Emily Anderson
Grand Junction, CO, Colorado

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November 24, 2008
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Jessica's Law bill gets state sponsors

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. " Republican Rep.-elect Laura Bradford of Collbran, Highlands Ranch Republican Rep. Frank McNulty and Rep.-elect Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, will carry a bill next year tethering a new minimum sentence to child rape charges.

The bill, based on "Jessica's Law" legislation passed in 42 states, would mandate a minimum prison sentence for a person convicted of engaging in improper sexual conduct with a child. The bill is named after Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2005.

McNulty said the 25-year minimum sentence passed in other states is "a good benchmark" for the new bill. He said the bill would target the people who "commit violent criminal sex acts against children."

"Those are the ones that can't be rehabilitated," McNulty said.

McNulty worked with state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry of Grand Junction in 2007 on a bill that would have created a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in jail for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 15 if the offender was at least seven years older than the child. The bill failed, likely due to its nearly $20 million a year price tag. McNulty said 2009 is the time for the issue to resurface, no matter the cost or current budget constrictions.

"To hide behind the argument that protecting children is going to cost money is absolutely wrong," said McNulty, who plans to reach out to Democrats in the bill planning process in order to gain support.

"Working together I'm certain we would be able to find that money," McNulty said.

Bradford said she and her fellow cosponsors will research Colorado law in coming weeks in order to make sure the bill doesn't overlap or weaken any current sexual assault laws. She also hopes to find areas of Colorado law that could be stronger and beef them up through the new bill " as long as it doesn't cost too much.

"If it doesn't carry a huge fiscal note, that's what we'll be looking at," Bradford said.

The 2009 state legislative session convenes Jan. 7.

Reach Emily Anderson at eanderson@gjfreepress.com.

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 24, 2008 09:10PM Published Nov 24, 2008 09:10PM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.