Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, passed 133-32 after a brief debate.
Johnsons original measure barred registered sex offend-ers from taking pictures of minors unless they got permission from the childs parent first. Johnson filed the legislation last year after a constituent complained about a sex offender taking a picture of her daughter.
But this past summer, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the states residency restriction on sex offenders, which barred those on the state registry from living within 1,000 feet of a day-care center, school, church or other place where children gather. The court said the standard was too broad because it might require an offender who already owned his or her property to relocate if one of the restricted buildings moved in near the offender.
The new law exempts offenders who own their property from having to move if it was legal for them to live there when they purchased their home.
Rep. David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who handled the bill in the House, said the General Assembly needed to act to pro-tect its children.
"I think its important that we ask ourselves today: Do we want to stay in that posture and not have these restrictions and then become sort of a safe haven, if it were, for these individual to live where they want?" said Ralston, who chairs the House panel that oversees criminal law.
But Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, D-Atlanta, said stud-ies in other states had failed to prove that residency restric-tions prevent offenders from repeating their crimes. She argued that the rules could actually backfire by isolating sex offenders or making them avoid telling law enforcement where they live.
"Residency restrictions in sex offender cases do not work," Benfield said.
If the Senate agrees with the House changes, the bill would go to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature or veto.
Brandon Larrabee can be reached at email@example.com or (678) 977-3709.