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Child endangerment bill gaining support

By Michael Davis

Child advocates heard encouraging news from top state officials Wednesday as they met to lobby for the passage of the governor's child endangerment bill.

At a press conference, Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor assured child advocates of their support for the bi-partisan Senate Bill 467 that would make it a felony to put a child in harm's way.

"It puts a little bit more bite on people who are putting their children at risk," said Logan Cook, president of Prevent Child Abuse Henry County.

The governor's proposed law, which passed unanimously through the Senate last week, creates a child endangerment statute and strengthens the penalties for putting children at risk. Under the proposed law, it would also be a felony to manufacture the illegal stimulant methamphetamine in the presence of a child.

"It would give childcare and legal services better tools to work with to protect the children," said Denese Rodgers, director of public awareness for Prevent Child Abuse Henry County. "Last year they were able to make grits the state food but they weren't able to pass legislation to protect children."

But with Taylor's continuing support over the last three years and now strong support from the governor, interim director of Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, Wendi Clifton, said child advocates now have the "political will we need."

The governor said the bill's future in the House is bright n as evidenced by its engrossment, which means amendments cannot be added to the bill.

"I can't wait until this bill gets to my desk to sign it," Perdue said.

Georgia is the only state in the nation without a child endangerment law. Similar measures have passed the state Senate before but have been held up in the House.

Taylor said that in past years when the bill has come before the House, abortion and gun control lobbyists have encouraged amendments and stalled its passage.

"We never would've thought the bill would be used ? to debate gun laws and abortion laws," Taylor said.

Several local representatives pledged support for the bill, which could be up for a vote this week.

"We hope we can get it through," said Rep. Stan Watson, D-Decatur. "Georgia does not have to be left behind on this."

Rep. Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, also said he supports the bill.

"I think children are a precious resource and we need to ensure their protection," he said. "The least we can do as legislators is to ensure they are not put in danger."