Microchip bill clears House committee

A House committee gave its stamp of approval Tuesday to a bill that would make it unlawful to implant a microchip in a person without permission.

The bill, which now goes to the full House, would make it a misdemeanor to implant a microchip, sensor, transmitter or tracking device into individuals against their will.

The measure is being sponsored by Sen. Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville) and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and has already cleared the state Senate.

Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), who is carrying the bill in the House, acknowledged before the Judiciary Committee late Tuesday that there’s no evidence that microchip technology is being massively abused and being implanted in people against their will.

“This is proactive,” Setzler said.

He said lawmakers took similar steps in the 1970s when DNA technology was new and some were concerned that insurance companies would use it in determining who got coverage and how much it cost.

Implanting microchips against a person’s will is “such a profound violation of one’s privacy, and we want to do something before it starts being enacted on the fringe.”

Pearson has said the Legislature, with this bill, would send a message that “Georgia is committed to upholding its citizens' constitutional rights and protection of their person.”

He has said that, with rapid advances in technology, lawmakers need to ensure that Georgians are not harmed.

He also acknowledged that he doesn’t know of any evidence of massive microchip implanting, an idea that has run rampant through the Internet and in science-fiction movies.

Proponents say that implantable chips could help in identifying victims of major tragedies such as the Sept. 11 terror attacks or the Haitian earthquake, or even wandering Alzheimer's patients.

Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold), a member of the committee, called the bill "a solution looking for a problem.”

He said a good application for microchip implants would be keeping track of violent offenders and sexual predators.

Pearson's bill does not prevent anyone from being able to have a microchip implanted voluntarily -- as long as the implantation is performed by a doctor and is regulated by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.

If the bill clears the House and is signed by the governor, Georgia would join California, North Dakota and Wisconsin as states that have passed laws prohibiting the forced implantation of microchips in people.