Child predator crackdown goes to Hickenlooper
DENVER — The Colorado House gave final approval Wednesday to a bill to create a Jessica’s Law in the state, but Republicans there took one last attempt at trying to put their mark on it.
The measure, HB1260, imposes minimum penalties for sex offenses against children under the age of 12 of anywhere from 10 to 24 years depending on the severity of the crime.
But Republicans argued that was too lenient regardless of the crime, saying the minimum should be set to at least 25 years in all cases regardless of the circumstances.
“The timidity of this bill ought to be embarrassing to the sponsor and everyone here because with a tiny bit of leadership, a tiny bit of prioritization in the billon dollars that we’re spending (in the budget) we could do so much more,” said Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs.
That sponsor, Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, said the bill will ensure that the punishment will fit the crime, and be sufficiently strict to protect other children from those offenders.
Foote criticized Republicans for some of their opposing comments to the measure, which ultimately passed 65-0 and now heads to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his approval.
“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion down here,” Foote told fellow legislators on the floor of the House moments before that final vote was cast. “What they should do, though, is always read the bill and the fiscal analysis before coming down to make sure you know what you’re talking about.”
Later, Foote said a last-minute argument against the measure that stemmed from a change made when the bill was debated in the Senate made little sense.
Gardner and other Republicans said that change took out all the teeth from the measure when language was struck that dealt with continuing appropriations five years from now, when more sexual offenders are kept in prison longer.
He said that language was unneeded, and won’t result in such offenders being released before serving their sentences.
“We sent it over to the Senate, and funny thing, they turned the bill into absolutely nothing that will protect our children because it takes the appropriations out that will actually do what (HB)1260 set out to do,” said Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada.
Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, said much of the Republicans’ consternation with the bill had more to do with politics rather than policy. He said they were angry that their names are not on the measure, and they can’t take credit for its passage.
“I can’t help it if egos are getting in the way of good public policy,” Pabon said.
Szabo had introduced a measure of her own, but it died a quick death because the majority Democrats said she attempted to lift the original law passed in Florida and tried to wedge it into Colorado’s statutes where it doesn’t fit.
Foote and other Democrats said that was no way to deal with the issue.
The governor wouldn’t say Wednesday whether he planned to sign the bill, but did say he likes that Republicans did support the measure and that it “makes the state safer.”
The measure is named after 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was sexually abused and brutally killed in 2007 by a known sex offender who lived in her Florida neighborhood.
Foote said Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, supports the bill, and has contacted him to thank him and the Colorado Legislature for passing it.