A weakened Hidden Predator Act passes Georgia Senate committee

Credit: Reann Huber

Credit: Reann Huber

Legislation originally intended to open the door to lawsuits by adults who say they were sexually abused as children passed a key committee of the Georgia Senate Thursday.

But amendments have so weakened House Bill 605's utility for victims that its author, Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, said he will ask the House of Representatives to reject the changes.

Spencer crafted the Hidden Predator Act to help men in his community who want recompense through the civil courts for abuse they say they endured as children. Many who have come forward in his hometown and around the state with stories of abuse in recent years will be unable to sue due to the way the Senate re-wrote the bill.

“I will now have to tell the five men in my district that I tried to help them, but I couldn’t,” Spencer said after the Senate Judiciary Committee’s unanimous vote on the amended bill. It now goes to the Senate Rules Committee, where it can be held or sent to the Senate floor before the last day of the legislative session, March 29.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Boy Scouts of America, which have faced allegations of covering up sexual abuse, sent lobbyists to work against the bill. Defense attorneys have also opposed it, including one who is a partner in the law firm of Senate Judiciary Committee vice chairman, Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens. Their firm represented a church accused of covering up abuse.

Alleged victims, their families, plaintiffs’ attorneys, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and Georgia Right to Life have supported the House version of the bill.

If it passes the Senate, then Spencer said he will ask the House to “reaffirm” its support for the version of the bill its members passed 170-0 three weeks ago. That would force the legislation into a conference committee in an attempt to hash out the differences before the session ends.


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