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Georgia campus rape bill dead - for now

A Senate committee appears to have killed a bill that would change the way Georgia’s public universities investigate and punish allegations of sexual assault on campus.

At a hearing on Thursday, senators agreed issues surrounding House Bill 51 had become too complicated to resolve before the legislative session wraps up next week. They voted to table the measure.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, was unfazed by the vote, saying he it would give him more time to work on the measure.

The bill was designed to give students accused of sexual assault better due process protections. Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, said that even if students are never criminally prosecuted, they could still see their lives upended by hefty legal fees and an expulsion or suspension from college that derails job prospects.

One of the leading opponents of the bill, law student Grace Starling, had harsh words for Ehrhart in her final comments to the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Despite any improvements to the legislation, HB51 “will always symbolize” that the initial intent of the bill was to protect accused attackers at the expense of victims, Starling said

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While the committee tabled the bill, it could still come up again in the session’s final days if lawmakers attach it to another piece of legislation.

Learn more about the campus rape bill at myajc.com

The March 24th edition of Georgia Legislative Week in Review with Aaron Gould Sheinin, Kristina Torres and the Phrase of the Week by James Salzer. Video by Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

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