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Sam Moore Uses Town Hall To Apologize, Criticize Legislature

Moore met with about 60 constituents Saturday morning to discuss the controversial loitering bill and other issues.

State Rep. Sam Moore speaks to the audience during his town hall meeting on Saturday in Free Home. Credit: Kristal Dixon
State Rep. Sam Moore speaks to the audience during his town hall meeting on Saturday in Free Home. Credit: Kristal Dixon
A mostly supportive crowd filled a dining room inside Simply Southern Restaurant Saturday morning to hear Cherokee County's newest state representative muse about his first two weeks in office.

State Rep. Sam Moore, a Republican of Ball Ground, held his first town hall meeting for House District 22 constituents in the Free Home community 

About 60 people came out to hear Moore speak at the meeting, most of which was dedicated to Moore explaining his intentions behind and apologizing for House Bill 1033, which would have loosened loitering laws across the state.

Moore reiterated the points he made earlier this week when he took to the Well of the State House to apologize for introducing a measure, which would have subsequently allowed sex offenders to loiter in places where children primarily congregate.

"I want to hopefully put aside some of your fears that I'm some hot head that goes running around and doing things," he said on Saturday. "One of my goals today is to say, 'Look I'm not as bad as I have been made out to be'."

Moore reminded the audience he received no guidance on how the legislative process works, and said he had no idea anyone besides legislators could read bills before they are approved.

That ignorance, he said, was a "complete and utter misstep" on his part. While most residents readily accepted Moore's apology, some were still concerned about the decision to introduce the bill and the backlash.  

One resident noted he's witness a "ready, fire, aim" mentality when it comes to Moore's approach to legislating. 

"While you gave a very nice, detailed explanation here, it's a bit after the fact," he said. "What I would say is...truly understand the ramifications of these things. The exuberance is wonderful, but these are laws we are talking about and perception for many folks is reality. I think this scared me a lot and it scared a lot of people who have kids."

The politician told the resident he made an "excellent point," and said he plans to take full advantage of the mentor he's requested to help him navigate the legislative waters. 

"I don't plan on making this mistake again," he added. "Now, does that mean I'm going to shy away from doing what I was sent down (there) to do? No, it doesn't mean that either. It doesn't mean that one bit." 

Moore went on to criticize the Georgia legislative system, which he said "sickens" him because it's set up to slow down freshman lawmakers.

"They want you to sit around until basically you kind of agree to go along with everything they have to say and then you're cool to start dropping bills and stuff," he said, adding legislators become "beat(en) down."

For Lisa-Marie Haygood, president-elect of Georgia PTA, the introduction of the controversial loitering bill gave her some concern. Haygood, who said she voted for and supported Moore, added Moore's actions "have caused me much much grief in a very short period of time."

However, resident Eric King commended Moore for representing him "exactly" the way he wants. King added he felt there was a lot of "misdirected anger and concern here."

"The problem, in my opinion, is the laws that were on the books way before you got here," he said. King recounted a story in which a convicted child molester had received short prison sentences for the multiple times he was found guilty of the crime. 

He then asked Moore to tackle laws that would toughen the sentences for repeat child molesters.

Another resident, Bill McNiff of Nelson, added he wouldn't trade Moore for "two Ralstons and a Cagle."

McNiff was referring to Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. 

Moore added the bill and the subsequent backlash has propelled him to "censor" himself because he doesn't trust the media to properly communicate his message to his constituents. 

He noted he was "ambushed" last week when a crew of media reporters bombarded him in response to the loitering legislation, allegedly coming close to knocking his niece over. Moore said he answered the reporters' questions, adding he didn't have anything to hide.

"Apparently, what I'm learning is that's the wrong thing to do," he said. "And I ran on transparency and I still believe in it. It's very troubling to me that I have to censor myself because I don't feel the need to."

Moore went on to update residents on other pieces of legislation he's sponsored or introduced, such as a bill that would allow residents to fire upon law enforcement officers who enter a home via no-knock warrant; a bill that would prevent the use of medicines and certain chemicals in drinking water, a bill that would allow residents to have raise chickens on their property; a bill that would allow a marijuana-derived oil to be used for medicinal; a bill that would ban the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) in the state of Georgia; and a "motorcycle lane splitting" bill that would allow those on motorcycles to weave between other vehicles while waiting at traffic lights.

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