AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci set aside another bill he won’t sign into law Wednesday – one he said would narrow the circumstances under which a person convicted of a sex crime between 1982 and 1992 would be required to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

Citing Department of Public Safety estimates, the governor’s office said as many as 580 currently registered sex offenders would no longer be required to register.

Baldacci acknowledged that lawmakers had been trying to differentiate between dangerous criminals and individuals who are less likely to commit new crimes. But he said more work is needed to refine registry guidelines.

This summer, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to convene to study issues related to sex offender registration.

“I have no doubt that there are people on the registry who shouldn’t be required to register because they no longer pose a risk to public safety. But until we have a better system to judge who those people are, we should continue with our current law. When it comes to sex offenders on the registry, we should err on the side of caution,” Baldacci said in a statement.

In September 2007, the state supreme court said Maine’s sex offender law could be unconstitutional because it retroactively increases criminal punishments for people who have already completed their sentences.

The decision came less than two years after a 20-year-old Canadian man killed two sex offenders in Maine after randomly getting their names from the state’s online registry.

An anonymous John Doe had sued after being notified – a week before the shootings – that his name had to be placed in the registry. In his lawsuit, the man argued that the law violated his rights by requiring him to register as a sex offender even though the law didn’t exist when he was convicted. His case was originally thrown out. But the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ordered the lawsuit to be reinstated.

“I believe that the Maine Sex Offender Registry can be improved, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to find a screening process that will better evaluate the risks posed by individuals before they are removed from the registry,” Baldacci said Wednesday.

Noting the upcoming study by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, the governor said “it would be premature to change the current law with this important review about to commence.”

Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, the House chairman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety panel, said Wednesday he would be comfortable having the Legislature take a new look at the issue in the next session.

Baldacci had previously set aside four other bills enacted by the Legislature.

With the current Legislature not scheduled to reconvene this year, Baldacci’s pocket vetoes may very well mean the bills will not become law.

If a governor does not sign a bill while the Legislature is still in session, the bill becomes law after 10 days. But if the Legislature has adjourned for the year, the bill does not become law – unless the Legislature comes back into session for three days or more.

In that case, the governor has three days to deliver a veto message or the bill does become law.

The first four pocket vetoes involved one gaming bill to authorize state police to issue a tournament game license for cribbage sponsored by charitable and fraternal organizations with a maximum of 1,000 players once per calendar year and another gaming bill that set out to allow nonprofit organizations to conduct games of chance without a license.

Also blocked were a proposal to establish a Maine Fund of Funds within the Small Enterprise Growth Board to increase access to venture capital and a measure to shift public notice of government business toward the Internet.

AP-ES-04-30-08 1810EDT

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