House members frustrated by Senate inaction on Megan’s Law loophole

The state House has now twice passed legislation to close loopholes in the Pennsylvania law that requires sexual offenders to register their address with state police, and its members are becoming increasingly frustrated that their counterparts in the Senate have yet to go along with them.

Senate Bill 818, passed this week by the House, requires out-of-state offenders who move to Pennsylvania to register under Megan's Law or face criminal penalties. Homeless offenders would have to register as “transients” every 30 days and provide information about where they may be found.

Similar legislation was approved by the House in February.

“We've been waiting eight months for the Senate to act,” Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) said. “It's about time they do something.”

Ron is not the only Marsico miffed at the Senate. Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico has tossed cases against predators because of the loopholes.

“If I was a convicted sex offender and I was living in Florida where the provisions are pretty tough, I would certainly look at coming to Pennsylvania,” Ed Marsico said. “It's an easy fix. It's well past the time for the state Senate to finish the job here.”

The loopholes were discovered last year when Superior Court ruled that transients and out-of-state sex offenders are not required to register under Megan's Law and cannot be prosecuted for intentionally failing to register.

The General Assembly passed legislation to close the loopholes last year, but the bill was vetoed by then-governor Ed Rendell because an amendment would have expanded the state's “Castle Doctrine,” the law that determines when people can legally use deadly force in self defense.

A spokesman said the Senate wanted to combine the loophole legislation with a state version of the federal Adam Walsh Act, which also requires sex offenders to provide updates on their whereabouts. The Senate, however, may be re-thinking that move.

“The bottom line is, one way or another, this issue will be addressed in very short order and get to the governor's desk so he can sign it and get those loopholes closed,” Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson said.

“We can't wait any longer,” Ron Marsico said. “These convicted sexual predators are roaming the streets of our Commonwealth and our children are unprotected.”

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