HARTFORD - The state wants to clamp down on Internet predators who try to entice minors into sex. A bill that cleared the House with a unanimous vote Wednesday called for tougher penalties for first-time Internet sex offenders, making it a felony instead of a misdemeanor to use the Internet to entice a minor into sex. The bill could increase penalties from one to 20 years in prison. For Danbury-area lawmakers, the legislation hit close to home. Memories of Christina Long, a 13-year-old Danbury girl killed two years ago by a man she met on the Internet, are still vivid."We know this case is a real one, not theoretical one," said Rep. Robert Godfrey, D-Danbury. "It was one of those awful tragedies. Bolstering laws to single out predators is a progressive step." Godfrey said the legislation will give prosecutors another tool to target sex offenders. The Connecticut Department of Public Safety and the Chief State's Attorney's Office support the legislation. Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell has also backed it. The bill, if it passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. John G. Rowland, would do several things to protect children and make penalties tougher on convicted sex offenders. First of all, if someone uses the Internet to "persuade, induce, entice or coerce" anyone under the age of 16 to engage in any criminal sexual behavior, they could be convicted of a felony, instead of a misdemeanor. Currently, the maximum penalty for enticing a minor is one year in prison and a $2,000 fine. If this law passes, the penalty for the crime would increase to up to 20 years in prison, with fines of up to $15,000. It would also require those convicted of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity to be listed on the state's sex offender registry. The proposal is favored by law enforcement because some of the laws on child predators can be complicated, and the language makes it difficult to prosecute some cases. Rep. Julia Wasserman, R-Newtown, said lawmakers supported the bill for obvious reasons, and that more will need to be done to protect children."Who could be against such a thing?" Wasserman said of the bill. "This is an aberration of the Internet. It's an industry that will take a lot of time to regulate properly." That's one of the reasons why Rep. Lewis Wallace, D-Democrat, said the law is needed."The Internet makes it easier to be a predator," Wallace said. "The bill raises penalties that are an appropriate way to discourage people looking for an easy way to harm youths." Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield, supported the bill but isn't certain it will discourage sex offenders. "This may act as some level of deterrence. Sometimes increasing penalties doesn't act as a deterrent," he said. "But we should take any action that could possibly help." The legislation would also create different degrees of possession of child pornography. Under the proposal, a person who possesses thousands of images will be punished more harshly than someone with two or three images. The bill requires a person convicted of enticing a minor into sex, and importing or possessing child pornography, to be sentenced to at least 10 years probation on top of the prison sentence. The probation period wouldn't exceed 35 years under the proposal. It would also prohibit accelerated rehabilitation for enticing a minor, and importing or possessing child pornography. Finally, the proposal would require Connecticut to honor subpoenas, court orders and search warrants issued by other states for Internet subscriber records. The legislation was easy for lawmakers to support, as there was not even debate on the matter."Being from the Danbury area, we've seen a tragic situation," said Rep. John Frey, R-Ridgefield. "This bill is just the right thing to do." Contact Fred Lucas at flucas@newstimes.com or at (203) 731-3358.