Rep. Jason Spencer, R - Woodbine, sponsors HB 605, the Hidden Predator Act, at the House Chambers during Crossover day at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ga. Senate committee to hear Hidden Predator Act: a last chance to update state’s child sex abuse laws this year?

Georgia legislation that would allow older adults to sue people they say molested them when they were children will get a hearing Wednesday as the clock ticks toward the end of the 2018 legislative session.

The Hidden Predator Act passed the Georgia House of Representatives 170-0 on the last possible day last month, but can’t get a vote in the Senate unless the chamber’s Judiciary Committee passes it. The committee heard from supporters and opponents of House Bill 605 by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, last week, but did not vote on it.

Late Tuesday, the committee released an agenda showing the bill is up for discussion at 4 p.m. Wednesday, just over a week before the session’s scheduled end on March 29.

The Hidden Predator Act builds on a similar law adopted three years ago, this time extending the statute of limitations for lawsuits to age 38 from 23. It also proposes certain situations where alleged victims of any age could sue. The most discussed element has been the inclusion of “entities,” such as churches and youth organizations accused of a cover-up, as possible defendants. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Boy Scouts of America are openly opposing the bill and have sent lobbyists to work against it. Those who’ve testified in support include alleged victims, their families, plaintiffs’ attorneys, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and Georgia Right to Life.


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