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State House OKs changes aimed at maintaining state Megan's Law registry

Paul Peirce
| Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, 2:06 p.m.

The state House this week voted unanimously to approve changes to the state's sexual offender's registry to ensure that about 17,000 names aren't removed from the list because of problems outlined this year by the state Supreme Court.

House Judiciary Committee Majority Chairman Ron Marsico, a Dauphin County Republican, said he was pleased House Bill 1952 was unanimously passed Tuesday.

“This legislation was expedited because it is such a critical issue. With the implementation of this legislation, up to 17,000 sexual offenders would not be removed from the state sexual offender registry,” Marsico said.

In July, the Supreme Court ruled in a 55-page opinion that 2012 changes to the registry that expanded and toughened reporting rules under the state's Megan's Law can't be applied retroactively, ruling in favor of Jose Muniz. Muniz was convicted in Cumberland County of two counts of indecent assault of a 12-year-old girl.

Under the state's Megan's Law, offenders had to register and report for either 10 years or life, but the 2012 enactment of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act changed that to 15 years, 25 years or life, causing many offenders who had been in the midst of a 10-year reporting period to have to remain registered for life.

The court said Muniz was not subject to the harsher penalties of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

Marsico said the updated legislation is aimed at keeping communities safe by maintaining the registry.

It would keep intact the current version of the state's sexual offender registry for anyone whose offenses occurred after the law was enacted, and put back in place a previous version of the law for anyone whose offense occurred prior to the 2012 law, according to the bill.

“Thanks to the teamwork and commitment of the governor's office, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Victim Advocate and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, we were able to advance this legislation,” Marsico said.

The bill must still be approved by the Senate.

“We were all in agreement that those specified offenders should still have to register with the Pennsylvania State Police as sexual offenders. To allow potentially dangerous sex offenders to escape registration is a step backward in terms of the safety and security of the Commonwealth's citizens,” Marsico said.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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