WARREN – Today New Jersey became the 45th state to pass the Jessica Lunsford Act. Eight years after its introduction by the late Assemblyman Eric Muñoz, the legislation passed the New Jersey Senate 34-0, a week after passing the Assembly 77-0. The thoroughly bipartisan list of co-sponsors totaled 50 percent or more of the membership of both houses. Mark Lunsford, Jessie’s father, called NJFPC’s Greg Quinlan this afternoon to thank him and the Council for shepherding the bill to final passage. It is now awaits Governor Christie’s signature.
This legislation is designed to punish the worst criminals who commit aggravated sexual assault against children by keeping them locked up for a minimum of 25 years to life, with an option to plea-bargain for a minimum sentence of 15 years. It has overcome concerns about the wisdom of minimum sentencing and overwrought projections about expense because of the seriousness and rarity of the crimes it addresses.
Len Deo, NJFPC Founder and President, said, “We are ecstatic that this bill has finally passed after so many years of lobbying efforts. More importantly, predators may now think twice about attacking and sexually assaulting vulnerable children!”
Greg Quinlan, NJFPC’s Director of Government Affairs, “It’s been a long road. We’ve worked consistently, and we’ve finally achieved our goal of getting this to the Governor’s desk. We are the 45th state to pass this bill. Governor Christie has indicated support for Jessie’s Law in the past, and we hope to see him sign it into law very soon.”
Many people worked together to pass this bill, the foremost of which are the bill’s prime sponsors: Senator Diane Allen, Senator Thomas Kean, and Senator Steven Oroho; Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz, Assemblyman Jerry Green, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose. Stacie Rumenap of Stop Child Predators Now was heavily involved in lobbying. Bill O’Reilly called national attention to New Jersey’s tardiness in passing it. Just two months ago, almost 400 people called Senator Sweeney’s office to get the bill scheduled for a vote before the end of the session. Although that did not take place, the legislative leadership in both houses worked together to fast-track the bill through several committees in the new session at a truly remarkable speed.
“Thank you all for walking this long road with us,” Deo said. “We look forward to Governor Christie’s signature. And may this law protect our children from harm.”