Bill will deny welfare to sex offenders who skirt Megan’s Law

Sex offenders who don’t register with authorities as required by state regulations won’t be able to collect welfare benefits if a bill co-sponsored by local legislators becomes law.

That’s all there is to House Bill 1951, a single paragraph by state Rep. Mike Regan, a Republican who represents York County and part of Cumberland County. The measure, referred to the House’s Committee on Health Jan. 14, is co-sponsored by Montgomery County Republican Tom Murt, whose district includes Pine Valley and parts of Somerton and Bustleton, and Northeast Democrat Mike McGeehan.

“This is not designed to deprive,” said Regan, a retired federal marshal. “It’s to protect.”

The prospect of losing benefits will force convicted sex offenders to obey the state’s Megan’s Law and register their names and addresses, Regan said in a Jan. 17 phone interview along with Murt.

“It’s a public safety issue,” Regan said. “If you are a convicted sex offender and you are out of compliance … there is a higher percentage chance you will reoffend.”

“The objective is to get them to comply,” Murt said. “So we know where they are. If they qualify for benefits, then they can access them, but they have to be Megan’s Law compliant. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

Is noncompliance a big problem?

As a marshal, Regan said, he investigated Megan’s Law violators who traveled across state lines. He said he and other investigators found those people who were out of compliance and “a fairly high percentage of them were still receiving welfare benefits.”

In the middle of the state, Regan said, about 24 percent of sex offenders were not registered as required by law. Murt said he didn’t have any figures for Greater Philadelphia, but said he was certain the number was higher in this area. ••