Noodling becomes legal Friday

By Ed Brock

For Stockbridge psychologist Michelle Gale, a new law that encourages engaged couples to get premarital counseling before taking the big step is "the best thing since sliced bread."

And it has nothing to do with whether her business as a marriage counselor might increase.

"People get married for the wrong reasons. They look good, they're good dancers, they're fun to hang out with," Gale said. "Those are all nice things but over the long haul they're not going to make a difference in a marriage."

On Friday the cost of a marriage license will go up to $60 unless the couple has completed six hours of premarital counseling in which case it will cost $25.

The marriage license law probably won't save the couples any money even if they do get the counseling, Gale said.

"You're probably looking at a minimum of $600 (for the required amount of counseling)," Gale said.

Rather, the counseling will allow couples to really get to know their partner, and themselves, to make sure they have the maturity and character to get through the hard times of any marriage.

"That can save an awful lot of grief," Gale said. "There's not many things more miserable to go through than a divorce."

Also soon to be on the books is a law requiring the photos of sex offenders to be published in the newspaper where they live, further controls on the sale of over the counter drugs that can be used to make methamphetamine and a stipulation that would allow parents to be ordered to pay restitution for the delinquent acts of their children. The new law that would make parents liable for restitution in their minor children's criminal deeds is good on two levels, Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske said. Number one, many of the juveniles who are found guilty of crimes aren't employable.

"They can't work to get the money and sometimes with the amount of restitution they owe going to do chores and odd jobs and getting allowance won't be enough to pay the victim," Teske said.

And the new law also recognizes the connection between parent and child that Teske said cannot be ignored.

"This reinforces their role as parents to supervise their children," Teske said.

Parents often don't step up to recognize that responsibility, he added. At the same time, Teske will likely order the youthful offender to do something to reimburse their parents.

"I do not want to absolve the child from personal responsibility," Teske said. "That's not the purpose of this law."

Here are some other laws that will be enforced come Friday:

A requirement that certain nonprescription drugs that can be used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine may not be placed on store shelves but most be stocked behind the counter and no more than three packages of those drugs can be sold at a time.

A law providing "equal strikes" by eliminating the 2-1 advantage which defense attorneys enjoyed over prosecutors in striking juries in criminal trials.

A requirement that handicapped parking permits to be renewed every two years rather than four, as current law provides.

A prohibition against the city of Atlanta from seeking to enforce its human rights ordinance against Druid Hills Golf Club for not extending the spousal benefits to the partners of gay members. The new law says neither the state nor any local government can impose a penalty on a person or organization for failing to treat unmarried persons in the same way it treats those who are married.

The naming of the green tree frog as Georgia's official state amphibian, allowing the frog to join the roster of birds, butterflies, crops, flowers, fruits, insects and minerals carrying the "official" designation.

A statute that makes it legal to fish by hand – or "noodle" for catfish and other game fish in fresh water.

And a law that will make it a felony for anyone in the state to send more than 10,000 false or misleading computer messages in one day, generate large amounts of money from spam, or use minors to help them transmit the e-mails.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.