In 1994, California Democrats yielded to Republicans and supported the state’s “three strikes and you’re out” sentencing measure. Now another anti-crime brawl has all the signs of a potential win-win outcome for Republicans, says Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton. For Democrats, it’s looking like they have two options: capitulate or risk condemnation. The issue is child molestation. Although it would be unfair to characterize Democrats as protecting the molesters (while Republicans are fighting for children), that’s precisely the danger they face. “It’s hard for Democrats to hurt themselves in California, but crime is one issue where they can,” says Republican consultant Dave Gilliard, who is organizing signature-collecting for an initiative billed as “the toughest sex-offender law in the nation.” Called Jessica’s Law, it’s named after a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped, and killed by a convicted sex offender last year.
The measure would require that child molesters – if the victim is under 14 – be imprisoned for at least 15 years. Penalties would be increased across the board for sex crimes, including luring minors through the Internet. If released from prison, sex offenders would have to wear global positioning system trackers for life. And they couldn’t live within 2,000 feet of a school or park. The cost? Unknown, but eventually in the hundreds of millions annually. The Democrats’ best move, says Skelton, might be to give Republicans the bill, but include a tax increase to pay for the cost: “Make Republicans choose between protecting children or wealthy taxpayers.”