Lawmakers to stiffen litter penalties - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lawmakers to stiffen litter penalties

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March 10, 2006

Albany-- Lawmakers tackle litter in a bill that passed the House. Governor Sonny Perdue established a team to crack down on debris throughout the state. They're pushing a plan to beef up current laws and add new ones to make you think twice before you unload your trash.

For many people, there's nothing like the sight of a quietly flowing river. "The river is just gorgeous," says Caitlin Syfrett. For Caitlin, the sights and sounds of the Flint River create the perfect setting for a picnic.

"I've never done it before. This is my first time having a picnic out here," says Syfrett. The food along with cups and plates are firmly in place for the evening out but just a few steps away, old cups and bottles remain from those who litter.

"I wouldn't do it and I don't see why anybody else would because there's trashcans everywhere," says Syfrett.

"The Governor has made litter abatement a priority," says Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful's Judy Bowles.

Bowles is part of the Governor's litter team that's working on a proposed bill that would harshen penalties for litter crimes. "We started out with 100 dollars then went to 300 dollars and now we're up to 1,000 dollars," says Bowles. The new bill would also make it easier for law and code enforcement to crack down. Right now, state laws are in several places.

"What we're doing is putting them all under one bill so regardless of which law enforcement branch you're with, you can just go to this one bill and deal with hazardous waste, junk cars, and litter," says Bowles.

Those found violating the laws would get public attention. "It allows the judges and courts to publish the names of the offenders," says Bowles. Those offenders sometimes place big items like refrigerators and other appliances where they shouldn't be and it costs the state millions.

"DOT last year in the state of Georgia spent 14 million dollars of our taxpayers money picking up litter off of our state highways," says Bowles.

"It disgusts me," says Syfrett. But new laws could make a difference in debris. "I enjoy nature more than anything and I think people should be punished for ruining it or contaminating it," says Syfrett.

The beauty of the river outweighs the bad but less trash makes her meal a little more enjoyable.

The Litter Abatement Act also adds a new term of egregious litter. Anyone found dumping those items could face felony charges and even lose their vehicles.

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