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2020 Legislative Update

After a legislative session marked by unprecedented disruption due to Covid-19 and mass protest against anti-Black racial violence, the 2019-2020 Session came to a close on Friday, June 26th, 2020. 

The 2019-2020 legislative session saw a number of regressive criminal justice bills that would have harmed our communities, and we are grateful for your support in ensuring that many of these bills did not pass — Governor Kemp’s overly punitive anti-gang bill, HB 994, and HB 720, which would have unnecessarily increased penalties for individuals charged with sexual penalties, failed to become law.  

Additionally, thanks to all your advocacy and engagement with legislators on the criminal justice reforms that matter to you and your communities, SB 288 and HB 984 successfully passed through the Georgia General Assembly. SB 288 allows for the restriction of certain misdemeanors convictions with exceptions. HB 984, also referred to as the ‘Truth in Sentencing Law’, requires credit for time served by operation of law, rather than relying on a judge to use special language in the order. SB 288 and HB 984 will next be considered by Governor Kemp, who may sign the bills, choose not to sign (in which case the bill still becomes law), or veto the bills. If you would like to further support SB 288 and HB 984’s passage, you may contact Governor Kemp’s office and ask that he sign SB 288 and HB 984 into law. 

Though the 2019-2020 legislative session officially ended today, our work as advocates is not over. Despite all of our — and your — best efforts, two bad bills moved closer to becoming law and, if signed by Governor Kemp, will enhance penalties for “hate crimes” against cops (HB 838) and force people to stay in jail if they can’t pay bail (SB 402). Please continue to express your opposition by contacting Governor Kemp and asking him to veto SB 402 and HB 838. 

Finally, we are extremely grateful to legislators who heeded our call to preserve funding to the Appellate Division of the Georgia Public Defender Council and restore $1 million that was previously on the chopping block. However, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the director of GPDC still plans to dismantle the division. This is stunning, baffling, and dangerous for so many incarcerated people who are depending on their appellate lawyers to fight for them.