Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Scramble on to Get Ready for New Laws; Rules Taking Effect Saturday Specify Where Sex Offenders Live, Who Writes Prescriptions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Scramble on to Get Ready for New Laws; Rules Taking Effect Saturday Specify Where Sex Offenders Live, Who Writes Prescriptions

Article excerpt

Byline: VICKY ECKENRODE and BRANDON LARRABEE

ATLANTA -- In less than a week the Ten Commandments will be allowed to hang in Georgia courthouses, and lottery winnings will be taken away to pay back child support.

Dozens of new state laws go into effect Saturday -- July 1 -- ranging from banning protests at funerals to jury duty exemption for those who teach home school.

Various officials have been preparing for the deadline since the General Assembly wrapped up its business three months ago.

"Unfortunately for the sheriffs, we've had two major issues thrust upon [us] at the same time," said Terry Norris, executive vice president of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association.

Not only are law enforcement authorities warning sex offenders about strict new residence requirements that are about to go into effect, but sheriffs also have been pulling together judge-approved security plans for their local courthouses.

One of the leading issues of this year's legislative session, a law cracking down on sex offenders, is proving problematic in some counties because of new rules about where they can live.

The law will mandate that offenders cannot live, work or loiter within 1,000 feet of areas where children gather, including school bus stops. A lawsuit filed this month in federal court is challenging that provision, claiming it is too restrictive.

Despite concerns about the needed manpower, Norris said sheriffs are prepared to enforce the law after July 1. Anyone found in violation can be charged with a felony and sentenced to at least 10 years in jail.

"They're going to enforce the law, and they're going to do it at whatever pace they can manage with the resources that they have," he said.

Another law that could face a lawsuit is a measure allowing local governments to post the Ten Commandments, along with several historic documents, in public buildings. A provision that would have required the state to foot the bill for any litigation was stripped from the proposal before it passed.

"You never know the impact of a law until somebody tries it for the first time," said Rep. Terry England, an Auburn Republican who co-sponsored the measure.

England said the American Civil Liberties Union already has threatened to sue any county that tries to post the Ten Commandments, something he said could make cities and counties gun-shy about the idea.

Opponents contend the measure blurs the line between church and state.

But England said he'd heard "a few rumblings" that some governments might try the law anyway.

In other law enforcement areas, police will be able to stop protesters 500 feet away from a funeral -- a measure passed in response to members of a Topeka, Kan., church who appear at military funerals across the country.

A new crime also will be added that creates penalties for injuring or causing the death of an unborn child when attacking the pregnant mother. …

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