Demand better from legislators

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Failure to finish predator bill leaves vulnerable kids at risk.

IT'S ALMOST A standing joke that legislatures - whether it's Congress or those in the states - are models of inefficiency, constantly scrapping over partisan political differences while leaving pressing problems unsolved.

Truth is, sometimes that's a blessing in disguise for the people. Partisan forces have drifted further toward the extremes, and the people generally are not well served by policies cheered by the right-wingnuts or the left-wingnuts. The constant bickering is tiresome, yet it may be better than the alternative of enacting extreme policies.

But as Beloit - against its will - prepares to receive a second out-of-county violent sex offender, it is shameful the Wisconsin legislature fumbled the opportunity to make a bad situation better.

THE PROPOSED MEASURE seemed brilliant in its simplicity. It could be summarized in four words: Keep your own perverts.

Yet after the bill originated in the Assembly, the Senate added provisions before passage. To become law the differing measures needed to be reconciled and that did not happen. The Senate could drop changes and adopt the Assembly version when it last meets on March 20. Or the legislation could be reintroduced next year. Either way it would have to be approved and signed by Gov. Scott Walker, yet another hurdle.

Bottom line: Don't hold your breath.

OBVIOUSLY, WE URGE the Senate to align the measure and get this done. And we urge Walker to follow up by signing it into law as quickly as possible. Mind you, it's too late to stop the two placements Beloit has been forced to endure. But it could improve conditions going forward by mandating released violent offenders be kept in their home counties.

Likewise, we also support a companion proposal from Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit. He's trying to close a loophole related to plea bargaining. Both out-of-county offenders being placed in Beloit should have more restricted status, but pleading to lesser crimes allowed them to escape being classified as serious child sex offenders. Essentially, Spreitzer's proposal sets a common-sense standard of looking at the actual offense, not the plea deal.

The most important job adults have is protecting vulnerable young people from predators. So far, our legislators have failed. We should demand better.

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