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Senate works compromise on sex offender law
Eric Johnson Office 2
Sen. Eric Johnson works at his desk in Atlanta. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington


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ATLANTA — After agreeing to change some language, Sen. Eric Johnson’s Senate Bill 1 passed by committee substitute in a 54-0 vote in the Georgia Senate on Monday.
The bill, which makes it illegal for registered sexual offenders to photograph minors, had been under fire since its November prefiling for not allowing leniency for offenders photographing their own children, family members or children in crowd shots.
During proceedings in the judiciary committee, however, the compromise was made to change SB 1’s original version from making it illegal for sexual offenders “to take a photograph of a minor” to making it unlawful for them “to intentionally photograph a minor without consent of the minor’s parent or guardian” in the version adopted by the Senate.
Even with the new amendment, Johnson believes the bill goes a long way toward protecting children from being photographed and further victimized by “sexual predators.”
“It prevents them (sexual predators) from using what is often the first step of somebody beginning to stalk or who is considering going the next step with a victim,” he said.
Two senators, Steve Henson (D-Tucker) and John Bullock (R-Ochlocknee) did not vote on the bill during the session. Henson was excused from voting, while Bulloch abstained his vote.  
Citizen lawmaker
If signed into law, SB 1 could be one of the first pieces of legislation to come from a Georgia resident through the GeorgiaSpeaks program, an initiative created to encourage the state's citizens to become involved in the legislative process.  
Johnson said the bill was formulated after Richmond Hill mother Vickie Lewis contacted him about her teenage daughter being photographed at work by a stranger with a cell phone.
Upset by the unknown man’s behavior and inappropriate comments, the young woman called her mother, who was able to write down the man’s license plate number after arriving on the scene. Using this information, Lewis learned the man snapping shots of her daughter was a registered sex offender in Massachusetts.
But when she took the information to police, they informed her there was “nothing they could do about somebody taking pictures” of her daughter.
“So she suggested and I brought it forward to you as part of our GeorgiaSpeaks initiative ... as a way to outlaw the taking of photographs of minors by sexual predators,” Johnson told senators.
Before Lewis can be credited for creating a new law though, SB 1 still must pass through the House and be signed by the governor.
Under the proposed law,the word  “photograph” includes any picture, film or digital photograph, motion picture film, videotape or similar visual representation or image of a person.
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