Bills to tighten sex offender limits clears House panel

FRANKFORT—A bill that would add publicly-leased playgrounds to the list of locations off limits to registered sex offenders has passed a House committee.

House Bill 204 sponsor Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, said the legislation is specifically written to ban future registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of such playgrounds and from entering those playgrounds without advance written permission.

The prohibitions would not apply retroactively, but would instead apply only to sex offender registrants added to the state’s sex offender registry after HB 204 takes effect, should it become law.

“So we’re not going to be in a scenario here where we’re forcing folks to leave, or to move, or anything of that nature. We just want to make sure that we provide these protections moving forward,” Maddox told the House Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee before it voted today to approve the bill. “It’s basically just ‘or leased’ is the only change to this statute.”

Current Kentucky law prohibits registered sex offenders from entering the grounds or living within 1,000 feet of schools, licensed day care facilities, or publicly-owned playgrounds.

Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, voted against the bill in committee. Willner, who is a clinical psychologist, said sex offender residential restriction policies have not been shown to be effective.

“I think that this addition actually moves us in the wrong direction for spreading accurate information about sexual abuse,” said Willner.

In her explanation of the bill before the committee, Maddox said she hopes that HB 204 “will be among one of the more straightforward bills that you will scrutinize this session.”

HB 204 now goes to the full House for its consideration.