Florida Counties Consider Background Checks

It turns out known sex offender John Couey was working construction at the girl's school when she disappeared. Now, the Citrus County School Board, as well as the Leon County School Board, are considering mandatory background checks on anyone working on school grounds.

Legislation okayed by a Senate committee Monday goes one step further.

To work as a contractor on a school campus or anywhere else near children, convicted sex offenders would need the prior approval of a judge under legislation being considered. The bill gives parents veto power over who can be near their son or daughter. It is the brain child of state Sen. Mike Fasano, who filed it before Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped and murdered.

Sen. Mike Fasano, (R) New Port Richey, says, "Let's say someone who works an electrical company or a plumbing company or an outside contractor, that sexual offender could not go near that school without the consent of pretty much every parent at the school."

House and Senate versions of bills aimed at curbing sex offenders’ freedoms will be heard Tuesday. The most important items require a compete review of the sexual offender registration process and a review of the probation system.

Money does not appear to be the problem. With the session halfway over, lawmakers have just over $5 million in the budget to monitor sex offenders. Even with GPS tracking and perhaps tougher probation guidelines, Senate sponsor Nancy Argenziano thinks the biggest difference will be keeping sex offenders in prison longer.

Sen. Nancy Argenziano, (R) Citrus County, says, "It's not going to be easy, but I think the more we can put monitoring on our sexual offenders and predators and the more we can keep more of them in prison who deserve to be there, perhaps for life, then eventually we may be able to not have that great a worry of where they are in the community."

While GPS tracking of new offenders could be on the books by July, it will take at least another year to for any probation or sex offender registration reforms.

Jessica’s story has generated support from a variety of groups, including the motorcycle club known as Florida Abate. Bikers were in Tallahassee Monday to show their support for the Jessica Lunsford Act. Jessica’s father Mark is a biker.