ATLANTA -- A bill that would toughen penalties for domestic abusers easily cleared the Georgia Senate on Thursday.
The measure now goes to the House, where similar family violence bills sponsored by former Gov. Zell Miller and former Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard have failed for the past two years.
The new bill, a joint effort of Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Attorney General Thurbert Baker, omits the minimum mandatory sentences for domestic abusers, which have been the focus of previous legislation. Instead, it would give judges a greater choice of penalties, depending on the severity of the crime.
Georgians convicted of aggravated assault or aggravated battery in domestic violence situations would have to serve three to 20 years instead of one to 20 years. The punishment for a simple battery or simple assault conviction would be a misdemeanor with a fine of $5,000 instead of $1,000.
The bill, which clarifies that it will not apply to parents administering corporal punishment, passed with a vote of 55-0.
Another change to the old legislation would charge Georgians with cruelty to children if they assault or batter family members in front of a child. The Senate approved an amendment that would protect the victim from being charged with cruelty.