March 25, 2017

House OKs bill barring sex offenders from park work

3-25-17 Illinois:

Despite objections from state Rep. Steven Andersson (R-Geneva), the House passed a bill on Thursday that prohibits Illinois park districts from retaining a volunteer who has been found to be a sex offender.

Anderson argued that HB 0786, which was sponsored by state Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago), had been watered down from its original version by the removal of penalties for volunteers who fails to disclose his sex offender status.

The bill as passed requires volunteers to complete an application prior to work and immediately disclose any convictions to the park district.

“The bill stays as is but it removes the penalties,” Andrade said. “The most important is that it still creates a moment of pause, and it creates some accountability for the volunteers under direct supervision of the park district.”

Andersson questioned the accountability aspect of the bill.

“This bill as I understood it creates kind of a check box or a certification for a volunteer for park district indicating that they are not a sex offender, correct?” he asked. “It put no burden on the park district to verify that?”

Andrade replied that park districts already do background checks, but the burden of honesty lies with the volunteers.

“When someone goes in, it’s voluntary," he said. "They are not forced to do it. They can just walk away and that is the hope: If they are [convicted] they can just walk away, and they know they should not be there in the first place. This [affects] only volunteers directly supervised by the park district.”

But Andersson also objected to the apparent lack of repercussions if an applicant lies.

“And now there is no penalty whatsoever?” he asked. “They can lie, and nobody is going to check, and they’ll get away with it?”

Andrade contended that the bill is not about penalties but holds volunteers accountable for themselves.

“The hope is that they read, they know that they shouldn’t be there, and it is a reminder,” he said.

He clarified his stance by saying he doesn’t want to send people to jail if it is not necessary.

“The reason why I removed the penalty is because … the situation I envision in my mind was that someone, a youth, might go to the question, and he truly believes he is not a child molester because he might have ‘sexted,’ " Andrade said. “If he ‘sexted,’ then technically he has to register as a child molester. What I don’t want it some teenager to have to spend time in jail.”

The bill passed with 111 votes in favor and none against. ..Source..

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