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Bellone pushes lawmakers on sex offender bill

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. (April 5, 2012)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. (April 5, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is pressing lawmakers to act Tuesday on an emergency bill requiring more aggressive monitoring of the county's 1,106 convicted sex offenders.

Bellone plans to seek a "certificate of necessity," which bypasses the committee process and public hearings that require advance notice. The measure needs the support of 12 of the 18 lawmakers to become law.

Under the proposal, Suffolk police would contract with Parents for Megan's Law, a nonprofit that seeks to prevent child sexual abuse, to step up enforcement of requirements that convicted sex offenders accurately register their current addresses with police. Suffolk would increase the frequency of address checks and develop smartphone applications and other tools to allow residents to report suspected violators.

Bellone also will close trailers on the East End that house 38 homeless sex offenders and instead place them throughout the county shelter system. Police say the homeless offenders will not be placed in family shelters.

The county has not said how many of its shelters can accommodate homeless offenders, nor estimated the cost of the contract with Parents for Megan's Law.

"I think these matters need to be properly vetted," said Legis. Rick Montano (D-Brentwood), who said he'd likely oppose the emergency resolution. "I'm not sure what the emergency is."

Legislative Minority Leader John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said early Monday that four of his five-member caucus were likely to oppose emergency approval, but by later in the day, at least two Republicans had pledged their support. Even with Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) absent, the resolution can likely survive more than one Democrat or minor party ally voting no.

"Generally I wouldn't be so crazy to pass this quickly, but this is an issue we've all battled in all our districts for so long, and they've given us a good plan that's ready to go," said Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley).

Legis. Tom Barraga (R-West Islip) said he was supporting the emergency bill because "it's a very fine solution" that would end years of debate over the homeless offenders, a sliver of the total sex offender population.

"There's nothing more to focus on," Barraga said. "We've been down this road over and over again."

Parents for Megan's Law executive director Laura Ahearn said the legislature should take action so her agency and police can quickly begin tougher monitoring of sex offenders.

"I've been involved with sex offender management for 15 years, and this legislature has debated this issue for seven years, and we have not come up with a viable solution," Ahearn said.

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