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From bill to study

BISMARCK - A proposal to buy kiosks to help law enforcement officials track sex offenders was watered down and turned into a study. Senate Bill 2161 originally asked the state for $1 million for the attorney general to buy 10 computerized sex off...

BISMARCK - A proposal to buy kiosks to help law enforcement officials track sex offenders was watered down and turned into a study.

Senate Bill 2161 originally asked the state for $1 million for the attorney general to buy 10 computerized sex offender kiosks to be located in large cities across North Dakota.

The goal was to place the kiosks in the lobbies of law enforcement buildings. Sex offenders would then be required to go to the kiosks to update their information, such as addresses, place of work and vehicle description.

Law enforcement supporters said the kiosks would enhance their work in tracking offenders, not replace home visits. The kiosks would allow for more up-to-date offender information and let law enforcement know sooner when offenders weren't checking in, officials said.

The kiosks would have been similar to an ATM machine, with a finger-touch screen. The offenders' identification would be confirmed by a finger-print scan or eye scan.

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Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City, the prime bill sponsor, defended the cost of the plan Wednesday, saying much of the kiosk price tag would be a one-time investment to buy the equipment.

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, chairman of Senate Appropriations, said Robinson's plan is "a very good bill." However, the attorney general's budget had to be prioritized, he said.

"We added quite a bit of funds for various programs to make sure that people who are doing bad things in the state get locked up," Holmberg said. "At the end of the day . . . we felt this million that would have gone into this program was something that we were not willing to recommend to this body."

The Senate unanimously approved the amended bill to study the feasibility and desirability of implementing the kiosk system.

Finneman writes for Forum Communications Co., which also owns the Herald.

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