Posted: Apr 7, 2013 12:52 PM by Tara Grimes - MTN News
GREAT FALLS - Guests at the Great Falls Child Advocacy Response and Evaluation Center's (CARE) second annual fundraiser and community education luncheon on Saturday celebrated a successful day as four bills against child abuse moved onto their next stages.
During the fundraiser, Cascade County Attorney John Parker announced how these bills were pushing their way through the Montana legislature.
"Today was a powerful day for child protection in the halls of the capitol," Parker said. "Two bills passed out of the House on to their third reading vote, one bill passed out of the Senate."
One of those bills, HB 433, is on its way to the governor's desk. It is backed by Great Falls Representative Jesse O'Hara and would close a loophole in the current law that allows registered offenders to evade convicition by failing to register their true address.
O'Hara said an offender would not be allowed more than 10 days away from their home without registering their new address.
Great Falls Senator Mitch Tropila wants to create a new felony for actions that lead to child homicide. This is SB 160 and is scheduled for its third reading. Another bill, HB 74, would mandate the Department of Family Services to immediately notify law enforcement of suspicious child crimes.
The last bill, SB 198 would increase the maximum penalty for criminals who assault children younger than three years old. It is scheduled for its third reading as well.
Great Falls Police Child Abuse and Sexual Crimes Detective Noah Scott said it's no surprise several of these bills are supported by Great Falls legislators, since Cascade County has seen five child homicides in the last five years and a recent spike in child abuse cases. He pointed towards a specific example.
"One thing is that we've had a re-emergence, a higher incidence, of methamphetamine use around children this last year and we're seeing that a lot more that children are being exposed to methamphetamine," Scott said.
Another bill backed by Great Falls Senator Anders Blewett died earlier this session. He had hoped to give juries better background on a suspect, by giving them access to evidence about prior sex crime convictions involving children.
Also at the luncheon, MSDB's group "Expressions of Silence" performed and the Great Falls Police Department presented a video in which Dandelion Foundation founder Jessica Bray shared her story of losing her 3-year-old daughter to child abuse.
Organizers are hoping they raised at least $20,000 from the event, with all the proceeds going to the CARE Center, which services victims of child abuse and their families.