In just his first full week in office, a newly-elected Cherokee County representative already is ruffling feathers after dropping controversial bills, among which is a piece of legislation that would allow convicted sex offenders near places where minors congregate, if passed.
Rep. Sam Moore, R-Ball Ground, through House Bill 1033, is seeking to eliminate a provision in the law that prohibits convicted sex offenders from residing, working or loitering within a certain distance of child care facilities, churches and/or schools.
House Bill 1033 has received some negative feedback, including from Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, who, from the well Friday, said, “I condemn HB 1033 in the strongest terms possible.” Turner, during his speech from the well, said he spoke with Moore about the bill Friday morning. Moore, however, said he only has turned the bills in to be assigned to a committee.
Moore, who was chastised by his colleagues in the House on Friday, spoke from the well Monday morning, apologizing for the path he took to quickly introduce the legislation, but said he felt his colleagues should have come to him privately with concerns instead of doing so publicly.
“What happened last Friday did not move us forward as a state, and certainly did not move us forward as a party,” Moore said Monday morning, adding he wanted to apologize “for any embarrassment this bill may have caused the members of the Cherokee, Fulton and Forsyth delegations, the members of the Georgia State House, the people of the state of Georgia, and especially my supporters and the voters of District 22. Although my intent was pure and my mistakes were honest, I am ultimately responsible for all my actions.”
(UPDATE TO PRINT ARTICLE: After press time Monday, the Ledger-News learned that Moore had withdrawn his bill.)
Moore, who was the lone sponsor of HB 1033, told the Ledger-News Friday afternoon that the piece of legislation started out as a Fifth Amendment bill to guarantee a citizen’s right to remain silent, as it would not require a citizen to identify himself or herself to a law enforcement officer or show any type of ID.
“But, in order to do that, it had to open up to repealing Georgia’s loitering law, which I am actually against, as well, because it is a vague law and it has been abused over and over,” Moore explained Friday. “That’s the intent and that was all of the intent.”
Repealing the state’s loitering law, however, would mean revising a subsection that prohibits sex offenders from loitering where children congregate.
“There is a small section in code that references loitering and to remove loitering from the code book, you have to remove that small section,” Moore said. “I looked at it and, being that it didn’t put the public in any real particular threat, I agreed to take that out.”
When asked about the potential to jeopardize a child’s safety, Moore said there are “all types of laws that protect children,” and the law does not change restrictions put on sex offenders who are currently on probation.
“There is a bill that school administrators, school police or anyone on the school board can have someone removed from school grounds, and you would expect schools to protect children themselves,” he said, adding that the same is true for churches. “All this really does is affirm your right that you can remain silent and get rid of loitering laws that have been abused.”
Frank Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP), said the bill is in “conflict with reasonable officer safety and public safety liabilities” and that the association is concerned with the verbiage.
“The state law in which the author of the bill seeks to change has been deemed by the courts as being valid mostly because of officer safety concerns,” he said. “However, and as always, GACP remains readily available to work with legislators in general to help craft legislation to improve the safety of our citizens yet staying within the reasonable limits of the Constitution of the state of Georgia and the U.S. Constitution.”
The county’s top law enforcement official also disagreed with Moore’s assessment and sounded off against a bill he said, “has no logic.”
“I think this is one of the craziest bills I have ever heard of in my life,” said Sheriff Roger Garrison. “We would erase decades worth of progress in fighting to keep registered sex offenders away from places our children are housed and where they frequent. … I just cannot begin to understand any logic to anything that Mr. Moore is doing other than obviously embarrassing Cherokee County.”
Cherokee County School District teacher Meagan Biello, who ran against Moore in the election to fill the remaining term for the House District 22 seat, also condemned the legislation and, because of it, said she plans to qualify for the May Republican primary (Qualifying for several different seats up for election for the May primary is next week. For more information, visit www.ledgernews.com).
“As a parent, this is unacceptable coming from our state representative. Our elected leaders and our government have a Constitutional responsibility to keep us safe, especially our children,” she said.
While the House was in session on Friday, Moore said he refused to talk with members of the media present at the Gold Dome because he was “doing his job.”
“I am down here to do a job, and I refuse not to do that job. That’s just the person that I am,” he said. “I feel that reasons for this bill exist, and I (would be remiss) to chicken out or to do anything else on this bill because of political pressure, especially since I have yet to hear a single reason as to why this is bad. All I have heard is fear from misinformation.”
Moore also has turned in a piece of legislation, House Bill 1046, which would eliminate no-knock warrants and provide a citizen the right to “use deadly force against law enforcement officers who attempt violent entry into such person’s home without first knocking and announcing their identity and purpose.”
“The intent behind this bill is to stop the practice of no-knock warrants,” he said. “The reason for that is no-knock warrants present a danger to both police and civilians.”
Within the first section of HB 1046, it states that a person is justified in the use of force only if: “the entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner and he or she reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence … and that such force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence.”
The bill goes on to state that, “this paragraph shall be applicable even if the person or persons making or attempting to make a violent or tumultuous entry announce themselves as law enforcement officers but fail to knock and announce their identity, authority and purpose before entry.”
“It is perfectly legal to use deadly force if someone is breaking into your house and you have reason to believe that they are not supposed to do that,” Moore said. “With a no-knock warrant, police officers that come in have not identified themselves, and therefore, the homeowner or person in the residence has no way to discern that it is not a robber or rapist. That person, realistically, would be expected to defend themselves with deadly force if they thought they needed to.”
Garrison said no-knock warrants are used to protect law enforcement officers and, again, said he did not understand Moore’s logic.
“There already is due process in place for us to seek when we secure a no-knock search warrant and that is a very valuable tool in law enforcement when we are going to execute high-risk search warrants for drugs or murders,” he said. “We have to present probable cause to a judge to secure those and those safeguards are in place.”
Another proposed bill turned in during Moore’s first full week on the job is intended to allow motorcyclists to overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken. The bill states that this is only applicable if “the vehicle being overtaken is traveling no more than 30 miles per hour, and the motorcycle is not traveling more than 10 miles per hour faster than the vehicle being overtaken.”
The bill, HB 1047, also nixes a sentence that prohibits motorcycles from traveling between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or row(s) of vehicles.
Moore also has sponsored a bill, HB 1013, which is intended to amend Chapter 1 of Title 35 of the Official Code of Georgia, to prevent any public officer from stopping a citizen from recording in a public place or at a public meeting.