An Assembly panel killed a bipartisan bill Friday that would have forced convicted sex offenders to register their various e-mail addresses and social networking user names with law enforcement agencies.
The author of the legislation is not pleased.
“This is completely outrageous,” Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, said in a statement. “I cannot comprehend the reasoning behind this ridiculous vote.”
It had passed the Senate on June 1 by a margin of 33-2. On Friday it died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it met with an unfavorable analysis from the staff of committee chairman Felipe Fuentes, D-Arleta.
Runner’s bill, SB 57, was sponsored by three Democrats and two other Republicans in the Senate. The Assembly version was sponsored by four Democrats and three Republicans including Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, and Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.
Paroled sex offenders already are required to register their addresses with local law enforcement agencies. SB 57 would have required the same offenders to register their “online name, address, or instant messaging user name or a new social networking Internet Web site account.”
The bill defined a social networking account as “an Internet Web site that allows individuals, including juveniles, to … communicate with acquaintances and strangers,” create a public or semipublic profile, collect lists of similar users (such as Facebook friends) and view others’ connections.
“Families use social networks like Facebook and MySpace to stay in touch with each other,” Runner said. “But to those with ill intentions, social media is a lawless supermarket for them to bait innocent children.”
Runner said her bill had the support of former Facebook executive Chris Kelly, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in the 2010 Democratic primary.
Additional supporters include Marc Klaas, father of murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Runner said.
The Appropriations staff analysis questioned the cost and efficacy of the legislation.
“There is nothing that prevents a registered sex offender from simply changing an e-mail address,” it said. “Nor is there any reason to assume that a potential offender, intent on using an Internet site for conversing or meeting potential victims, would register the e-mail address used for this purpose. … Do local governments have the personnel and capacity to obtain, process, and potentially transmit all of this data?”
The Democratic staff analysis continued:
“Given the ease with which a person may change an e-mail address, given that many registrants have been crime-free for years, given that the crimes of many sex offenders had nothing to do with children, given California’s rare lifetime sex offender registration, and considering the oft-stated estimate that 90 percent of child abuse victims know the perpetrator, is this bill an efficient use of limited law enforcement resources?”
Said Runner: “My legislation would have made use of existing resources to deter offenders from using Internet access for predatory purposes to provide police officers one more tool in the toolbox to safeguard children. John Gardner, who was convicted last year of the rape and murder of two teenage girls, accessed his graphic social network account the day before the second murder.”
“Evidently, opponents think it costs too much to protect our children,” she said.
In 2006, Runner was in the Assembly and her husband George was in the Senate when the couple co-authored Jessica’s Law, which mandated prison sentences of 15 years to life for persons convicted of sexual acts with children under 14, and banned convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
Runner previously authored a bill similar to SB 57 and it, too, was killed in Assembly Appropriations.