|Two NH sex offender bills killed:|
|By Chris Dornin, Retired Statehouse reporter|
One Bad, One Good:
The [New Hampshire] State Senate last week tabled and thus killed HB 1628, a bill to encourage police to actively notify the neighbors whenever a sex offender is released into their midst. A dozen opponents, including several sex offenders, had packed the senate public hearing on the legislation.
In response, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-1 to kill the bill politely by sending it to interim study in an election year. A co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Sheila Roberge (R-Bedford), voted to effectively defeat her own legislation after hearing the evidence against it.
There was no debate on the later Senate floor motion to table. Whatever infighting led to that outcome happened behind closed doors. After the vote, one senator said people were worried about the consequences to the families of sex offenders if neighbors got into the habit of welcoming every sex offender harshly.
I certainly expected an emotional floor fight in the senate chambers. Sen. Robert Letourneau (R-Derry) missed the committee vote, but he co-sponsored the bill and would have voted for it. Close split decisions are rare in senate committees and often lead to donnybrooks on the senate floor. All 24 senators received an email from me the night before the final vote with a copy of an op ed I had just published in the Laconia Citizen. The full text appears at the bottom of this update.
I’m sorry to say the Senate killed HB 1484 the same way, a bill to bar towns from imposing residency restrictions against sex offenders. I heard conflicting reasons from senators and sources close to the governor for the surprising vote to table this fine legislation. It had sailed through the House and left Senate Judiciary Committee with a 5-0 ought-to-pass endorsement. The sponsors tentatively plan to resubmit the bill for next year.
Losing this favorable legislation was palatable in an election year. Only five towns have adopted these residency restrictions, and several have chosen not to enforce them in light of a district court decision last August. It shot down the Dover residency restriction against sex offenders as a violation of fundamental property rights.
Chris Dornin is a retired Statehouse reporter working for smarter criminal laws.
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