The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 21, 2013

Sponsor says sex offender measure will not go anywhere

A bill he proposed in the Missouri House requiring real estate agents to warn neighbors when sex offenders purchase homes would have placed an undue burden on the business, state Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, agreed Monday.

Davis said the measure won’t advance. But, he said, he believes the proposal has sparked “discussion about protecting our kids.”

“It’s not going anywhere; that’s apparent,” Davis said of his bill. “And now that I look at it, I do understand it creates a burden and a liability for the real estate industry.”

Davis said he had heard from a number of people involved in the Joplin area real estate business and that he did not disagree with the concerns they raised.

The bill was first read last week, the same week a large contingent of real estate agents from across the state was in Jefferson City for meetings. More than a dozen from the Joplin area discussed the issue when they met with Davis as part of a series of capital visits by the group.

“He was very gracious, and he understood our concerns,” said Kim Cox, chief executive officer of the Joplin Board of Realtors.

Sam Licklider, a lobbyist with the Missouri Association of Realtors, said the proposal would have meant that real estate agents could face a new liability if a neighbor did not receive the required notification after a sex offender bought a house. The system would not be foolproof, he said, because not everyone who buys a home uses an agent.

The bill also would have required sex offenders who planned to buy property to report their criminal past to their real estate agent. The buyer’s real estate agency would have been required to disclose a client’s sex offender status to neighbors living within a half-mile within 30 days after the deal were completed.

“It’s not the best way to address it,” Davis said. “Instead of making real estate agents liable, we’ll work on other ways to protect the public.”

Davis said the proposal was based on the experiences of a friend who lived in a neighborhood where a sex offender bought a home. He said local children had visited in the house before parents learned that the new resident was a sex offender.

“Nothing bad happened,” he said. “But family members just didn’t know, and they were concerned after they found out.”

Sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement when they move, and their addressees are posted on a registry maintained by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

But many people don’t check the websites where the lists are posted, and some offenders don’t comply with the registration requirement, Davis said.

“I think awareness and involvement is the key,” he said. “People need to know their neighbors. Not to discriminate or retaliate, but to be aware, so they can talk with their children.”

Missouri in recent years has expanded its public sex offender registry. The filing now includes information about an offender’s physical description, vehicles, offenses and address.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

HB 146

REP. CHARLIE DAVIS’ BILL, HB 146, was given a second reading on Jan. 14, but no hearing has been scheduled for the measure.

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