Northeast Times

Proposed law would withhold welfare from noncompliant sex offenders

New law to re­quire sex of­fend­ers to re­gister, or be denied wel­fare be­ne­fits

Sex of­fend­ers who don’t re­gister as re­quired by state reg­u­la­tions won’t be able to col­lect wel­fare be­ne­fits if an up­state le­gis­lat­or’s bill be­comes law.

That’s all there is to House Bill 1951’s single para­graph by state Rep. Mike Regan, a Re­pub­lic­an who rep­res­ents York County and part of Cum­ber­land County.

The meas­ure, re­ferred to the House’s Com­mit­tee on Health on Jan. 14, is co-sponsored by Mont­gomery County Re­pub­lic­an Tom Murt, whose dis­trict in­cludes parts of Phil­adelphia. 

“This is not de­signed to de­prive,” said Regan, a re­tired fed­er­al mar­shal. “It’s to pro­tect.”

The pro­spect of los­ing be­ne­fits will force con­victed sex of­fend­ers to obey the state’s Megan’s Law and re­gister their names and ad­dresses, Regan said in a phone in­ter­view along with Murt.

“It’s a pub­lic safety is­sue,” Regan said. “If you are a con­victed sex of­fend­er and you are out of com­pli­ance … there is a high­er per­cent­age chance you will re­offend.”

Murt said: “The ob­ject­ive is to get them to com­ply, so we know where they are. If they qual­i­fy for be­ne­fits, then they can ac­cess them, but they have to be Megan’s Law com­pli­ant. I don’t think that’s un­reas­on­able.”

Is non­com­pli­ance a big prob­lem? As a mar­shal, Regan said, he in­vest­ig­ated Megan’s Law vi­ol­at­ors who traveled across state lines. 

He said he and oth­er in­vest­ig­at­ors found those people who were out of com­pli­ance and “a fairly high per­cent­age of them were still re­ceiv­ing wel­fare be­ne­fits.”

In the middle of the state, Regan said, about 24 per­cent of sex of­fend­ers were not re­gistered as re­quired by law. Murt said he didn’t have any fig­ures for Great­er Phil­adelphia, but said he was cer­tain the num­ber was high­er in this area.  ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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