DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado lawmakers from both parties are working on different versions of a bill that would lay out mandatory sentences for child sex offenders.
Similar bills have failed before. Last year’s bill, brought by Republicans, died in an end-of-session drama that left Democrats struggling to explain why they opposed a bill that went hard on sex offenders. So this year there are dueling bills — one Democratic one Republican.
The intent of both bills is the same — to make sure anyone who sexually assaults a child spends a long time behind bars.
Both bills are named after Jessica Lunsford, a young girl from Florida who was raped and murdered by a sex offender on parole.
“A lump starts to grow and your heart just stops beating,” Lunsford’s father Mark Lunsford told lawmakers last year.
He testified before lawmakers on a bill that would put anyone convicted of molesting a child behind bars at least 25 years. It failed.
“It just broke my heart,” said Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada.
Szabo brought the bill back this year.
“Because it’s important,” Szabo said.
“For these types of offenders a longer sentence is something that’s necessary,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Boulder.
Foote is among those who voted against the Szabo bill, calling it “one size fits all.” But he also promised Mark Lunsford he would try to do something. He’s now introduced his own “Jessica’s Law.” His bill would put child molesters away for 10 to 24 years depending on the seriousness of the crime.
“My bill treats different types of actions differently, but also makes sure to target those who are committing the worst of the worst offenses,” Foote said.
“I feel that if someone is capable of committing lewd molestation on a child that the 25 years fits the crime,” Szabo said.
Both bills go before the same committee Monday. With Democrats in control, Szabo’s bill will fail and Foote’s will pass. But, Colorado will get a Jessica’s Law, and Szabo, who started the conversation, says that is what matters.
Colorado is one of five states without a Jessica’s Law.