Thursday, June 12, 2014

Alabama State Rep. Kurt Wallace's political swan song sends registered citizens into exile

 For years, I have been battling Alabama State Rep. Kurt "The Segregationist" Wallace over a bid to pass a statewide anti-clustering bill. While ReFORM-AL was mounting opposition for a statewide anti-clustering bill, professed "Christian Conservative" State Rep. Kurt Wallace pulled out the politician playbook and called a trick play.

This is how they built typically passes to the Alabama Legislature. A bill is introduced and assigned to a committee. There is generally time allotted for the public to become aware of a pending bill. Before a bill passes committee, the public has a right to request a public hearing on the bill at hand. It is a narrow window, but an individual generally has at least a couple of weeks or so to catch a bill as it pops up before committee.

With HB 556, and anti-clustering bill just for Chilton County, the public was literally given a single day’s notice. On Thursday, February 27, 2014, HB 556 was introduced and read for the first time before the house legislature, and was assigned to the “LL” (local legislation) committee. By Tuesday, March 4, the bill had been read a second time and placed on the calendar, and the next day, it had been read a third time and put to a vote. Only 38 representatives voted, all of them “yea,” of course, and 47 representatives were not even present to vote on March 5.

In short, the public was never truly given adequate notice. ReFORM-AL  had been checking the Alabama state legislature (“ALISON”) website every Friday during the legislative season, and not a single notice of HB 556 was seen. A bill was literally introduced and passed through the house in five business days, but that a single notice given to those who were to be impacted by these laws.

Keep in mind at this point, once a bill goes before the full legislature outside of committee, the public cannot request a public hearing. The best hope is to attempt to stop the bill by convincing legislators outside of committee to vote against the bill. To be honest, how many people do you think actually read, debated, or consider the negative consequences of this bill?

Could we have stopped the bill in the Senate? Since no one was even aware of HB 556, no one realized that the very next day, the bill was read for the first time in the Senate. The following Thursday, March 13, the bill was read a second time, and on Tuesday, March 18, the bill was read a third and final time and was put to a vote. This time, 21 people voted yea, and three people voted to abstain from voting. It was “enrolled” and sent for the governor to sign.

In total, 18 days had passed between the time the bill was first read in the time the bill was sent to the governor's office, or rather, 12 business days. That is superfast by Alabama Legislature standards.

State Rep. Kurt Wallace has been pushing his segregationist policy for years, all just to shut down a transitional housing program in his home County. This time, he got what he wanted. ReFORM-AL has already received a number of phone calls from individuals negatively impacted by this countywide ordinance. It is amazing how Wallace and his stooge CJ Robinson pushed for this idiotic legislation while admitting that residency restriction laws were the cause of the problem in the first place, testifying that these laws lead people to take advantage of registered citizens.

It seems the “good old boy” network is alive in rural Alabama. I'm sure Jesus is just ecstatic that Wallace has made people homeless in his name. On the upside, Wallace just lost his bid for re-election, so at least this fight has become his political swan song.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Al Baldasaro casts the lone vote against a NH bill that outlaws local residency restriction ordinances

New Hampshire isn't a state we tend to think of when we think bad sex offender laws. In fact, the state House passed a bill to abolish residency restrictions (though the bill is sitting idle in the Senate). The bill passed 18-1 in the House committee. Who was the lone dissenter? Al Baldasaro, the gay-bashing gun nut RepubliCON from Londonberry (Dingleberry?). It is a bit bizarre for NH, making it Shiitake-worthy.

House committee passes bill prohibiting restrictions on where sex offenders can live
Concord Monitor staff
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 
(Published in print: Wednesday, January 29, 2014)

A House committee easily passed a bill, 18-1, prohibiting restrictions on where sex offenders can live yesterday, noting that judges have twice ruled residency restrictions unconstitutional. Still, lawmakers predicted a tough fight in the Senate, which has rejected similar bills before.

“There is a perception that this bill is being soft on crime,” said Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican who voted for the bill. “All of us who have heard (this debate) know the benefits of the bill. But we’re going to need to explain it.”

Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican, cast the lone vote against the bill, saying he didn’t want to tell his constituents they couldn’t determine where sex offenders could and could not live.

As many as 11 communities have residency restrictions for sex offenders, said Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat. Londonderry is not one of them, according to the town’s website. Locally, Tilton, Northfield and Boscawen have such restrictions. Both Northfield’s and Tilton’s ordinances prohibit people convicted of sex crimes against children from living within 2,500 feet of schools, child-care centers and playgrounds. Boscawen’s ordinance was not available yesterday.

Tilton adopted its ordinance in 2007 and added this explanation to it: “Acknowledging that sex offenders who prey on children are at a higher risk of re-offending, the town of Tilton has a compelling interest and responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of its children by restricting access to areas where there (is) a high concentration of children.”

However, two judges have found otherwise. In 2009, a district court judge in Dover ruled that city’s residency restriction invalid because the city had not shown a “substantial relationship” between the ordinance and the protection of children. In 2012, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler came to the same conclusion when the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union appealed Franklin’s ordinance.

Cushing, a member of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said the bill prohibiting residency restrictions is necessary because it will take costly legal fights to undo the 11 ordinances still in place across the state. “The simple thing that can be done is to pass a bill that incorporates the . . . courts’ decisions.”

Cushing also argued that restricting housing for sex offenders pushes them “underground,” in campgrounds, under bridges and to other places the police cannot monitor. He said communities are safer if the police know where sex offenders live and require yearly registration with the local police.

Baldasaro said he was concerned that if a sex offender moved into a Londonderry neighborhood, “everyone else wants to move out.” He added, “I want to support this bill, but I have to go back to neighborhoods in my district. Who is going to protect the neighbors?”

Rep. Larry Gagne, a Manchester Republican, responded to Baldasaro.

“My first term, I was pretty much a hard-liner,” he said. “I said, ‘Put (sex offenders) in outer space. Put them all on an island.’ But I changed my mind after a (police) sergeant came in and said, ‘If they go underground, we can’t find them.’ ”

Rep. Roger Berube, a Somersworth Democrat, questioned why the state Senate has rejected several similar bills from the House in previous years. “How can they get away with that?” he asked. “It doesn’t appear the Senate is actually listening to the . . . court.”

To that, Rep. Laura Pantelakos, chairwoman of the committee said, “Sometimes the Senate doesn’t listen to anybody.”