Rep. Todd Smith takes Governor Perry to task for vetoing HB3148, which would have exempted some teenagers who had engaged in consensual sex with a minor less than four years younger than themselves from having to register as sex offenders.
Gov. Rick Perry vetoed one of the most morally compelling bills I have ever filed in the Texas House.
I authored the bill because of heartbreaking letters received from parents and grandparents describing how their son or grandson has been permanently scarred because of a consensual teenage relationship. All the bill would have done was to give a judge discretion to not place a teen on the sex offender registry for having consensual sex with someone who was at least 14 and not more than four years younger than the defendant.
Perry apparently believes that every teenager who has a consensual relationship with someone more than three years, but less than four years younger should be labeled for life as a sex offender.
The purpose of sex offender registration is to protect children from child molesters. The monitoring and supervision of nonthreatening people wastes law enforcement resources and detracts law enforcement from closer scrutiny of the sex offender for whom registration was intended — those who are dangerous to children.
HB 3148 was passed by a vote of 131-12 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. Sixteen witnesses testified in committee in favor of the bill. There was no opposition.
In his veto statement, Perry said that “sex offenders would be eligible to petition a court for an exemption from sex offender registration, regardless of the age of the victim.” That is simply not true.
The bill expressly stated that the victim must be at least 14 years old with the perpetrator less than four years older. He said he feared this bill would not protect young victims, but it only would allow a judge to grant an exemption when it is in the best interest of the victim. Some of these “victims” are now married to the “perpetrators.”
The bill wouldn’t change the criminality of the offense of statutory rape, which is a punishable crime. It only gave certain teens in consensual relationships an opportunity to ask a judge for an exemption from lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Good for you, Rep. Smith. There’s “tuff on crime” and there’s being smart about crime; HB3148 was an example of the latter, while Perry’s needless veto was the former. The people affected by it deserved better. EoW has more.