Chelsea's Law Overcomes Another Hurdle

Chelsea's Law Cleared Calif. State Senate Public Safety Committee On Tuesday

Chelsea’s Law overcame a major hurdle on Tuesday, achieving victory in a place where many believed the bill would face the toughest opposition.

While the California State Senate’s Public Safety Committee is known as a place that stops bills tough on crime, Chelsea’s Law survived and became stronger.

The violent death of Chelsea King at the hands of convicted sex offender John Gardner caused public outrage, which may have been essential in getting the chairman of the Senate’s Public Safety Committee, Senator Mark Leno to change his position on tough crime bills.

“This bill doesn’t pretend to solve everything and fix everything, but it is a major step,” said Leno.

Chris Reed, who writes for 10News’ media partner, The San Diego Union-Tribune, said Leno faced pressure from all directions.

“There was heavy pressure brought to bear on him, on Leno by the public, by the editorial boards up and down the state and I even think by his fellow Democratic senators, who didn’t see this as a fight worth having in an election year,” said Reed.

Reed also said Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher did an impressive job working with Leno to get Chelsea’s Law passed.

Fletcher confirmed that over the phone.

“We’ve been working with Senator Leno every single day, for weeks, months, to find out how we can craft a truly comprehensive piece of legislation,” said Fletcher.

The Senate bill would give true life sentences to the worst offenders, longer sentences for forced sex crimes and keep sex offenders out of parks. On Tuesday, risk assessment tools and a requirement that the Megan's Law website post risk levels next to sex offenders' mugshots were added.

“The bill they’ve come up with is considerably more ambitious than the one that was passed by the assembly, and this was done with relatively few compromises,” said Reed.

The bill also makes Chelsea’s Law cost-neutral, by changing petty theft to a misdemeanor, freeing up jail space for sex offenders such as John Gardner.

The King family issued this written statement:

“Today’s outcome is a testament to our daughter’s powerful legacy, to the passionate voices of Californians who care about our children, and to the legislative process, which exists to carry out the will of the people.”

Chelsea’s Law moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee in early August, then to the full Senate and the Assembly, where it is expected to pass.

Governor Schwarzenegger said he is eager to sign it.