This Group’s Fighting to Ease Housing Restrictions for Sex Offenders – and Winning

An advocacy group is challenging dozens of Texas towns on their requirements for sex offender residency restrictions.

By Rhonda FanningFebruary 9, 2016 2:16 pm| ,

One statewide advocacy group Texas Voices for Reason and Justice appears to have, almost singlehandedly, spurred over 20 small towns across the state to change their sex offender residency law.

Late last year the group sent 45 Texas towns a letter demanding they repeal residency restrictions for sex offenders or face a lawsuit. If a potentially expensive legal battle wasn’t enough to sway those city officials, Texas Voices had one more card up its sleeve: the opinion of the state Attorney General’s office. In 2007, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that communities with under 5,000 people are “general law” towns, which can’t adopt an ordinance that the Legislature hasn’t permitted.

Associated Press reporter David Warren has been following the campaigning of this volunteer group.

“It’s a residency restriction that these towns have adopted over the years,” he says, “specifically preventing people who are listed on the state registry as sex offenders from living near schools, day care centers, churches and other places that children may gather.”

Warren says many states have similar laws that place greater restrictions on where sex offenders can live. Texas differs in how it classifies its towns, into “general law” with fewer than 5,000 residents and “home rule” towns with 5,000 or more residents, he says.

“Those ‘home rule’ towns are allowed to adopt any law that those local officials see fit,” he says. “These smaller towns… they don’t have that latitude.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.