Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill today to require community notification in certain cases where sex offenders are released to halfway houses.
Previously, the state was required to notify community members when a sex offender moves into a neighborhood. The bill expands the community notification requirement to cover halfway houses and residential facilities in instances where civilly committed sex offenders are released from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
The Senate vote was unanimous but several members questioned why Republicans in the House and Senate rushed to pass the bill.
A gap in the law was revealed at a recent House hearing when legislators were informed that Minnesota state law does not require community notification in instances where sex offenders are released from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program to a halfway house.
The bill comes soon after a court panel ordered the release of a convicted sex offender from a treatment program into a halfway house. Clarence Opheim has been granted provisional release, but officials have not yet said where he will go. Opheim has confessed to 100 criminal sexual acts committed against dozens of boys as young as 8. He completed a prison sentence for sexually assaulting a boy.
"We're talking about whether or not the members of the community should be notified that someone who is a sex offender is going to be transferred into their community," said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen.
Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, voted for the bill but voiced concerns that legislators were passing the measure without fully discussing the issue in committee.
"This is rushed and although we have declared an urgency I think it's rushed for no obvious reason," Latz said. "No public member is going to be in any threat here."