New Ga. attorney general seeks legislative changes

Sam Olens seeks mortgage-fraud subpoena, Sunshine rewrite

ATLANTA -- Attorney General Sam Olens announced his is taking a more proactive approach than his predecessors in championing a broad legislative agenda, including a rewrite of the state’s Sunshine Law and seeking new powers to prosecute human trafficking and mortgage fraud.

Meeting with a handful of reporters at the Law Department today, Olens acknowledged his more aggressive approach.

“One of the things I’ve sought to be much more proactive,” he said.

The human-trafficking legislation, House Bill 200, boosts penalties and removes some loopholes that have harmed other cases, he said. Olens grew interested in the issue and approached by Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta, about working with him on the bill, which is pending in a House committee.

Olens is also seeking subpoena power to help his office prosecute cases of alleged mortgage fraud through HB 237 sponsored by Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna. He said his office gets as more than 100 calls on some days from homeowners complaining about their mortgage company, but that he has little authority to help them.

“That isn’t something that is generally understood by the public,” he said.

While he won’t have the staff to pursue that many cases, he estimated that most of them could be solved with a phone call and the others would be a matter of giving priority over other cases the Law Department already handles.

The rewrite of the Sunshine Law, also known as the Open Meetings/Open Records Act, hasn’t been introduced. In it, he intends to update it with recent court decisions and clarify the language.

“The current law is really incomprehensible,” he said. “The press can understand it because they work with it every day, but it needs to be clear for John Q. Citizen.”

One change in the law he intends is boosting to $1,000 the fine for government officials who improperly meet secretly or refuse to turn over records covered under the law.

Olens will join Gov. Nathan Deal, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, the House speaker and lieutenant governor at a press conference Wednesday to announce their joint cooperation on legislation to establish a network of courts dedicated to drunk driving, drug abuse and mental illness.

 

 

 

 

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