A bill that would prohibit sex offenders who commit crimes against children from running for school board gained committee approval Monday.
The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of HB64 on Monday, with only one lawmaker voting against it. The bill would prohibit sex offenders, convicted of egregious acts against children, from seeking seats on local school boards and the state school board.
Bill sponsor Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, decided to run the bill after Richard Wagner Jones unsuccessfully campaigned against incumbent Dan Lofgren for a term on the Granite Board of Education. Jones spent five years in prison and 10 years on probation after a 1990 second-degree felony conviction of sexual abuse of a child.
"The intent of this bill is really to protect children and make sure those people in that position of authority over them are people that can be trusted," Moss said.
Jones could not be reached for comment on Monday. But he told The Salt Lake Tribune in October that he has successfully visited his own children’s schools over the years by calling their principals ahead of time to get permission.
Jones’ website, www.electwagner.com, describes Jones as a "repentant sinner" and argues that repentance and rehabilitation are important concepts in a healthy community. The website says history is "rich with examples of individuals who have made great contributions to God and Country after they have committed serious errors and crimes."
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, was the lone committee member to vote against the measure saying it didn’t make sense to him that a sex offender should be prohibited from running for the office while a convicted murderer still may do so -- an issue not addressed in the bill.
And last week, when Moss first brought the bill before the committee, Greene argued that the choice should be up to voters as it was for Jones during the last election. The committee voted to hold the bill last week to give Moss time to amend it to make sure it only applied to sex offenders convicted of crimes against children.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City, said Monday the bill also is logical because of the limitations already imposed on registered sex offenders when it comes to time around children.
"Without supervision, they can’t even walk into a school," Arent said. "To do a job of being on a school board it doesn’t make sense."
The bill now moves to the House floor.
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