WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday passed sweeping legislation to set mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of sex crimes against children and set up a public database linking state lists of sex offenders.
By voice vote, the Senate approved the bill, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The House passed a similar measure in March as part of a broader crime bill. The bills, which differ on matters ranging from courthouse security, hate crimes and registration of juvenile sex offenders, must be reconciled by negotiators from each chamber before the legislation is sent to the White House for President Bush's signature.
Both bills would create a national database to link individually-managed state Web sites that track sex offenders. Members of the public would be able to search all the states' data.
The legislation also would require convicted sex offenders to register their whereabouts every month, in person, and would upgrade failure to comply from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Under current law, those convicted of child sex crimes are required to register once per year, by mail, Hatch's office said. Failure to comply is a misdemeanor.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said more than 58,000 children are abducted by people who are not family members and that 100,000 convicted sex offenders in the United States are unregistered.