Bills of Interest to Child Advocates
Note: this list now only includes bills that crossed over and, therefore, may still pass this year.
HB 272 was introduced by Representative Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold) on February 17, 2011. This bill would amend O.C.G.A. 15-11-21 to eliminate the option for cases heard before an associate judge in juvenile court to be reheard before a full juvenile court judge. HB 272 passed the House on March 14, 2011, and received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 24, 2011 but never received a vote in the full Senate. It will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 19, 2012 in room 307 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.
HB 641, the Child Protection and Public Safety Act, was introduced by Representative Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) on April 12, 2011. This bill is a comprehensive revision of O.C.G.A. Title 15, Chapter 11, Georgia's juvenile code. It reorganizes the code for ease of understanding and application, modernizes substantive provisions to reflect advances in research and practice, and brings Georgia into full compliance with federal laws applicable to juvenile court proceedings. HB 641 unanimously passed the House on Wednesday, February 29, 2012. It now awaits consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
HB 711 was introduced by Representative Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta) on January 11, 2012. This bill would amend O.C.G.A. 24-5-503 to expand the circumstances in which a person can be forced to testify against his or her spouse. Specifically, in cases where one spouse is accused of a crime against a child, the testifying spouse could be compelled to give any evidence relevant to the case. Additionally, if a spouse is accused of a crime against the other spouse, such as domestic violence, the victim spouse could be compelled to give testimony. The bill would also create a new privilege, protecting communications between a victim and an advocate at a family violence, sexual assault, or rape crisis program. HB 711 passed the House on Tuesday, February 7, 2012. It received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 12, 2012, and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
HB 861 was introduced by Representative Michael Harden (R-Toccoa) on February 1, 2012. This bill would add a new code section, O.C.G.A. 49-4-3.1, to require drug testing of applicants prior to the receipt of public benefits and random drug testing of existing benefit recipients. Those who test positive once would be denied benefits but could reapply without a waiting person. Anyone who failed a second test would be ineligible to reapply for 2 years. Anyone failing a third test would be ineligible indefinitely. The cost of the drug tests is to be deducted from the first year's benefits. A child's benefits are not supposed to be affected by a parent's positive test. Instead, an alternate payee is to be appointed. HB 861 passed the House on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, and has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
HB 1176 was introduced by Representative Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) on February 27, 2012. This bill encompasses a wide range of reforms recommended by the 2011 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians. Though the focus of the legislation is on reform of adult criminal proceedings, there are a number of provisions of interest to child advocates. HB 1176 would amend O.C.G.A. 19-7-5 to expand the professionals required to report child abuse to include clergy members and would add definitions to clarify that coaches and university personnel are required to report. It would also amend O.C.G.A. 17-3-2.1 to eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children. HB 1176 has been assigned to the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Criminal Justice Reform, which held hearings on Thursday and Friday, March 1 and 2, 2012 but did not vote. Because this bill is assigned to a joint committee, it did not have to pass by Crossover Day in order to become law this year.
HR 1151 was introduced by Representative Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) on January 24, 2012. This resolution would create a joint study commission on human trafficking. The study commission would be tasked with reviewing and making recommendations for a comprehensive system of services for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. HR 1151passed the House on Tuesday, February 7, 2012. It received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
SB 292 was introduced by Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) on January 11, 2012. This bill would add a new code section, O.C.G.A. 49-4-193, to require applicants for public assistance to submit to a drug test. Applicants who test positive for drugs would be ineligible for TANF until their next opportunity to reapply and retest. For a first positive test, reapplication can be made after 1 month, for the second after 3 months, and for the third after 1 year. A child's benefits are not supposed to be affected by a parent's positive test. Instead, an alternate payee is to be appointed. SB 292 passed the Senate on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, and now awaits consideration by the House Civil Judiciary Committee.
SB 312 was introduced by Senator William Ligon (R-Brunswick) on January 23, 2012. This bill would add a new code section, O.C.G.A. 49-4-20, to require recipients of food stamps to participate in personal growth activities, including working toward a GED, and enrolling in technical school, adult literacy classes, or self-development classes. People under age 16 or over age 59, those with developmental disabilities, those unable to work due to a permanent or temporary disability, those caring for a child under 6 or an incapacitated parent, and primary caregivers for children under 12 would be exempt from the requirements of this bill. It would not take effect until funding is appropriated. SB 312 passed the Senate on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, and now awaits consideration by the House Civil Judiciary Committee.
SB 316 was introduced by Senator Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) on January 24, 2012. This bill would amend O.C.G.A. 17-3-1, and 17-3-2.1 to extend the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions stemming from the sexual abuse of a child. Specifically, a sexual crime committed against child under the age of 16 could be prosecuted until 10 years after the victim's 18th birthday. SB 316 passed the Senate on February 23, 2012, and has been assigned to the House Civil Judiciary Committee.
SB 355 was introduced by Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) on January 30, 2012. This bill would amend O.C.G.A. 19-7-5 relating to the legal requirement to report child abuse. Those professionals who are currently required to report would continue to have to report to DFCS within 24 hours. Any other adult who witnessed child neglect, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation or received reliable information from a witness of child neglect, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation would be required to report to law enforcement within 72 hours. The bill provides a limited exception to protect clergy-parishioner confidentiality. It also includes definitions of the terms "child service organization personnel," "clergy," and "school." SB 355 received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, February 27, 2012, and passed the Senate on Monday, March 5, 2012. It has been assigned to the House Civil Judiciary Committee.
SB 366 was introduced by Senator Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) on February 1, 2012. This bill would amend O.C.G.A. 49-4A-11 and add new code section 49-4A-15 to expand the list of items considered to be contraband in juvenile detention centers. The bill would prohibit bringing telecommunications devices and other contraband past the guard line of a Department of Juvenile Justice facility, and would also prohibit anyone from giving any item to a child in such facility without permission. SB 366 passed the Senate on February 16, 2012, and will be considered by the House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 19, 2012 in room 132 of the Capitol.