Officials call on Assembly to pass bill before session ends
Top elected officials from North Tonawanda called on state Assemblyman Robin Schimminger to shepherd a bill to limit sex offenders' access to children through the Assembly before the June 20 conclusion of the state's legislative session.
Niagara County Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek, Mayor Robert G. Ortt, and city Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson asked Schimminger to bring A.3419 to the floor for a vote, and pass the same, following the passage of its companion bill, S.5680, in the Senate Tuesday.
The bill, which is sponsored by Schimminger, would restrict sex offenders from residing within 1,350 feet of schools and other facilities regularly utilized by children. The Senate version of the bill passed in the upper chamber on Tuesday after Sen. George Maziarz fast-tracked the bill for passage.
Maziarz's camp said he pushed the bill through the Senate after the Assembly's leadership failed to provide a sponsor for a companion bill to one he authored, which would restrict sex offenders from residing within 1,500 feet of schools and other facilities utilized by children. Maziarz's team said he decided to sponsor the weaker Schimminger bill in the hopes of helping Niagara County enact safeguards against sex offenders after a state court in Geneva struck down a sex offender restriction law there similar to one on the books in Niagara County.
"The City of North Tonawanda, the Niagara County Legislature, and the State Senate have fulfilled their responsibility to enact legislation that protects families from the most predatory members of our society," Wojtaszek said. "It's time for Robin Schimminger and his colleagues in the State Assembly to do the same. If he cannot get it passed, it shows me that his sponsorship of this legislation was nothing more than a hollow act designed to placate the public."
Thus far, Schimminger's bill, which was introduced in January, has not been voted out of committee, despite his considerable seniority (he has served in the Assembly since 1977).
"Robin Schimminger has been in the State Assembly for 36 years" Ortt said. "All we're asking him to do is get one member of the Assembly to vote for this legislation for each of his years in Albany. Along with the 42 Republicans in the Assembly who've vowed to support this bill, the passage of this critically important legislation would be a done deal, and we'd all feel a whole lot safer."
Nickerson noted this legislation hits close to home for families in North Tonawanda.
"North Tonawanda has had too many instances of sex offenders preying on the most vulnerable members of our community, and we know that this area has had its share of controversy related to the housing of convicted sex offenders," he said. "This bill simply states that convicted sex offenders cannot reside within 1,350 feet of schools and other facilities regularly utilized by children. Frankly, it's a shame that anyone would be opposed to this legislation."