Published March 08, 2011
Facing a $15 billion budget shortfall, Texas officials are balking over the nearly $39 million cost of instituting the Adam Walsh Act, the federal law requiring a national sex offender registry.
Texas officials also say that although they support the intent of federal program, some of the standards fall short of those of the Texas sex offender registry, the second largest in the nation with 63,000 names.
Allison Taylor, executive director for the Council on Sex Offender Treatment, a Texas agency that develops and enacts policies regarding sex offenders, told FoxNews.com that years of research on the federal registry showed that it wasn't worth the price.
"Does the cost outweigh enhancing public safety?" she said. "There was nothing showing that it would."
President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child and Protection and Safety Act in 2006. The law aims to provide better oversight of sex offenders.
The act, which is named after the son of "America's Most Wanted" television host John Walsh, establishes a national sex offender registry, increases punishments for some federal crimes against children and strengthens child pornography protections.
But only four states have been found to be in full compliance so far: Delaware, Florida, Ohio and South Dakota.
If Texas and the other states don't comply by July 27, they will lose 10 percent of their federal funding for assisting crime victims and witnesses through the registry. For Texas, that amounts to about $2.2 million in 2012.
"There's a lot of reluctance across all states, territories, as well as Indian tribes," Taylor said.
Texas operates its database differently from the U.S., using risk assessment to categorize offenders instead of the offenses committed that federal law requires
Under federal law, offenders are divided into three tiers based on the crimes they committed and face different registration requirements for each one. The most severe offenders, for instance, would have to renew their registration in person every three months.
Texas law requires sex offenders to register either for 10 years or for life based on offense and risk level.
The "one-size-fits-all classification" would place 19-year-olds who had slept with their 15-year-old girlfriends in the same tier as a 48-year-old pedophile, Taylor said.
The Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee recommended that the state not comply with the federal law because of a report it issued which found that the change in requirements would "increase greatly" the number of people on the registry.
But Gov. Rick Perry's office has sought to hedge the state's bets on implementing the program.
"We support efforts to increase the monitoring of and penalties for these criminals," Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger told the Houston Chronicle. "We will continue working with lawmakers this session to make sure Texas implements measures that will have the greatest impact in protecting our citizens from these violent offenders."