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Legislative Update: Day 35

This week will take us through Legislative Day 35, as the Georgia General Assembly works toward the final day of the 2021-2022 legislative session on April 4. With Crossover Day behind us, we’ll be tracking fewer bills, as most of those on our list did not survive the crossover deadline. Read on for action alerts and other updates on the legislation we are tracking.

Bills SCHR Opposes:

  • SB 504, criminalizing poverty and undermining public safety, was passed by the Senate late on Crossover Day. SB 504 would mandate cash bail for all felony offenses – expanding the current list of 25 to include more than 600 offenses. Not only would this bill punish poor people who cannot afford to purchase their release, but it also robs judges of their discretion and severely limits access to pre-trial diversion, as well as critical treatment and services that are proven to promote public safety and improve the likelihood that a person will appear for subsequent legal proceedings.

SB 504 was heard by a subcommittee of the House Public Safety Committee yesterday, March 21; you can view that hearing here. Committee members heard from a number of stakeholders who testified in opposition to the bill. Representatives from SCHR, GACDL, and Deep Center were joined by the District Attorneys from both the Augusta and Stone Mountain Judicial Circuits to highlight the unintended negative impacts on wealth-based detention, access to treatment and services pre-trial, and costs to taxpayers. The subcommittee did not take up the bill for a vote, but we expect they will revisit the policy proposal in the coming days. Along with our partners, we will continue to work with lawmakers to stop this bill that would force more people into local jails that are already over-capacity and make it much more difficult for people to access supportive treatment and services. To reach out to key committee members and express your opposition to this bill, click here!

  • SB 171, criminalizing the right to protest, was also passed by the Senate last Tuesday. Though the Senate adopted some revisions to the bill, it remains a dangerous bill imposing harsh criminal penalties that would have a chilling effect on the free exercise of the right to assembly. SB 171 authorizes violence against protesters and punishes cities for protecting the right to protest. SB 171 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. We’ll be notifying our network as soon as it is scheduled for a hearing.

Scheduled hearings, including agendas and livestream links, are posted here.

We will continue to update our network in these final two weeks of the legislative session. Continue reading to learn more about all the bills we are tracking, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates and calls to action.

SCHR Supports:

Mitigating Harm to Incarcerated People  

  • HB 1092 (Sponsor: Rep. Sharon Cooper) – Mandates deferral of sentences for pregnant women (Status: Passed by the House & Assigned to Senate Judiciary)

Improving Indigent Defense

  • HB 478 (Sponsor: Rep. Bonnie Rich) – Strengthens the standard for expert testimony in criminal cases (Status: Passed by the House & Assigned to Senate Judiciary)

Fighting Mass Incarceration  

  • HB 272 (Sponsor: Rep. Mandi Ballinger) – Raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds. (Status: Passed by the House & Recommitted to Senate Judiciary)

Eliminating Barriers to Reentry  

  • SB 257 (Sponsor: Sen. Tonya Anderson) – Expands criminal record restriction (Status: Passed by the Senate & Assigned to House Public Safety)
  • SB 353 (Sponsor: Sen. Bruce Thompson) – Strengthens judicial discretion over driver’s license suspensions and reinstatement (Status: Passed by the Senate & Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil)

SCHR Opposes: 

Exacerbating State-Sanctioned Violence

  • SB 171 (Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson) – Enhances criminal penalties for protestors involved in “unlawful assemblies”; creates an affirmative defense for people who injure or kill protestors blocking roadways; waives sovereign immunity to allow suits against local governments for damages resulting from protests (Status: Passed by the Senate & Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil) (Language attached to HB 289, sponsored by Rep. David Belton and assigned to Senate Public Safety)

Criminalizing Poverty

  • SB 504 (Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson) – Redefines “bail restricted offense” to include all felonies (Status: Hearing only in House Public Safety Subcommittee A on 3/21/22), take action here!

Expanding Mass Incarceration

  • HB 194 (Sponsor: Rep. Steven Sainz) – Provides for lifetime probation for people convicted of a sex offense. (Status: Passed by the House & Recommitted to Senate Judiciary)
  • HB 1134 (Sponsor: Rep. Chuck Efstration) – Creates concurrent jurisdiction over gang investigations and prosecutions for local agencies and the AG, and authorizes the AG to employ peace officers for this purpose (Status: Passed by Senate Judiciary on 3/21/22)
  • SB 359 (Sponsor: Sen. John Albers) – “Safe and Secure Georgia Act” – Imposes mandatory minimum sentences; expands venue for gang cases; and GBI’s powers (Status: Passed by the Senate & Assigned to House Judiciary)

SCHR Monitors

State-Sanctioned Violence

  • HB 1004 (Sponsor: Rep. Mesha Mainor) – Permits colleges to enter “united police force agreements” to extend authority of campus policemen to other college campuses (Status: Scheduled for hearing in Senate Public Safety on 3/22/22)
  • SB 183 (Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson) – Revises the qualifications for the office of sheriff so that candidates must be in good standing with the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. Defines “in good standing” (Status: Passed by the Senate & Assigned to House Public Safety)

Criminalization of Poverty

  • SR 659 (Sponsor: Sen. Carden Summers) – Creates the Senate Study Committee on Unsheltered Homelessness (Status: Assigned to Senate Rules)

Indigent Defense

  • HB 1391 (Sponsor: Rep. Stan Gunter) – Provides that circuit defenders receive a salary equal to that of a district attorney (Status: Passed by the House & Assigned to Senate Judiciary)

Mass Incarceration

  • HB 411 (Sponsor: Rep. Joseph Gullett) – Creates the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission (Status: Passed by the House & Recommitted to Senate Judiciary)(Language attached to SB 218, sponsored by Sen. Larry Walker; Senate vote to agree to House substitute failed on March 31, 2021)
  • HB 1013, (Sponsor: House Speaker David Ralston) – Implements the various recommendations of the Georgia Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission (Status: Passed by the House & Assigned to Senate Health & Human Services)
  • HB 1216 (Sponsor: Rep. Lauren McDonald) – Enhances penalties for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer (Status: Passed by the House & Assigned to Senate Judiciary)