Residency rules are looser in latest bill

ATLANTA --- Georgia lawmakers on Wednesday moved again toward imposing strict residency requirements on sex offenders.


By a 9-4 vote, a House judiciary panel approved changes designed to appease the state's top court, which overturned the strict new residency requirements in November. But sponsors refused to address other parts of the law, which critics said could do more harm than good by rendering vast residential areas off-limits to sex offenders.

"If someone wants to incorporate those concerns in a bill, we will hear that," said state Rep. David Ralston, the proposal's sponsor. But he added, "I didn't think it was appropriate to reopen the entire law."

The residency law prohibited sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of just about anywhere children gather -- schools, churches, parks, gyms, swimming pools or one of the state's 150,000 school bus stops.

The Georgia Supreme Court overturned portions of the law, ruling that it did not protect the property rights of offenders.

The latest version of the bill allows a sex offender who owns a home to stay there if a center where children gather later opens nearby. It carves out a similar exception for sex offenders who have established employment.