Penning mandatory minimum prison terms into a proposed law to punish sexual predators preying on children doesn’t bother Gov. Joe Manchin, but he’s warning lawmakers they must be ready to pass a bill next month absent any political posturing over it.

Put simply, Manchin doesn’t want a repeat of the squabble that occurred in the final days of the regular session last month.

“Not at all,” Manchin replied when asked if he had any difficulty with mandatory minimum sentences. The governor made his remarks during a Tuesday appearance at a kidney screening function at Tamarack.

Republican lawmakers are holding out for mandatory sentences, saying they cannot support any legislation likely to be offered in a May special session that fails to embrace them.

What does disturb Manchin is any attempt to inject politics into the debate, the governor emphasized.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent those people who are known from being on the streets whatsoever, to protect our children,” Manchin expounded when asked about mandatory terms.

Each Friday, an ad hoc committee of key Democratic and Republican lawmakers, prosecutors, judges and police officers meets via conference call to work on a stalled bill, known as “Logan’s Law.”

That measure succumbed in the Senate on the final day after Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, raised the specter of teenage boys getting long sentences and branded for life as predators after engaging in consensual sex with an underage girl.

“We’re working on a children’s law to protect all children, from the unfortunate, horrible tragedy such as Logan, and children who have been abused,” Manchin said.

Logan Goodall was a 2-year-old Putnam County toddler beaten to death after a pattern of what his aunts described as sexual abuse.

“The only thing I’ve told them is, until we have a bill they all agree upon, and we hope to have that hopefully by May interims, because that’s when the majority of all the legislators come back for appropriations to be voted upon, that would be the time to do it,” Manchin said.

By devoting part of May interims to the proposed sexual predator law, he said, the cost to taxpayers would be minimal.

“But they have to have four-fifths of the members agree to suspend the rules,” he said.

Manchin has targeted May as the month to deal with the measure, but only if consensus is reached so that there is no delay in getting the bill enacted.

“I will not bring them back and let them waste time and money arguing something that’s been talked about the last five months,” he said.

“Everyone had a different idea of how to be more stringent and more protective. And now it’s got to the point to where we have judges and we have prosecutors and everyone who knows the practical side of what can be done and what can’t be done, even though something might sound good. Just to politicize is not always what protects our children.”

The inclusion of judges, police and prosecutors not only adds a practical touch to law enforcement and the judicial process, but tends to cast political consideration aside.

“I really hope so,” the governor said. “That’s what we’ve been hoping for.

“Take the politics out. Not what sounds good, or sound bites, to get people elected or get people defeated. It’s basically on what’s going to protect children and what can be administered. That was our whole intent from the beginning when I introduced it during the State of the State address.”

— E-mail:

mannix@register-herald.com

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