Georgia Legislature Passes Some Juvenile-Related Bills, Kills Others in Final Days of Session

Georgia legislators found the money this year to tighten security and respond quickly to emergencies at the state’s juvenile detention centers. They also declared cellphones and other telecommunications devices in juvenile prisons to be contraband. But they couldn’t find the money to pass juvenile justice reform, because Gov. Nathan Deal and others said they weren’t sure how much it would cost. So the five-year effort to overhaul Georgia’s aging juvenile code will become a six-year campaign when the Legislature reconvenes in 2013. At the 11th hour, though, one provision of the proposed code rewrite was tacked onto the contraband bill and passed Thursday by both chambers.

Lawmakers Advance Georgia Juvenile Code Despite Funding Concerns

The proposed overhaul of Georgia’s juvenile justice and child protection laws cleared another hurdle Wednesday, even as local governments continued to fret about the potential financial burden. The bill, five years in the making, would update Georgia’s juvenile code for the first time in 40 years, modernizing procedures and treatments for handling abused, neglected and delinquent children. The state Senate Judiciary Committee recommended passage of a House version of the bill Wednesday afternoon on a unanimous vote. In endorsing the House legislation, the senators agreed that the state’s financially troubled Georgia Public Defender Standards Council should continue to make sure indigent juveniles facing detention have a lawyer. An earlier Senate version of the bill would still have guaranteed attorneys for those youths but would not have made the council responsible.

Stakeholders, Foster Kids Speak Out On Georgia Juvenile Code Rewrite

The stakeholder organizations involved in Georgia’s Juvenile Code Rewrite legislation are still providing input for the sweeping revision of the state’s 40-year-old juvenile law.

Representatives from a diverse array of child welfare organizations shared their respective views on HB 641 at a standing-room only hearing before House Judiciary Committee members Thursday.

Overwhelming support for the effort – now roughly seven years in the making – was repeatedly voiced during the two-hour gathering at the state capitol, along with critical suggestions for improvement. The rewrite has received commitments from Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia House and Senate leadership to ready the measure for a vote in the 2012 legislative session.

“I think we’re finding out that a lot of people have concerns and they’re coming together to make this a good piece of legislation,” says committee chairman Rep. Wendell Willard (R- Sandy Springs), of the presentations made by organizations such as the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Court Appointed State Advocate (CASA) and Interfaith Children’s Movement. “It was very encouraging to me. Hopefully by January we will have a bill that is ready to move forward.”