Senate positions Megan’s Law fix for vote

HARRISBURG — A bill seeking to deliver a legislative fix to Megan’s Law for sexual assault offenders was positioned for a Senate floor vote after a key senator gave a green light Monday.

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, repeated his strong objections to the House-passed legislation, House Bill 1952, at the start of a two-hour hearing Monday morning on the Judiciary Committee, which Greenleaf chairs.

Following the hearing, Greenleaf voted with colleagues to approve the bill, which addresses concerns the Pennsylvania Supreme Court raised about Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry.

The Senate later voted to amend the provisions of HB1952 into House Bill 631, another House-passed bill dealing with probation for a category of sex offenders.

Greenleaf said he decided to move the legislation and vote for it after getting assurances during the hearing from Pennsylvania State Police officials, who said they would provide recommendations for improving Megan’s Law.

Greenleaf wants to address issues beyond the scope of HB1952, which was introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer in the Jose Muniz case. The court ruled in favor of Muniz, convicted of two counts of indecent assault of a 12-year-old girl.

Greenleaf called attention to the need to focus on the most dangerous sex offenders and better manage an offenders registry that has expanded greatly since Megan’s Law was first enacted in 1995.

The court has said a 2012 law — the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act — that expanded and toughened reporting requirements under Megan’s Law can’t be applied retroactively to sexual offenders who committed crimes before that date.

The 2012 law extended the time period that offenders and had to register and report from 10 years to life in some case.

The bill seeks to require sex offenders who haven’t finished their period of registration to stay registered with the state police under the version of Megan’s Law in place when they were convicted.

At the hearing, Major Scott Price, acting deputy state police commissioner, urged passage of HB1952 to blunt the impact of the Muniz decision.

About 17,000 of the 22,000 active offenders on the sexual offender registry could face potential removal under the Muniz decision, Price said. Passage of HB1952 would keep an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 offenders on the registry and result in an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 individuals being removed from the registry, he added.