Across Georgia

Bill would let some sex offenders off list


ATLANTA --- Some low-risk sex offenders would be able to get off the state's registry under a bill that cleared the House.

The legislation would give certain inmates the ability to petition the courts to remove them from the registry after completing their sentences. Among those who would be eligible are the disabled, those confined to a hospice and so-called Romeo and Juliet statutory rape cases, in which the teens are close together in age. A judge could approve or deny the petition.

The bill passed 165-1 Tuesday.

The legislation was introduced last year by David Ralston, now speaker of the House.

Bill would ban release of some crime photos

ATLANTA --- Georgia's open records law would ban the release of crime scene photos showing dismembered body parts or nude genitalia under legislation approved unanimously in the House.

The bill was prompted by Hustler magazine's request for graphic crime photos of Meredith Emerson, the hiker whose naked, dismembered body was found in January 2008 in the north Georgia woods.

A judge has barred authorities from releasing the photos. House Speaker David Ralston called the porn magazine's request "vile."

State Rep. Jill Chambers, the bill's sponsor, said Tuesday that under the bill reporters could still view the photos but would be banned from copying them or removing them from law enforcement custody.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Cagle proposes grants for needy students

ATLANTA --- College students from poor families who don't have the grades to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship could get a small grant under legislation proposed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, whose family could not afford to send him to college.

Students who qualify for a federal Pell Grant could get the lottery-funded grant from the state, according to Sen. Jack Hill, sponsor of the bill.

Georgia has drawn criticism from national education groups for not having a needs-based scholarship.

Hill estimated grants from the new program would be no more than $600 to $700.

"It all depends on us having the money," he said.

Hill's legislation doesn't spell out income caps to qualify. It leaves that to the Student Finance Commission. The majority of Pell Grants go to families with incomes below $35,000.