We did it! We stopped Senate Bill 267!! And now for the rest of the story.
Prior to the hearing on SB 267, California RSOL was invited for the first time to join two like minded organizations for meetings in the offices of all seven members of the Public Safety Committee. We didn’t have appointments. We just stopped by.
The reception we received from the two sides of the aisle were starkly different. We were warmly welcomed into the Democratic offices where we heard they had received lots of letters and phone calls. We met in those offices with THE staffer responsible for public safety issues who would be speaking to “the boss” about SB 267 before he/she voted on the bill at the committee hearing. In direct contrast, we hit a brick wall in the Republican offices. No one was available to meet with us.
When we finished, we believed we had 5 out of 7 votes in favor of our position, that is, opposed to SB 267. The next 18 hours dragged on as we hoped that no one would change his/her vote because we needed at least 4 votes to win.
When we arrived at the committee hearing the next morning, we were surprised to learn that instead of being the third bill to be heard, SB 267 would be the first. That meant no warm ups, no way to gauge the moods of the committee member before the bill was heard.
The hearing started out, as always, with the author of the bill and those who supported it. In this case, Senator Connie Leyva stated her reason for the bill was to protect children by keeping them away from sex offenders. She was joined by two representatives from San Bernardino County and, you guessed it, the City of Carson.
When the committee chair asked, there were no others to voice support for the bill. The committee chair then asked for those who were opposed to the bill. The three organizations who visited offices together on Monday (ACLU, Housing CA, and CA RSOL) rushed to the “podium” and spoke first.
As soon as the first speaker finished, he left the “podium” and the next person appeared. Before it was over, there were at least 15 people speaking in opposition to SB 267, the largest number of people speaking in opposition to a Public Safety bill according to a stranger in crowd. We had them outnumbered 5 to 1. Yet there was doubt.
The doubt disappeared, however, when Senator Mark Leno began to speak. He is an expert on our policy issues and it showed. He let those who attended the hearing know that SB 267 would not achieve the goal it had set. He let them know that a recent report of the California Sex Offender Management Board (CA SOMB) stated unequivocally that there is no research that shows that exclusions zones are helpful and in fact can lead to a decrease in public safety.
Senator Leno reminded everyone that the legislature created CASOMB as the state’s experts on sex offender policy and noted that the legislature has often ignored CASOMB’s reports and recommendations. The senator then urged the committee to heed CASOMB’s remarks regarding exclusion zones as well as CASOMB’s recommendations to create a tiered registry.
That was a gift. And perhaps it is a gift that can keep on giving. Perhaps we can use the momentum we now have, after stopping not one, but two bills, in the state legislature to move closer to a tiered registry. It may not happen this year but we could use this year to increase collaboration with more like-minded organizations as well as encourage more registered citizens and those who love them to Show Up – Speak Up – Stand Up.
When that happens, we will be ready to join the 46 states in the nation that already have tiered registries.
– Janice Bellucci
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