SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) proposed sweeping penalties for sex offenders, including a requirement that paroled molesters wear satellite tracking devices for life.
The governor wants to prohibit registered sex offenders (search) from living near parks and schools. He also seeks to increase penalties for possession of child pornography, date rapists and using the Internet to lure minors for sex acts.
"I'm sponsoring this legislation to give California the strictest laws and toughest penalties for the worst crimes," Schwarzenegger said at a news conference Tuesday. "We want to give greater protection for all Californians — especially our children — against sexual offenders."
If enacted, the legislation would give California some of the toughest laws in the nation for released sex offenders, its supporters said. Lawmakers in Florida recently adopted a similar lifetime monitoring requirement.
Schwarzenegger's proposal could face resistance in the Democratically controlled Legislature. Democrats in the state Senate rejected a bill in June by Sen. Jeff Denham (search), R-Merced, that would have required lifetime electronic tracking of convicted pedophiles.
The Legislature's annual session ends early next month, giving lawmakers little time to consider such a hefty bill, said Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who chairs the public safety committee.
"I don't know how we digest a 52-page bill and give it the appropriate attention when we have as many things going on as we do," he said.
Leno said he had not had a chance to read the legislation but said placing all registered sex offenders under satellite surveillance for life would be enormously expensive. He estimated the governor's total package of proposed changes could cost as much as $500 million a year, a price he said included the satellite surveillance, additional jail time for some offenders and longer parole terms.
He also was concerned with placing limits on where registered sex offenders can live. Leno said he knew of someone who violated sex laws more than 30 years ago but who was never again in legal trouble. Nevertheless, that person could lose his apartment under the proposed ban on living near schools and parks, Leno said.
"Is this good public policy?" he said. "I think not."
Schwarzenegger said he did not know the potential cost of imposing lifelong monitoring of sex offenders but said it would be worth the expense.
He was joined at the event by key GOP lawmakers, chiefs of police and district attorneys from throughout the state. Schwarzenegger sidestepped a question about why no Democrats were at the event but said he hoped there would be bipartisan support for the measures and quick passage before the session ends next month.
The legislation, formally titled the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, would be amended into existing bills and is sponsored by state Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, also a Republican. George Runner said there are less than 100,000 parolees who would be required to wear a global positioning device (search) for the rest of their lives.
He said Democrats already have seen almost all the ideas included in the new legislation as separate bills that have been introduced previously. All of those have been rejected either this year or last, he said.
Supporters of Schwarzenegger's proposals decided to put all the changes into one bill and give the Legislature another chance. The issue will go to the ballot if they are unsuccessful this year, he said.
"We think the people of California deserve this," George Runner said. "Our thought was to give the Democrats one more shot and, if not, we've got it as an initiative."
He said the proposed ballot measure already is pending before the attorney general and most likely would be planned for the November 2006 ballot.
The Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act is amended into Senate Bill 588 and Assembly Bill 231.