House revives campus rape bill as session winds to a close

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House revives campus rape bill as session winds to a close

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Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP
Rep. Earl Ehrhart presents SB 71 Tuesday, March 28, 2017, in Atlanta. House leaders are trying to force a vote on a bill overhauling colleges' disciplinary processes in reports of sexual assault but opposed by advocates for victims of such crimes. A Senate committee halted the bill's progress last week, but the bill sponsor, Ehrhart, is using a legislative maneuver to bring it for a House vote and send it straight to the full Senate.

The Georgia House has again approved a so-called campus rape bill, just days after a Senate committee voted to kill the measure for this legislative session.

The House on Tuesday night voted 102-56 for the bill sponsored by state Rep. Earl Ehrhart. Designed to provide better due process protections to those accused of sexual assault at Georgia colleges, it is opposed by some rape victims who have lobbied against the bill almost daily at the state Capitol.

The Georgia Legislature is in the 39th day of its 40-day legislative session and the House on Tuesday stripped Senate Bill 71, dealing with health savings accounts, of all its language and substituted the text of the campus rape bill instead. The sponsor of SB 71 bill is Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro. He is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that last week tabled Ehrhart’s bill amid concerns from sexual assault victims.

Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, told House members Tuesday night that Senate Bill 71 “is no longer except in number.”

He has argued the bill is needed to prevent those accused of rape on Georgia’s college campuses from being punished without being given the right to defend themselves. Opponents say it waters down the campus justice system.

The rewritten SB 71 must go back to the Senate for another vote before the 2017 session ends Thursday.

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