Anti-sex-offender zoning laws challenged
A major push to crack down on sex offenders in recent years may be backfiring in states where progressively strict housing rules are coming under court challenge and making it harder for law enforcement to track those convicted of rape, child molesting and similar crimes.
Laws in at least a half dozen states, including California, Georgia and Iowa, barring sex offenders from living near schools and parks are being challenged by ex-offenders who claim the laws unconstitutionally penalize them after they have served their time. Such laws also are raising alarms among law enforcers, who fear sexual predators will be harder to track because they have no place to live.
Whether it’s constitutional to effectively banish sex offenders from communities has yet to be determined. Iowa’s law, considered one of the toughest in the nation, was upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but is being challenged in state courts.
A federal judge is to hear a challenge in February to California’s law, adopted by voters in November, which prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks. Approved by 70 percent of voters, the law would make it impossible for sex offenders to live in most of Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities.
Texas in 2001 was the first state to establish “child safety zones” restricting where sex offenders can live. Many locally adopted ordinances exceed the state standards. Taylor Falls, Minn., for example, passed an ordinance barring all sex offenders classified as high-risk from living within the city limits. In New Jersey, which has no statewide residency rules, 113 cities have set restrictions that make it nearly impossible for sex offenders to live within city limits.
“The proliferation of these types of restrictions is making it more difficult for corrections to fulfill their mandate of helping offenders make a successful reentry into society,” said Charles Olney, a research associate for the Center for Sex Offender Management, an affiliate of the U.S. Justice Department. (excerpted from a December 9, 2006 article, written by Kavan Peterson, staff writer for Stateline.org. The entire article is available online at www.stateline.org)
TOWN MEETING & ELECTIONS
The Maine Town & City Clerks Association (MTCCA) will hold its annual Town Meeting & Elections workshop on January 30 in Portland and on February 5 in Orono.
The workshop covers many aspects of town meeting and election procedure. The workshop meets MTCCA certification requirements.
Registration is $50 for MTCCA members and $60 for non-members. For more information, contact MMA’s Training & Affiliate office, 1-800-452-8786.
Mark March 19 th on your calendar for the 2007 MMA Technology Conference, which will be held on that day at the Augusta Civic Center. A registration form will be included in the January issue of the TOWNSMAN.
In October, Governor Baldacci announced the awarding of 14 municipal, county and regional government grants totaling $500,000 from the Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Local and Regional Services. This fund was set up as part of LD 1 to encourage and support intergovernmental cooperation as a means of reducing property taxes.
Types of projects funded include: municipal service consolidation, regional emergency dispatch, shared property assessment, joint purchasing, regional economic development planning, police consolidation study, stormwater management collaboration, and regional recycling and waste management projects.
The largest award went to the cities of Lewiston and Auburn – a $152,916 grant to consolidate municipal administrative services and explore consolidation of other city operations.
The 14 funded projects will involve 70 municipalities, counties, and regional government organizations.