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Nassau lawmakers push for new law targeting sex offenders

The county legislature wants to toughen its monitoring of registered sex offenders by requiring youth agencies in Nassau to see whether any of their workers are registered, and have that information readily available to inquiring guardians.

"Sex offenders have a high recidivism rate and so pose a serious risk to youth when entrusted with their care or supervision," said presiding officer Peter J. Schmitt (R-Massapequa). "So parents and other guardians should be able to learn if their children are in contact with these people."

Monday, the Public Safety Committee and the Rules Committee backed a "sex offender identification and disclosure law." A public hearing is to be held July 19. The law to help protect those under 19 will go to the full legislature Aug. 2.

The registry is maintained by the state and is accessible by telephone. To check a worker's background, the caller must have a person's name and one of four other identifiers - birth date, Social Security or driver's license number or exact address - to get the information.

Suffolk already has a law similar to the one proposed by Nassau, said Michael Pritchar, a spokesman for the legislature's majority.

Nassau's proposal said agency workers include its principals and all employees, even voluntary ones, as well as those of an independent contractor.

"I don't have a problem with that law since we work with a very young population and their families," said Janice Miles, the head of Concerned Citizens for Roslyn Youth Inc.

Donna Ceravolo, chief executive of Nassau County's chapter of the Girl Scouts of America, also said she has no problem with the proposed law.

"We are the largest youth serving agency in the county, with more than 20,000 girls and 7,000 volunteers," she said. "We do criminal checks on all of our employees and volunteers. This law might be a little different, but we can incorporate it."

Early last week, Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) proposed a similar kind of bill at a news conference with other Democratic legislators, prosecutors and community advocates. But the bill by Abrahams, who voted for Monday's bill, was aimed at hotel and motel workers.

"If a worker is registered, the business operator must limit the sex offender's duties and contact with patrons, including prohibiting . . . direct contact with children," said Abrahams.

Schmitt, whose 11-8 GOP majority controls the legislature for most business, said later through his spokesman Ed Ward that the Republicans have not yet had a chance to study Abrahams' proposed bill.

"It will get due consideration," Ward said.

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