It was just a matter of time. First came the laws mandating that society's favorite demonized criminals, sex offenders, must register their whereabouts with the state even after they have completed serving their sentences. Next, various states began passing legislation requiring convicted methamphetamine cooks to do the same. Now, a Republican congressman from New Mexico, Rep. Steve Pearce, has filed federal legislation that would create a national online "criminal drug dealer" registry and require the states to do the same or risk losing federal aid.
The bill would require both the US attorney general and the various states to establish such registries. States that failed to comply would be penalized by withholding a percentage of the federal crime control funds they receive through the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. Convicted drug dealers could be exempted from registration if they become snitches, or in the anodyne language of the bill, if they provide "substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense."
The bill mandates that states pass laws criminalizing failure to register. Such laws must carry sentences of greater than one year. In other words, they must be felonies.
In a press release touting his new legislative baby, Pearce coached his sponsorship of the bill in terms of protecting the children and gave his constituents credit for the idea. "During our methamphetamine awareness tour across the 2nd District in August, I heard repeatedly that we should treat convicted drug dealers like we do convicted sex offenders," Rep. Pearce said. "Both have the capacity to violate our children and destroy their lives. Our communities need more tools to protect our children. In particular, parents and teachers have a right to know when someone who could poison their son or daughter lives in their neighborhood."
No other legislators have so far stepped forward to cosponsor the bill. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.