GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Anna Jezycki has been trying unsuccessfully to bring the Jessica Lunsford Act to New Jersey for about eight years.
In 2005, Jezycki and six other local residents formed the group Communities United for Family Safety, or CUFFS, when Jezycki said she and her neighbors were not immediately notified that a Tier 3 sex offender was living in their neighborhood.
Jezycki's efforts to impose tougher sentences on child sex offenders have the support of 9th District lawmakers. They said they are still working to move the Jessica Lunsford Act, which is stalled in the state Senate and Assembly.
"We care more about gay marriage and gambling in this state than about the safety of our children," Jezycki said.
The New Jersey sex-offender bill and similar legislation across the country are named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, of Homosassa, Fla., who was kidnapped, raped and buried alive by a convicted sex offender who lived nearby in 2005.
The New Jersey legislation would impose mandatory prison terms on people convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a child under the age of 13.
In October, the state Senate passed the bill, titled the "Jessica Lunsford Act," which would impose a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years to life for aggravated sexual assault against a child under 13 years old and increase penalties for harboring certain sex offenders.
But in February, the Assembly posted a modified version of the act without a provision to increase harboring penalties.
State Sen. Christopher J. Connors said the 9th District lawmakers, who co-sponsored the legislation, were puzzled by the decision.
"We are disappointed this has not gone anywhere. We were close, and we just don't why this is happening. It doesn't make sense," Connors said.
Connors, along with Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, all R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, called the new version of the bill weaker and said the changes meant the legislation would have to be passed again by the state Senate.
Now, both pieces of legislation are stuck in limbo, officials said. The original Senate bill is awaiting a second reading in the Assembly. Meanwhile, the version modified in the Assembly is stalled in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
Connors said the delegation warned that the differing language in the two bills would halt any advancement of the Jessica Lunsford Act in New Jersey. Consequently, convicted sexual predators in New Jersey are still not subject to the harsher penalties that would otherwise be imposed if the act were law, he said.
If no further action is taken, both bills will die and the legislation will have to go through the committee process again in the new legislative session, if they are posted.
Jezycki said she received an email Monday from Connors informing her that the legislation was stalled, and if it doesn't move soon the process will have to start over.
"I am disgusted with it. We just don't know what else to do. They changed the language for no reason. We are one of a few states that don't have it. I don't know why it's stuck in limbo, but something needs to be done," Jezycki said.
The 9th District legislators are requesting that people who are interested in seeing the Jessica Lunsford Act enacted in New Jersey sign an online petition. The petition can be accessed at the 9th District legislators' website at district9.senatenj.com
Contact Donna Weaver:
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