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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 26 April 2006

SALEM—Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Monday signed "Jessica's Law," a measure passed during last week's special legislative session to increase criminal penalties for sexual predators who victimize young children.

The new law increases mandatory minimum sentences for offenders convicted of first-degree rape, sodomy or unlawful penetration if the victim is under 12. The new law sets the minimum sentence at 25 years.

It also requires the state to supervise such offenders actively for 10 years after their sentences, and to track them for the rest of their lives.

"Jessica's Law sends an unmistakable message to potential child abusers — act out and the state of Oregon will take you off the streets for years and years," Kulongoski said at a bill-signing ceremony.

Oregon is one of nearly two dozen states that have passed some version of Jessica's Law. They are modeled after one in Florida that was named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was raped and killed by a convicted sex offender.

The measure was one of five bills passed in last week's one-day special session. Kulongoski initially called the session to deal with a human services budget deficit and to provide extra aid to schools, but Jessica's Law was added later to the agenda as was another bill to clamp new restrictions on the payday loan industry.

Kulongoski has touted last week's six-hour-long special session — the shortest in Oregon history — as an example of how productive Oregon's lawmaking process can be when the competing players put aside partisan differences.

The Democratic governor, who's seeking re-election, has scheduled public bill signing ceremonies through Wednesday to draw attention to the compromise measures he and lawmakers agreed to last Thursday.

Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson, who's challenging Kulongoski for the Democratic nomination, said the special session bills were modest accomplishments and that Kulongoski is touting them for election-year gain.

"These signing ceremonies could boomerang on the governor by reminding people that he hasn't done much about education funding and health care in his three-and-a-half years in office," Sorenson said.

Political analyst Jim Moore said he thinks Kulongoski will get at least a temporary "bump" from the short, productive special session.

"It will help him in his primary election campaign by showing him in the center of making policy, but it probably will be a distant memory for voters by the time we get to the fall election," said Moore, who teaches political science at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

— The Associated Press

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