October 28, 2003
Democrats Foil GOP Effort on Megan's Law
By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
SANTA FE 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.
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.
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.
A Sex Offender Management Board that's 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.