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Ga. House votes again to limit where sex offenders can live, work
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    ATLANTA (AP) — The House took another stab Tuesday at limiting where sex offenders can live and work, passing a proposal to fix a part of the law the Georgia Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional.
    But lawmakers refused to address other portions of the law that critics say renders vast residential areas of the state off-limits to sex offenders.
    The House’s 141-29 vote aims to a fix a law adopted in 2005 banning 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.
    In November the state’s high court overturned portions of the law, ruling that it failed to protect the property rights of offenders who could be forced to move if a facility catering to children pops up near their home.
    House Republican leaders quickly vowed to retool the measure in hopes of answering the court’s concerns. The proposal approved Tuesday would allow a sex offender who owns his or her home to stay there if a center where children gather later opens up nearby. It carves out a similar exception for sex offenders who work near such a center.
    ‘‘This really comes down to: ’Do you really want to reinstate residency restrictions in Georgia?’’’ said state Rep. David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican who sponsored the bill. ‘‘That’s kind of what it’s about. That’s as simple as I can put it to you.’’
    But the measure adopted Tuesday failed to address other challenges to the law that was supposed to go into effect in July 2006.
    A federal judge initially delayed its enforcement by ruling that the school bus stop provision could not be enforced unless school boards officially designated them. Few boards have since done so.
    That lawsuit is still pending, along with another challenge against a provision that could evict offenders who live near churches. And critics, including state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, have promised the legal challenges will continue if the concerns are not addressed.
    ‘‘We need to make some changes to this law. It’s time for us to take responsibility for our laws that we pass in this body and stop relying on the Supreme Court or others to fix the laws,’’ said Morgan, D-Austell. ‘‘We’re moving in the wrong direction.’’
    Other critics, including the Southern Center for Human Rights, argued that it could backfire by encouraging offenders to stop reporting their whereabouts to authorities and that it would prove too costly for authorities to enforce.
    But Ralston said the measure is focused on one goal: Protecting Georgia’s children.
    ‘‘I have not had one prosecutor, one judge, one sheriff, one mama, one daddy, one grandparent coming down here telling me to repeal the residency requirements on sex offenders,’’ he said. ‘‘I think the people of Georgia understand we’re trying to protect the children of Georgia.’’

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