A local judge’s bill awaits the approval of the state Senate after breezing through the House of Representatives.
The legislation, drafted by Forsyth County Probate Court Judge Lynwood "Woody" Jordan Jr., seeks to protect children and incapacitated adults from being taken advantage of or living under dangerous conditions.
If approved, House Bill 850 would allow judges to request national background checks on individuals seeking to become a guardian or conservator.
Currently, probate judges can request a background check on them. That check, however, covers only criminal history in Georgia.
The bill was inspired by a probate court south of Atlanta, where a guardian’s record came back with no history because other states weren’t searched.
"Just by accident that probate court found out that this person was an unregistered sex offender from another state," Jordan said. "And since they weren’t getting that information from another state, we wouldn’t have found that out."
Jordan said the legislation is years in the making, starting with drafting the language and getting approval through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which would be receiving the background requests.
The bill was reviewed twice by legislative council. Once introduced, it required preliminary approval from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"I have been very careful to make sure we had the groundwork laid on this before we went through every step," Jordan said.
The law would apply to those seeking to become guardians of children and incapacitated adults, as well as those seeking to be conservators for children and incapacitated adults.
By including conservators, Jordan said a national background check can make sure a person doesn’t have a past of fraud or swindling people from inheritance.
The measure wouldn’t require background checks.
"It’s not a mandatory thing," Jordan said. "The statute is permissive. It says the probate court may require these background checks.
"So if it’s somebody who’s been here in the county all their lives and we know who they are … we don’t have to have them go through a background check."
The measure also included a section providing immunity to those who are acting in good faith in accordance with a properly obtained physician’s order for life-sustaining treatment.
District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton of Cumming said he supported the measure, which was introduced by fellow Republican and District 106 Rep. Brett Harrell of Snellville, because it’s "a common sense piece of legislation that does two things."
"This legislation wasn’t controversial and passed the House 171 to 2 because it makes sense to offer these appropriate safeguards," Hamilton said.
If approved by the Senate, the bill would become law when governor signed it.
"It’s just another tool to perhaps protect somebody," Jordan said.