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Legislative Update – Day 21

Today marks Legislative Day 21, which means we are more than halfway through the legislative session!

As we approach Crossover Day in two weeks (February 29), legislators will work to pass legislation from one chamber to the next. Your representatives have voted on promising proposals as well as some extremely harmful ones. SCHR’s State policy team – Public Policy Associate James Woodall, Justice Reform Partnership Strategist Tanika Nicholas, and myself – are working diligently and collaboratively with our partners, to focus on building support among lawmakers and the public for essential reform to mitigate the negative impact of the criminal legal system.

Please read for updates about important legislation and to learn how you can put advocacy into action by attending our community advocacy days: Pain & Power Part II Symposium on Thursday, February 22 at the Auburn Avenue Research Library and Justice Day at the Capitol on Thursday, February 29.

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. Other potentially harmful bills are noted in this updated as “SCHR Opposes & Is Monitoring.”

Bills, Bills, Bills

Last Week at the Georgia State Capitol
The legislature convened for Legislative Days 15 through 18.

This Week at the Capitol
The legislature convened for Legislative Days 19 through 20.  

Next Week at the Capitol
The legislature will convene for Legislative Days 23 through 25. 

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

SCHR Actively Supports

HB 126 – Sponsor: Rep. Tyler Paul Smith – Improves procedure related to out-of-time motions for new trial and appeals in criminal cases.
Final Status: Senate Moved to Appoint Conference Committee.

HB 462 – Sponsor: Rep. Mandi Ballinger – Raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds, pending funding.
Final Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary.

HB 1054 Sponsor: Rep. Yasmin Neal – Removes the arrest requirement for people who refuse to sign a traffic citation given by law enforcement for traffic offenses.
Final Status: Passed Senate Judiciary as Introduced.

HR 1416 – Sponsor: Rep. Yasmin Neal – Creates the House Study Committee on Felony Sentencing and Punishment in Georgia.
Final Status: Passed House Judiciary Non-Civil. 

HB 1214 - Sponsor: Rep. Yasmin Neal - Eliminates Juvenile Life without Parole.
Assigned to House Juvenile Justice. 

HB 853 – Sponsor: Rep. Eric Bell – Allows people with drug convictions to be eligible for state financial aid and scholarships for post-secondary education.
Final Status: Assigned to House Higher Education.

HB 909 – Sponsor: Rep. Leesa Hagan- Provides for Restriction and Seal of First Offenders Act to the Public.
Final Status: Substituted into SB 512, Passed House Judiciary Non-Civil

HB 926 – Sponsor: Rep. Matt Reeves – Streamlines the process for drivers to reinstate their driver's license after a missed court date and expands the reinstatement fee waiver to fully cover DDS reinstatement fees.
Final Status: On the Governor’s Desk for Signature.

HB 1307 – Sponsor: Rep. El-Mahdi Holly – Establishes payment of market wages for prison labor and GDC tracking of labor and wages.
Final Status: Assigned to House Public Safety & Homeland Security.

SB 157 – Sponsor: Sen. Brian Strickland – Removes barriers in occupational licenses and expands access to record restriction.
Final Status: House Passed by Substitute. Needs Senate Agree.

SB 429 – Sponsor: Sen. Greg Dolezal – Creates the Small Business Protection Act of 2024. Amended to include language from HB 364, which creates a state board to review compensation for the wrongfully convicted.
Final Status: Senate removed wrongful conviction compensation provision. House did not agree.

SB 498 – Sponsor: Sen. Kim Jackson – Establishes the Georgia Interagency Council for Homelessness.
Final Status: Senate Tabled.

SB 512 – Sponsor: Sen. Shawn Still – Creates Victims of Human Trafficking Fund and the Victims of Human Trafficking Fund Commission, and was amended to include language from HB 909, which provides for the Restriction and Seal of First Offenders Act.
Final Status: House Passed by Substitute. Needs Senate Agree. 

SCHR Actively Opposes

SB 63– Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson – Expands mandatory cash bail for 30 new offenses and criminalizes charitable organizations that post bond.
: On the Governor’s Desk for Signature.

SB 159– Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson – Criminalizes bringing a cell phone behind the guard lines of a county or state penal institution.
Status:  On the Governor’s Desk for Signature

HB 500– Sponsor: Rep. Deborah Silcox – Creates the offense of arson of a law enforcement vehicle.
Final Status: On the Governor’s Desk for Signature.   

HB 505Sponsor: Mike Cheokas – Creates the felony offense of rioting, legalizes vehicular harm against protestors, and adds language from SB 523 that creates criminal offenses related to material support of terrorism, was heard in Senate Judiciary on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.
Final Status: Senate Tabled. 

HB 590 – Sponsor: Rep. Mike Cameron – Provide for the offense of Online Menacing of Police Officer.
Final Status: Passed House Judiciary Non-Civil by Substitute.

SB 359 – Sponsor: Sen. John Albers – Amends the definition of the pattern of racketeering activity under the Georgia RICO act to include the following designated misdemeanors, among others: littering, loitering, placement of signs and “harassing communications ... on basis of actual or perceived political affiliation or beliefs”. This conduct is already criminalized under the current Georgia Code section 16. These code articles are broad and not meant to contemplate these activities as serious felonies punishable by lengthy terms of imprisonment.
Final Status: Recommitted to Senate Judiciary.

SB 523 – Sponsor: Sen. Bo Hatchett – Creates criminal offenses related to material support of terrorism.
Final Status: Passed Senate Judiciary by Substitute.

SB 517Sponsor: Sen. Randy RobertsonProvides law enforcement with civil immunity and protection from criminal prosecutions for justified or lawful use of force.
Final Status: On the Governor’s Desk.

SB 332 – Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson – Removes SCOGA from approving standards and rules of the PAQC.
Status: Signed by the Governor.

SCHR is Monitoring

SCHR is Monitoring & Opposes

Upcoming Advocacy Days

Pain & Power Part II

Mapping Police Violence found that 100% of unarmed people killed by Atlanta police are Black. Part 2 of our Pain & Power Stakeholder Symposium will take place on Thursday, February 22, 2024, at 6:00 PM at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. The event will feature a mini-documentary screening, a legislator panel and a community discussion—all centering policy solutions to combat police violence. Please register here to join the conversation.

Justice Day 2024: Justice is a Family Affair

Mark your calendars on Thursday, February 29, 2024, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Central Presbyterian Church for the 13th annual Criminal Justice Advocacy Day at the capitol.

Talk Justice Tuesday: Overcoming Barriers to Reentry

Talk Justice Tuesday is a state legislative series to discuss the issues and solutions important to communities impacted by criminal legal systems and identify strategies for moving forward. Our next session on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 will focus on overcoming barriers to reentry.