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ATLANTA Gov. Nathan Deal took to Twitter this week to voice his reservations about the Senate’s take on revamping Georgia’s adoption laws.

Last year, an adoption overhaul was derailed when a group of lawmakers added a controversial religious liberty proposal, effectively stalling the legislation in the final minutes of the session.

But the governor appears to be concerned the revised measure could weaken the role of the Department of Family and Children Services in protecting children.

The governor said last year the proposal would create an “unchecked system” that would allow parents and others to side step the “well established confines of legal adoption and/or our child welfare system.”

Thursday, he indicated his concerns have not gone away.

“I commend the Senate for taking action on HB 159,” Deal tweeted shortly after the vote. “However, I have serious concerns regarding their version of the bill and am hopeful they will be addressed through the legislative process.”

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle meanwhile praised the addition of the vetoed measure in a statement Thursday, saying it would give parents an option when facing hardship such as a job loss, domestic violence or addiction.

Right now, Cagle said parents have two choices: Muddle through in an environment that may not be good for the child, or ask for help and watch their children go into state custody.

Currently, there are about 13,500 children in Georgia’s foster care system, which has ballooned as more parents struggle with addiction.

“There is no reason to unnecessarily use the heavy hand of government to force children into the custody of strangers when it could easily be avoided,
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” Cagle said in the statement.

The bill now goes back to the House, where Speaker David Ralston has named the measure as one of his priorities for the year. He said in a statement it will take some time to review the changes.

“The House will continue to work on this bill to ensure the best possible outcome for children awaiting adoption,” Ralston said.

The broader measure has been pitched as a modernization of the state’s nearly three decade old adoption law. There appears to be universal agreement that changes are needed to speed up adoptions in Georgia, where the process usually takes 30 months or more than twice the national average.

The Senate also made relatively minor changes, such as keeping a mandatory wait period that would allow a birth mother to change her mind. The House version would have let a mother waive the 10 day wait time entirely; the Senate wants to shorten it to three days.

The Senate also nixed a change dealing with the types of compensation allowed for birth mothers. The House version would have allowed adoptive parents using a private attorney as opposed to a placement agency to pay for the birth mother’s living expenses.

“If you think about this provision for more than a few seconds you will realize that, by creating the expectation that there should be a payment for every child, it will drive up the cost of adoption for everyone,” said Sen. David Shafer, R Duluth, who was adopted.

Proponents of religious freedom protections say a proposal to create safeguards for faith based organizations will be taken up separately.

This teed lawmakers up for another round of religious liberty debate as Amazon on Thursday named Atlanta as one of its 20 finalists for the company’s second headquarters, a prize that comes with 50,000 jobs.
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