Oklahoma Senate champions child safety

Children at risk of becoming victims of child molesters deserve the most extreme protection government can provide.

OKLAHOMA CITY — On what was to have been the final day of the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, Sen. Jay Paul Gumm and Rep. Joe Dorman succeeded in their session-long effort to make children safer in their own neighborhoods, according to a press release.

The lawmakers had worked all session to pass legislation that prevents registered sex offenders from being ice cream truck vendors. While the measure enjoyed unanimous support in the Oklahoma Senate, a committee chair in the House of Representatives continually blocked the proposal.

“I never understood the opposition to this common-sense proposal,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “Ice cream trucks are in countless neighborhoods in our state, and ice cream truck operators are in close contact with children — especially in the summer months. We were not about to let this proposal fall through the cracks.”

Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the original bill was drafted in response to a number of high profile cases throughout the nation. “While we were fighting to make this idea a law, there was a frightening situation involving an ice cream truck in Chickasha near my district this very year,” he said.

The lawmakers’ ice cream vendor language was added to Senate Bill 1020, a bill to strengthen state laws on domestic violence and increase penalties for child pornography. On Friday, both the Senate and House of Representative gave final approval to bill – unanimously in the Senate and overwhelmingly in the House. It is now on Governor Henry’s desk.

If signed into law, the bill would criminalize the operation of ice cream trucks by sex offenders, with a punishment of up to two and a half years in prison and/or a fine. Further, the measure requires ice cream vending companies to search the sex offender database to determine if any employees are convicted offenders.

The company would be required to keep proof of the search. Upon discovering any employee is violating the law, the company would be required to contact the district attorney with that information.

“We have to take every potential precaution in our effort to protect children from predators,” Gumm said. “It would have been irresponsible to simply wait until a tragedy occurs in our own back yard before we addressed the issue.

“I’m relieved that we were able to reach an agreement and close this loophole; passage of this law allows Oklahoma parents and children to rest easier.”

The lawmakers expressed gratitude to Sen. Jonathan Nichols, R-Norman, and Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, who agreed to add the proposal to SB 1020.

“Both Jonathan and Randy looked beyond partisan politics and helped pass a bill that will keep children safer,” said Gumm. “This bill shows what we can accomplish when the power of ideas triumphs over partisan concerns. I appreciate their essential help on this important bill.”

Dorman also expressed gratitude to his fellow legislators for passing the measure. “As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to make our state a safe place for the most vulnerable members of our society,” he said. “I’m pleased that members of the Legislature recognized the need to be proactive on this issue and eliminate a dangerous risk.”

The language approved Friday also got positive reviews from the ice cream vending industry. Chris T. Long, legislative chairperson with the International Association of Ice Cream Vendors, said the measure should be considered a national model for the issue.

“In the end, I believe your final draft…should be presented as a model bill on this issue in the future,” he wrote in a letter to Gumm. “With your permission, I will be archiving this bill so that it can be presented to other states, cities, or municipalities in the future.”

If signed into law, SB 1020 would take effect July 1. Governor Henry has 15 days following the adjournment of the session to pass judgment on the bill. The session is expected to adjourn by May 27.

We send this clear message to child molesters: You are not welcome in Oklahoma, and if you dare harm our children, we will find you, prosecute you and punish you to the fullest extent of the law.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

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