300 feet of children, wherever they may congregate. Further, offenders still on probation would also be barred from parks, schools and other kid-friendly spots.
The state currently prevents convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other spots where children gather. Glorioso, R-Plant City, has introduced legislation aimed at ending the patchwork residency requirements in favor of a statewide policy before, but seen the effort scuttled by those opposed to doing away with tough local ordinances.
Bowing to pressure from Miami-Dade officials and lawmakers, Glorioso amended the bill to strike language that prohibited local governments from keeping their tougher standards. The change was enough to garner support from an otherwise reluctant committee member
“The first law excluding predators from within 2,500 feet of children was passed when I was a commissioner in Miami Beach,” said Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami. “If it doesn’t water that down, I’ll go with it.”
But other local governments would be barred from enacting new residency requirements stricter than the state’s rule barring predators from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and other places children congregate.
“We’re trying to focus on setting a standard going forward,” Glorioso said.
He said, however, that residency laws have proven ineffective.
“It’s not where they’re living. It’s not where they’re sleeping. It’s where they are when they’re awake,” Glorioso said.
The bill also prevents convicted predators from handing out candy at Halloween, while wearing an Easter Bunny, Santa Claus or clown costume.
A similar bill, SB 1284, is scheduled to be heard Thursday in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.