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Is Illinois reaching the tipping point on its sex-offender registration rules?

Is Illinois reaching the tipping point on its sex-offender registration rules?

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • The Illinois House just now passed a measure that expands the reach of the state's sex-offender registration list, adding conspiracy, ``luring,'' unauthorized videotaping and other offenses, and forcing people who are on the list to stay there for longer.

There's nothing unusual about that in Springfield, where filing bills to toughen the list is practically an annual requirement for any lawmaker who wants to look tough on crime. What was different this time were some of the voices that rose against it—and the 91-21 vote on a topic that usually gets near-unanimous support.

The sex-offender registration list is an on-line portal where convicted sex offenders have to register so the public knows where they are once they're out of prison. In addition to providing that information, sex offenders are subject to numerous rules regarding where they can live, work and even stand.

The bill that passed this morning (SB1040) would expand the range of crimes that will land a person on the list, to include a series of attempted crimes and conspiracy. And it would expand the minimum time on the list for misdemeanor offenders from 10 to 15 years.

The usual response to these types of bills in Springfield is one tough-talking floor speech in favor after another. And there was certainly some of that. "If it was your son or your daughter walking to school, you'd want to know who was trying to lure them," said Dennis Reboletti, R-Addison.

But with increasing concern lately that the requirements are going from tough to impossible, some lawmakers piped up in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

"We're making it impossible for them to live anywhere, we're making it impossible for them to work anywhere, we're making it impossible for them to go anywhere," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines. "We need to take a step back."

Nekritz is a liberal Democrat, but concern about this latest expansion wasn't limited to that wing.

"You're making this more and more onerous for people to comply" with the registration list, warned Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, a conservative stalwart.

Another, Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, R-Park Ridge, acknowledged that "most of us will vote for it because it looks bad if you don't," but she expressed concern about the annual proliferation of "layers" of new laws regarding the list.

Pritchard and Mulligan both ended up voting "yes," and the bill is now on its way back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. It will almost certainly pass, but the issue is clearly becoming less cut-and-dried than it used to be.


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