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Senate Clears Madden Bill Allowing Towns To Create ‘Pedophile-Free Zones’

Bill Responds to 2009 Court Decision That Invalidated More Than 100 Local Laws

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred Madden (D-Gloucester, Camden) to permit municipalities to restrict the ability of known sex offenders to live near places where children congregate was passed today by the full Senate.

“The Court stated that the only thing preventing towns from implementing these local laws was the lack of permissive, standardized language in state law. We as a Legislature needed to act to enshrine these zones in statute and that is exactly what this law does. It is common sense legislation that will allow families sound peace of mind,” said Madden.

The bill (S-837) responds to a 2009 state Supreme Court decision which invalidated 118 local ordinances that sought to create such “pedophile-free zones” within communities. The Court cited the fact that Megan’s Law, which it held was the primary source of state law dealing with sexual offenders, is silent on the subject of restricting where registered sex offenders may live, and thereby preempted the ability of towns to enact local ordinance.

The Madden measure would permit a municipality to enact an ordinance that would prevent most sex offenders convicted of committing a crime against a minor from residing within 500 feet of a school, playground or child care center. However, towns could not create a zoning scenario that would essentially block an offender from living anywhere within the municipality.

The bill also would prohibit locating school bus stops and child care centers near the residence of high risk sex offenders.

The legislation now heads to the Assembly for further consideration.

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