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Legislative Update

Yesterday marks Day 19 of the Georgia legislative session. Session is slowly approaching the half-way point, and bills are continuing to be considered and passed. Read on for more information about important hearings coming up this week. 

Bills SCHR Opposes: 

  • The Georgia State Senate passed SB 44, sponsored by Governor’s Floor Leader, Sen. Bo Hatchett. SB 44 provides for mandatory minimum sentences for violations of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. It also increases penalties for those who recruit minors or persons with a disability into a street gang. We are grateful to our partners in the community who contacted senators to voice their opposition before the floor vote. SB 44 will now be assigned to a committee in the House of Representatives, where the public will again have the chance to testify against it. We will alert our partners again when a hearing is scheduled. 
  • Last Tuesday, February 7, Sen. Hatchett introduced SB 100, a bill that further limits a judge’s discretion to release a person without requiring cash bail.  If SB 100 becomes law, anyone for whom a bench warrant has been issued for failure to appear or who has been convicted of bail-jumping in the last ten years would be required to pay cash bail, regardless of the charges they are currently facing. SCHR opposes this legislation that would punish people who cannot afford to make bail and exacerbate the jail overpopulation crisis. The costly and dangerous bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee; we will alert our partners when it is scheduled for a hearing. 
  • Last Thursday, February 9, the Senate Public Safety Committee heard SB 63, which severely limits judicial discretion to release a person on their own recognizance, without paying cash bail. SB 63 would also add domestic terrorism, a charge being used to target political protesters, to the list of “serious violent felonies,” triggering much harsher penalties for that offense. Advocates from ACLU, GACDL, Deep Center, SPLC, and SCHR testified against this harmful and regressive legislation. After the public comment and committee discussion, the chairman of the committee held the bill for more work and did not call it for a vote. The bill was passed today by Senate Public Safety and is now eligible for a full vote by the Senate. 
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 12, sponsored by Sen. John Albers. SB 12 would impose mandatory minimum sentences for a broad range of offenses and provide for a number of changes to evidentiary and procedural rules that tend to favor prosecutors. The committee passed the bill unanimously over the objections of criminal legal reform advocates. SB 12 will be voted on by the full Senate tomorrow, Thursday February 16th. 

As a reminder, the hearing schedule, including agendas and livestream links, can be viewed on the legislature’s website

Advocacy Days 

  • The Justice Reform Partnership’s Talk Justice Tuesday series continues next week, February 21, at 6pm, with “Justice Deferred: Detaining Youth.” According to the ACLU, an estimated 250,000 youth are prosecuted in adult criminal courts and subjected to the consequences of adult criminal convictions. In addition, 36 states continue to incarcerate youth under 18 in adult jails and prisons, where young people are at greater risk of degrading mental health, dying by completing suicide and both physical and sexual assault. The over-representation of youth of color in youth detention centers and adult prisons remains a persistent and troubling dynamic. Nowhere is that more present than in the state of Georgia, where many are still seeking the unfulfilled promises of bi-partisan juvenile reform that prioritizes raising the age, ending juvenile life without parole, and reexamining sentencing youth as adults. Join us for legislative solutions we know will honor the humanity of young people and prove not only cost-effective but work in transforming safety for our families and communities. Register here and join us at 6pm on Zoom! 

SCHR Actively* Supports 

Fighting Mass Incarceration 

  • SB 30 – Sponsor: Sen. Harold Jones, II – Reduces penalties for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana – Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary 

Mitigating Harm to Incarcerated People 

  • HB 179 – Sponsor: Rep. Shelly Hutchinson – Limits use of solitary confinement to “medical units” and mandates digitally recording incidents of confinement, documenting de-escalation efforts, reasons for confinement, and duration of confinement, and monthly reporting from each facility to GDC – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 

Eliminating Barriers to Reentry  

  • HB 171 – Sponsor: Rep. Gregg Kennard – Restricts access to a person’s criminal history record information before until the prosecutor issues or secures an indictment, accusation, or other charging instrument – Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil 

SCHR Actively* Opposes 

Exacerbating State-Sanctioned Violence 

  • SB 11 – Sponsor: Sen. John Albers – Authorizes the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to work independently or concurrently with other law enforcement with almost no limitation – Status: Passed by the Senate and assigned to House Public Safety 

Expanding Mass Incarceration 

  • SB 12 – Sponsor: Sen. John Albers – Imposes mandatory minimums for subsequent felonies involving abuse of a disabled adult, elder person; increases penalties for possession of a firearm by a person with a felony conviction; expands venue options for gang cases; revises various evidence rules – Status: Passed by substitute by Senate Judiciary 
  • SB 44 – Sponsor: Sen. Bo Hatchett – Imposes mandatory minimums for gang offenses and enhanced penalties for recruitment of minors or people with disabilities – Status: Passed by the Senate 
  • HB 188 – Sponsor: Rep. Steven Sainz – Mandates a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of imprisonment followed by probation for life for subsequent “sexual felony” convictions; permits termination of such lifetime probation after 10 years in limited circumstances – Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil 

Criminalizing Poverty 

  • SB 63 – Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson – Mandates cash bail for more than 30 additional offenses – Status: Passed by Senate Public Safety 
  • SB 100 – Sponsor: Sen. Bo Hatchett – Mandates cash bail when a person has had a warrant out for their arrest for failure to appear in the last ten years – Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary 

SCHR Is Monitoring 

  • HB 48 – Sponsor: Rep. Jesse Petrea – Provides for non-partisan elections of district attorneys and solicitors-general – Status: Assigned to House Governmental Affairs 
  • HB 113 – Sponsor: Rep. Sandra Scott – Mandates de-escalation training for law enforcement – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 
  • HB 114 – Sponsor: Rep. Sandra Scott – Mandates implicit bias training for law enforcement – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 
  • HB 115 – Sponsor: Rep. Sandra Scott – Prohibits racial profiling by law enforcement – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 
  • HB 107 – Sponsor: Rep. Sandra Scott – Imposes a variety of limitations on police authority – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 
  • HB 112 – Sponsor: Rep. Sandra Scott – Establishes standards for citizen review boards and protocols for responding to and reporting complaints of law enforcement misconduct; eliminates immunity for law enforcement officers – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 
  • HB 147 – Sponsor: Rep. Will Wade – Requires the Professional Standards Commission to create a school safety and anti-gang endorsement for eligible personnel who elect to complete a training program for promoting and preserving safe schools and for identifying and deterring youth gangs; requires schools to conduct annual intruder alert drills – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 

SCHR Opposes & Is Monitoring 

  •  SB 7 – Sponsor: Sen. Brandon Beach – Imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for serious violent felonies committed with a firearm or knife – Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary 
  • SB 10 – Sponsor: Sen. Emanuel Jones – Creates a new misdemeanor punishable by a fine of at least $250 for actively facilitating illegal drag racing and increases fines for drag racing – Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety 
  • SB 31 – Sponsor: Sen. Brandon Beach – Permits the Attorney General to be reimbursed by a district attorney for expenses associated with prosecutions brought by the AG because the DA failed to prosecute the case – Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary 
  • SB 36 – Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson – Increases penalties for pimping and pandering – Status: Passed by the Senate and assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil 
  • SB 40 – Sponsor: Sen. Valencia Seay – Provides for the unlawful possession of a “firearm part” – Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary 
  • SB 62 – Sponsor: Sen. Carden Summers – Prohibits local governments from adopting a policy prohibiting or discouraging enforcement of any ordinance prohibiting public camping, with an exception for diversion programs; requires the state auditor to review homeless programs in the state – Status: Passed by substitute by Senate State & Local Government 
  • SB 68 – Sponsor: Sen. Rick Williams – Adds dogfighting to the list of predicate offenses for the purposes of RICO – Status: Passed by Senate Public Safety 
  • SB 75 – Sponsor: Sen. Elena Parent – Creates a new misdemeanor punishable by a fine less than $500 for making a firearm accessible to a child – Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary 
  • HB 46 – Sponsor: Rep. Michelle Au – Enhances penalties for aggravated assault and aggravated battery when the victim is a healthcare worker – Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil 
  • HB 135 – Sponsor: Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver – Creates a new misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 for failing to adequately secure a firearm when the firearm is obtained (1) by a minor and exhibited in a public place or (2) by any person and used in the commission of a crime – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 
  • HB 137 – Sponsor: Rep. Clint Crowe – Requires that anyone convicted for the death of a peace officer killed in the line of duty be assigned housing at a close security or special mission facility – Status: Assigned to House Public Safety 
  • HB 197 – Sponsor: Rep. Derrick McCollum – Creates a new offense of murder when a person causes the death of another by manufacturing or distributing any controlled substance that contains fentanyl and imposes mandatory minimum sentences according to weight – Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil 

*SCHR opposes all legislation that relies on enhancing penalties within and expanding the reach of the criminal legal system. Each session, however, we are forced to prioritize certain bills for our active legislative advocacy. These bills represent those on which our staff are actively engaged with legislators and community stakeholders.