It's the announcement that John Walsh has been waiting to make for more than two years: The United States Senate has passed The Children's Safety Act!
On Thursday afternoon, May 4, 2006, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called John to personally tell him that the political maneuvering that had long stood in the way of the bill's passage had been resolved, and that a vote was imminent. Shortly after that, senators voted to approve this important legislation to toughen sex offender registries and protect our children from dangerous predators.
John hailed the vote, calling the Children's Safety Act "the most important children's legislation in the past 25 years."
Back in September, The Children's Safety Act passed the House, with bipartisan support. It was widely supported in the Senate as well, but attempts to tack an unrelated hate crimes amendement to it stopped the bill in its tracks.
So, the bill's backers tried again. Congressman James Sensenbrenner, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, re-introduced The Children's Safety and Violent Crime Reduction last December.
John Walsh, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other children's advocates mounted an aggressive campaign to get the bill passed into law. As part of the campaign, John was joined on Capitol Hill by Congressman Sensenbrenner, representatives from the National Center, and other victims' advocates and parents like Mark Lunsford, whose daughter Jessica was killed in Florida last year; Linda Walker, the mother of murdered college student Dru Sjodin; and Erin Runnion, whose 5-year-old daughter Samantha was raped and killed by a sex offender. John asked Americans concerned about their children's safety to contact their lawmakers in Washington, and thousands upon thousands responded.
Once again, the bill easily passed the house. But once again, it got bottled up in Senate politics. Senate Majority Leader Frist, who co-sponsored the bill, promised to make its passage a top priority -- and now, it's happened. Hopefully, it won't be long until President Bush signs the bill into law.
The Children's Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act will:
▪ Improve the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Program to ensure that sex offenders register and keep current where they reside, work and attend school
▪ Require quarterly verification, in-person verification and regular notarized verification mailings
▪ Require public access to state websites
▪ Create the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website to search for sex offender information in each community
▪ Expand terms to include juvenile sex offenders
▪ Require states to notify one another when a sex offender moves from one state to another
▪ Expand sex offenses covered by registration and notification requirements to include military, tribal, foreign and sex crimes and increase the duration of registration requirements to protect the public
▪ Expand community notification requirements to include active efforts to inform law enforcement agencies, schools, public housing, social service agencies and volunteer organizations in areas where sex offenders reside, work or attend school
▪ Create a new criminal penalty of a maximum of 20 years incarceration for sex offenders who refuse to comply with registration requirements
▪ Protect foster children from sexual abuse and exploitation
You can learn more about H.R. 4472 and S.1086 here:
Dru's Voice -- The Official Site For Dru Sjodin