Topeka House Speaker Doug Mays, a Republican candidate for governor, on Friday took a strong stance against child sex offenders and said he would support a tax increase to keep them in prison.
"You guys are always asking me when is a good time for a tax increase, and if it requires a tax increase to put child molesters in prison to protect our children, I'll vote for that," Mays said.
"The cost is the least of considerations on this one," he said to applause from Atty. Gen. Phill Kline and other Republicans at a news conference.
Mays, of Topeka, proposed legislation that would prohibit sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school or licensed day care. If approved, the law would require that sex offenders currently living within that zone move or face prison time.
The bill also increases the penalty for sex offenders who fail to register with authorities or provide a wrong address. The punishment would increase from a range of five months to 13 months in prison to 22 months to 46 months in prison.
Concerned Women of America praised the proposal, especially in light of a recent check of a random sample that, according to the Attorney General's Office, found 21 percent of sex offenders didn't live at their registered addresses.
"Many prosecutors do not bother to prosecute those offenders who do not re-register because the penalty is so insignificant," said Judy Smith, state director of the Kansas chapter of the Concerned Women of America.
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Tonya Smith, head of People Against Sex Offenders, who identified herself as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, also supported Mays' proposals.
"This bill is a wonderful start to protect Kansas children," said Smith, of Topeka.
In Kansas, people convicted of sex crimes must register with law enforcement officials and provide their address, place of employment and vehicle information. There are about 4,000 registered offenders, approximately two-thirds of them convicted of a crime involving a child.
The offenders are listed on a Kansas Bureau of Investigation Web site at accesskansas.org/kbi/ro.shtml or kansas.gov/kbi.
Mays, who said he didn't think sex offenders could be rehabilitated, added that he planned to file his bill for the 2006 legislative session that starts in January and make its passage a top priority.
Mays also is a co-sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment, called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, that would require statewide voter approval of tax increases. He said Kansans would support paying more taxes if that was required to expand prison capacity for sex offenders.
"I think if we went to the people of Kansas and said, 'Would you be willing to pay a little extra in taxes to put child molesters away, even if it meant lots and lots of people being put away?' they'd say yes," Mays said.
Mays is vying for the Republican Party nomination to run for governor next year. Former House speaker Robin Jennison, and state Sen. Jim Barnett, of Emporia, have also announced their intentions to run in the GOP primary. Two frequent candidates, Dennis Hawver, of Ozawkie, and Richard Rodewald, of Lawrence, also are running for the Republican nomination.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, is expected to seek a second four-year term but has not made a formal announcement.
Mays' proposals on sex offenders
Proposals from House Speaker Doug Mays to deal with sex offenders: ¢ Prohibit sex offenders who have victimized children from living within 2,500 feet - or about a half-mile - of a school or licensed day care center after being released from prison. ¢ Require offenders who were already living in such a "safety zone" to move. ¢ Make it a felony for such sex offenders to live within a safety zone, punishable by at least 22 months in prison, depending on the offenders' past convictions. ¢ Increase the penalties for sex offenders who are required by law to register with law enforcement officials after leaving prison but fail to do so. Their prison sentence would be at least 22 months. Currently, the minimum sentence is five months. ¢ Prevent offenders from being placed on probation for violating the registration law, which is allowed now. ¢ Require sex offenders to renew their driver's licenses annually, instead of once every six years, to make it easier for law enforcement officials to track them and post their correct addresses on the Internet. ¢ Mandate that offenders register with law enforcement officials if they have been convicted of violent or sex crimes committed on or after July 1, 1985, even if they haven't had to register before. The current law now applies to crimes committed in 1994 and afterward. - Source: Mays' office.