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House leaders again try to limit sex offenders
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ATLANTA (AP) - House lawmakers tried on Tuesday renewed their effort to limit where sex offenders live and work, months after the state's top court declared the strict residency requirements unconstitutional.

The Georgia Supreme Court in November overturned a portion of the tough law passed two years ago that banned sex offenders from living and working within 1,000 feet of schools, churches and other areas where children congregate.

Under a new bill introduced by House Republicans Tuesday, a sex offender who owns his or her home would no longer have to vacate it if a center where children gather later opens up within 1,000 feet of the home.

It carves out a similar exception for sex offenders who have established employment, allowing them to keep their job if a day care center or other gathering spot pops up.

State Rep. David Ralston, the Republican who sponsored the bill, said keeping Georgia children safe is a top priority.

Last year's bill prohibited sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of just about anywhere children gather — schools, churches, parks, gyms, swimming pools or one of the state's 150,000 school bus stops.

It led to challenges from groups like the Southern Center for Human Rights, which argued that it would render vast residential areas off-limits to sex offenders and could backfire by encouraging offenders to stop reporting there whereabouts to authorities.

The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the law in November, saying the law failed to protect the property rights of offenders, who could be forced to move if a facility catering to children pops up near their home.

House Republican leaders quickly vowed to introduce new legislation to soothe the court's concerns. The bill will face its first test on Wednesday, when it will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press

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