A few years ago 21 News broke the story about concerned parents in Columbiana that didn't want a violent child sex offender opening a snack shop in Columbiana. 

This led Ohio lawmakers to create legislation to protect children after 21 WFMJ exposed a gaping loophole in Ohio laws that allows registered sex offenders to work or own a business that caters to children.  

Fast forward to the new year, an amended senate bill going into effect will now close this loophole and make communities safer for our kids. 

"In 2023, we're going to have a situation where kids are going to be safe," said State Rep. Al Cutrona, who sponsored HB 459 and led a section of the amendment effort of Senate Bill 16. 

Janet Rogers first told you in a 2020 Watchdog about registered sex offenders operating a snack shop in Columbiana. The owners and employees weren't violating any law, as there was a loophole in Ohio that had no work restrictions on sex offenders that were no longer on parole. This means they could open and work for businesses including toy stores, snack shops, or youth gyms.

"To shut down that loophole, my legislation prevents Tier 2 and 3 sex offenders from volunteering with children," explained Cutrona. 

Most states have work restrictions on sex offenders but Ohio has just a few occupational restrictions that stop them from working at a child-friendly business. Cutrona originally sponsored House Bill 459 which would have put a stop to it.

Cutrona now amending Senate Bill 16 to get things moving after the 134th Ohio General Assembly was running out of time.

"Whether it's volunteering through team sports or going on retreats, this will prevent it," Cutrona said. "The bill most importantly has teeth behind it."

That amended Senate Bill 16 now restricts Tier 2 or Tier 3 sex offenders from working or volunteering in a space that affords them extensive contact with kids. Cutrona described the conjunctive relief as having criminal penalties tied to the law involving felonies and misdemeanors if violated.

"It gives us an opportunity to basically protect the most vulnerable from child sex offenders and sexual predators," Cutrona concluded. 

Governor DeWine signed the bill Thursday which makes the new language go into effect at the beginning of April.

This link directs you to the Ohio Senate's website with the bill explained in its entirety.