AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The initiative needs 373,816 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, with backers saying it most likely would be ready for the November 2006 election. “It’s time for new laws and tough laws that not only prevent our children from being victimized, but also deal appropriately with those who prey on our children,” said Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster. Runner, who with her husband, state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, introduced a legislative version of Jessica’s Law, joined the governor in kicking off the signature drive. The ACLU of Southern California hasn’t taken a formal position on the measure. In supporting the effort, Assemblywoman Runner said authorities currently can’t locate 17,000 sex offenders – about one in five – who are registered in California. BURBANK – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and several state lawmakers kicked off a signature drive Thursday to place an initiative on next year’s ballot for what would be the nation’s most comprehensive sex-offender punishment and control reform. “We will send a very clear message to all the sexual predators out here, the cowards who want to victimize innocent Californians, that we will stop you, we will catch you and we will punish you,” Schwarzenegger said. The measure – called Jessica’s Law after a package of similar laws being pursued around the nation following a case in Florida – would require all paroled and newly registered sex offenders to wear a locator bracelet that would track their whereabouts at all times. It also would strengthen punishments for sex offenders, increase parole periods and toughen punishments for anyone convicted of using “date rape drugs” or the Internet to lure children into sex crimes or pornography. The initiative would not apply retroactively, but would require those on parole, as well as those entering the system, to wear bracelets that would be networked into the Global Positioning System. Sen. Runner said there’s still a “small window of opportunity” for the Legislature to act. In lieu of that, the initiative drive – which already has raised about $400,000 – will press forward with a massive mailing and other outreach efforts. He said the cost of the entire program, which could run into the tens of millions of dollars when fully implemented, could be partially offset by tapping offenders for some of the cost of tracking them. Schwarzenegger, in a heated battle over a series of his own initiatives to reform the state’s budget and other practices on the Nov. 8 ballot, said he remains confident that momentum is building. He downplayed a visit Thursday by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who’s stumping against Proposition 75, a measure on the Nov. 8 special-election ballot that would place limits on public-employee unions’ use of member dues. Schwarzenegger said he and Kerry differ on the issue, even though they do “ice skating and hockey” together. In his opposition to the measure, Kerry said the initiative is “nothing more than yet another recycled attempt to limit the power of the people who work the hardest to educate our children and keep us safe and secure – our firefighters, our teachers, our nurses and our police officers.” But Schwarzenegger said he’s reframed the debate over the issue. He said nurses, teachers, firefighters and other members of public-employee unions are beginning to understand that the measure is not targeting them but rather “union bosses.” Beth Barrett, (818) 713-3731 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!