I don't believe in denying a person the right to restore his reputation and participate fully in our system, with one exception. —Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City
SALT LAKE CITY — The House passed a bill 47-27 Thursday intended to keep felons convicted of sex crimes against children from running for a local or state school board.
The sponsor of HB64, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, said she was contacted by many people in her district concerned about a school board candidate on the 2012 ballot who had been convicted of sex abuse against a child.
That candidate, Richard Wagner Jones, lost his bid for a seat on the Granite School District board after his status as a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 1990 to sex abuse of a child became public.
"I don't believe in denying a person the right to restore his reputation and participate fully in our system, with one exception," Moss said.
She said sex offenders are restricted from visiting public schools, making it difficult to carry out the duties of a school board member.
Jones' candidacy was seen as affront to the sensibilities of her constituents, Moss said, describing his decision to run for the school board as "almost an in-your-face" dare to try to stop him from running.
But several lawmakers questioned the need for the bill, which now goes to the Senate.
Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, asked why the prohibition didn't apply to candidates for any office. Sheriffs, city council members and others, Nielson said, also have contact with children.
And Rep. Earl Tanner, R-West Jordan, suggested voters should make the decision about who is qualified to serve.
"Why isn't the judgment of the people sufficient," he said, noting the 2012 candidate lost the race.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, said he opposed the bill because it is bad policy.
"We've all seen people do things we don't like," said Greene, who had cast the lone vote against the bill in committee. "But we don't go out and create legislation against them. It's not proper use of our legislative authority."
He said the bill did not address candidates convicted of selling drugs or other serious crimes that involved children.