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April 04, 2011

LITTLE ROCK - Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today applauded Arkansas lawmakers for passage of Act 1023, which prohibits Level 3 and 4 sex offenders from working in proximity to children at daycare centers.

Gov. Beebe signed the Act into law today. It was an essential component of McDaniel's legislative package. McDaniel promised to offer a legislative remedy to state law last fall after the state Court of Appeals ruled that a Jefferson County sex offender could legally work as a contractor at a daycare center. The state Supreme Court subsequently upheld the appeals court's ruling.

The Act states that Level 3 and Level 4 offenders - the most dangerous and most likely to reoffend - cannot work in any capacity at a daycare facility.

"This law now makes clear the Legislature's intent to keep convicted sex offenders away from our children," McDaniel said. "Parents should be confident that they can safely leave their children in a protective and nurturing environment. I appreciate the General Assembly's overwhelming support of this important bill."

The Court of Appeals in October said that Level 4 sex offender Joe Newman had not violated the terms of his probation by performing carpentry work at a childcare center. McDaniel appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, while at the same time working toward legislation to clarify the law.

The Supreme Court issued its decision last month. In a concurring opinion, Justice Jim Gunter pointed out the loophole in the previous law and said that it offered "little solace" to parents.

Rep. Hank Wilkins IV, D-Pine Bluff, and Sen. Steve Harrelson, D-Texarkana, sponsored the legislation. Co-sponsors were Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, Sen. Percy Malone, D-Arkadelphia, and Rep. Fred Love, D-Little Rock.