Clinton Signs Tougher "Megan's Law"
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 17) -- Under fire for his anti-crime credentials, President Bill Clinton signed legislation today requiring states to notify communities when a sex offender moves in (256K WAV sound).
The so-called "Megan's Law," which cleared the House 418-0 earlier this month, is named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton Township, N.J., who was killed two years ago. Charged with the crime was a convicted sex offender who the Kankas were unaware lived across the street from them.
Kanka's parents, Richard and Maureen, attended the White House ceremony, where Clinton said they " have lived through the greatest pain a parent can know."
Clinton noted the rights of former offenders, but said "there is no greater right than a parent's right to raise a child in safety and love...Today America circles the wagons around our children." The president predicted the law will be upheld by the courts.
After the murder, New Jersey passed "Megan's Law," and a 1994 federal crime measure included similar provisions allowing states to inform a community when a convicted sex offender moves into the area.
The latest legislation goes a step further by requiring states to inform the public, although officials would determine how much public warning is necessary, based on the danger posed by the offender. States would have to establish a warning system by September 1997 or they could lose some federal anti-crime funds.
Clinton supported the tougher federal requirements as the bill moved through the legislative process, and in this election year, the president is sure to cite it as more evidence of his commitment to fighting crime.
One of Republican challenger Robert Dole's themes so far is that Clinton is soft on crime and has appointed lenient judges.
The bill sponsor, Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-N.J.), told the Associated Press the measure "gives parents the information every parent has the right to know, which is whether there is somebody who can hurt their children living in their neighborhood."
Dole has talked of his work in making "Megan's Law" a reality, but Zimmer says Clinton deserves credit, too, for his support.
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