California’s Assembly has voted to exend Megan’s Law, which gives the public access to information about convicted sex offenders. Without the 78-0 vote, the law would have expired in January, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Senate already approved the bill, and Gov. Gray Davis will sign it. The bill would preserve until 2007 the public’s right to use the telephone or police station computers to tap into a database that lists 80,000 people convicted of sex crimes.
Partisan politics were evident despite the unanimous vote. Democrats criticized Republicans for failing to pass the bill two weeks ago because of a political grudge. Republicans accused Democrats of failing to agree to put the sex-offender data on the Internet, as most other states do. Bill author Assemblywoman Nicole Parra (D-Hanford) said: “We all look bad here, today, that it took two weeks to get our house in order to pass a basic extension of Megan’s Law.”
The database now available to the public locates registered sex offenders only by ZIP Code. To tap into it, Californians can visit a sheriff’s or police station or call (900) 448-3000 and pay $10 to check on two people whose names and other identifying information they know.
Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) said that much information in the database is wrong or outdated, because thousands of sex offenders fail to register each year as required. The publication on the Internet of incorrect addresses could draw public shame or outcry to innocent people, he said, or the system could be vulnerable to hackers.