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Taking steps to protect victims
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After passing the amended FY 2012 budget last week, we returned to the Capitol on Feb. 6 to begin our fifth week of the 2012 session. While we continued to work on legislation aimed at creating jobs and reducing bureaucratic red tape, we also took steps to increase safety for Georgia families and children.

One move we made toward a safer Georgia was passing House Bill 711, legislation that increases protection for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.  Supported by the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, HB 711 provides confidential communication between victims and their advocates at domestic violence and sexual assault centers. This measure ensures that information released in a victim’s treatment is not used against them in court.

HB 711 also makes it easier for victims to testify by exempting domestic abuse cases from spousal privilege. This exemption will ensure that batterers cannot pressure their victims not to testify against them under spousal privilege.

Similar legislation to HB 711 has been passed in 43 other states, and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, as well as other advocacy organizations supporting this bill, believes that it will enhance the ability of prosecutors to hold those guilty of domestic violence accountable. Having received passage from the House, HB 711 will now go to the Senate for consideration.

The House also passed two resolutions last week.  In recent years, there has been discussion about human trafficking in Georgia and the victims of it; therefore, we passed House Resolution 1151 (vote of 166 to 1) to create the Joint Human Trafficking Study Commission. This committee will consist of 13 members that will examine Georgia’s system of care for victims of human trafficking for one year and will report the findings and make recommendations.

Last session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 200 in regard to the crime of human trafficking and now the legislature is looking at a means of a comprehensive system of services for those victims.

House Resolution 1103 passed unanimously and would dedicate a portion of Interstate 520 in Richmond County as the Deputy James D. Paugh Memorial Highway. Deputy Paugh was a dedicated public servant who was killed in October of last year while on duty, as someone in the vehicle he pulled over opened fire upon him.

Last Thursday two bills were passed.  House Bill 409 passed unanimously and it simply clarifies that graduates of an accredited college or school of veterinary medicine can apply for a license without the board needing to approve the individuals to take the exam.  This ensures that the board does not have to approve the individuals twice.  House Bill 707 passed 122 to 35 and it would allow a voter to use a valid student ID with a photo to be used as proof of identity in order to vote.

Senator Stone and I enjoyed a well attended Eggs and Issues breakfast in Screven County on Saturday.  Burton Kemp Jr.’s students’ presence made the morning’s meeting an even greater success. Thanks to all who came out to discuss issues of importance to our communities.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, thoughts or concerns.  If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write to me at: State Rep. Jon Burns, 18 Capitol Square, 228 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at