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Posted: 10:24 a.m. Friday, Feb. 21, 2014

Republicans target their own over bill easing sex offender restrictions

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Republicans target their own over bill easing sex offender restrictions photo
Rep. Sam Moore, R-Macedonia, sits alone as his fellow Republicans slam him over a bill that would remove restrictions on registered sex offenders loitering near places children gather. Aaron Gould Sheinin/asheinin@ajc.com

By Aaron Gould Sheinin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A brand new House member was verbally spanked Friday in the state House over a bill he has introduced that would ban loitering laws and end restrictions that keep child molesters away from schools and playgrounds.

Rep. Sam Moore, R-Macedonia, has made quite a name for himself since he was sworn in Feb. 11. In addition to HB 1033, he has also introduced legislation declaring Obamacare illegal, another that says no police officer may stop a person from filming or taking photos of them and, finally, a bill that makes it illegal for police to enter a home without identifying themselves.

But it was HB 1033 and Moore himself that the Cherokee County’s Republican colleagues blasted.

“I am shocked and appalled anyone would suggest that pedophiles should be allowed to loiter near day care centers, schools — the places where our children learn and play,” Rep. John Pezold, R-Fortson, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If Mr. Moore’s mission was to come down to the state Capitol and alienate his colleagues by staking out positions that no one in their right mind could agree with, he can now hang a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner behind him because he has done just that.”

Moore, however, said there’s more to the issue. The point of HB 1033 was to eliminate discriminatory and vague laws against loitering. State loitering laws, he said, allow police officers to demand identification from someone with no cause. That’s a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Moore said.

“You have a right to remain silent,” Moore said.

In drafting the bill, legislative counsel discovered that state law barring registered sex offenders from being near where children congregate was under the same code section as the loitering laws. To ban loitering laws, Moore found, he had to strike the sex offender statute.

“I saw it there and said it’s political suicide,” Moore said. “I’m not backing away from that. It’s a conversation that needs to be had.”

Moore said that he absolutely does not want to allow sex offenders to target children. But, he said, Georgia’s laws on who has to register as a sex offender should be examined.

Plus, he said, other state laws allow school administrators to force someone to leave school property. If someone refuses, they’re trespassing, he said.

“This doesn’t mean a registered sex offender can hang out with impunity,” Moore said.

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