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Suburban leaders rally against bill on sex offenders

March 9, 2010

Suburban Milwaukee leaders are mobilizing against a bill that would outlaw local ordinances that restrict where sex offenders can live.

A hearing on Assembly Bill 759 is set for Thursday before the state Assembly Committee on Corrections and the Courts.

Franklin Ald. Steve Olson said Tuesday that elected officials from Franklin, Greenfield, Cudahy and possibly other suburbs plan to attend the hearing.

Olson said he thinks the bill would result in Milwaukee sex offenders being released from prison and allowed to live in the suburbs.

"It's an effort by some Milwaukee legislators to again pass something quickly, when nobody sees it, and put their problems on to other communities," Olson said.

"Why should we accept Milwaukee's, why should Milwaukee accept Franklin's (sex offenders)?" he said. "It's a matter of simple logic and fairness - take your own back."

Franklin is among municipalities that restrict sex offenders from living in certain areas, such as a prescribed distance from schools.

The bill would prevent those municipalities from enforcing such ordinances and would prohibit any more such ordinances from being enacted.

One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee), said he wants to prohibit ordinances such as Franklin's because they will result in sex offenders being concentrated in cities such as Milwaukee, which has no residency restrictions for sex offenders, and rural areas, which don't have enough law enforcement officers to enforce such ordinances.

Instead, Kessler said, the state Department of Corrections should write residency restrictions that would be applied statewide. The department would put a priority on returning sex offenders to the communities they came from, he said.

Noting that the bill's sponsors include Milwaukee Democrats and rural Republicans, Kessler called it "one of the better bipartisan bills that's going to come out of the Legislature this year."

The City of Franklin on Tuesday issued a statement in opposition to the bills and is directing residents to the city's Web site, which provides information about the bills and urges residents to contact their state representatives.

Registered sex offenders in Wisconsin can be searched by name or location on the state Sex Offender Registry.

***

What's next

A hearing on Assembly Bill 759 is set for 10:15 a.m. Thursday before the Assembly Committee on Corrections and the Courts in Room 415 Northwest of the state Capitol.

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