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Legislative Notebook: Tighter liquor-related laws in works

State Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon, wants to widen the legal net that catches people in alcohol-related crimes.

One of the Senate bills he’s signed on to support would slap extra charges on people who drive drunk while transporting children younger than 16. Right now, the extra charge comes only with transporting children younger than 14. If a child then is injured in a drunken-driving-related accident, the driver could get up to 15 years in prison -- and 25 if the child is killed.

Another bill, co-signed by Macon Republican Sen. Cecil Staton, would hit liquor stores with a $2,500 fine if three or more “violent incidents” occur on the property within a 90-day period.

The latter bill may get a hearing as early as Thursday.

Less children in foster care

The number of children in Georgia foster care has fallen by about half in the past few years, to about 7,000, said Clyde Reese, the new commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services.

Now that he’s in office, he wants to overhaul the way families are treated when they come in contact with the Division of Family and Children Services Division, known as DFCS, according to his department’s briefing to the House Committee on Children and Youth.

Families could be earlier and better sorted into clear cases of child abuse versus families that need other help, according to Reese’s staff. The method is called “differential response,” and they told the committee it’s a more modern and effective way of working.

Reese also said he will ask to hire a staff medical doctor to advise caseworkers and help standardize definitions and procedures within the department. For example, to lay out how children with certain head injuries ought to be handled or how to detect sexual abuse.

He’s also ready to help any jurisdictions that want to create a so-called problem-solving court, which would be dedicated to resolving child support problems. There are already such courts in Athens and Carrollton, which also help non-custodial parents find jobs.

-- Compiled by Maggie Lee

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