Proposed bill would make state education and nature centers off-limits to sex offenders

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Mountain Grove's state representative has introduced a bill to keep sex offenders away from nature centers run by the Missouri Department of Conservation. House bill number 2142 would be an extension to sex offender laws already on the books.

If it becomes law, any nature or education center controlled by the Missouri Department of Conservation would be added to the list of places off limits to those who have been convicted of sex crimes against minors or endangering the welfare of child.

"This is simply adding a definition, adding a place to the definition on where they can and cannot go," said Representative Kelly.

The Springfield Conservation Nature Center is one of the locations on the list that would be included as a place that not only would the offenders not be allowed to visit, but must be at least 500 feet away from it.

"I believe it's very important when we have a state ran facility," said Representative Kelly. "Such as these nature and education centers, ran by the Missouri Department of Conservation that we, by our actions, more than our words, can show the parents and guardians of these children that we are watching out at every moment for their safety and well being."

"I am totally in favor of that," said Beth Delange. "As someone who has nieces and nephews and working with early childhood for years and now with developmentally challenged individuals, I am in favor of that."

Delange was out at the center with a child she mentors each week.

"I volunteer now for an organization that I have an individual that I spend time with every Monday," Delange said. "And definitely want her to feel safe and comfortable."

This bill, if passed, would make the first violation of the provision a class E felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison. A second and any subsequent violations would be a class D felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison. Representative Kelly said she's hoping to have a committee vote on the bill this coming week.