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2024 Legislative Priorities and Bill Tracker

The 2023-2024 biennial legislative session in the Georgia General Assembly is underway. The Southern Center for Human Rights is committed to decriminalizing race and poverty in America’s Deep South and our policy priorities this session reflect that commitment. SCHR works to advance proactive and defensive strategies that protect marginalized communities. Every year, we identify discrete issues that will demand most of our attention.

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.”

Our 2024 policy priorities at the legislature will be:

Georgia is a dangerous outlier when it comes to protecting people with intellectual disability from execution. Since 2002, Southern Center has worked to reform Georgia’s statute, which is the only one in the country to set the standard of proof for establishing ID at “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Georgia is also the only state to require juries to deliberate ID while deliberating guilt.

We created this advocacy toolkit for organizations to use when educating their supporters about these important issues and will work with coalition partners to support lawmakers looking to change the standard of proof and remove the ID determination from the guilt phase of trial.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia sentences more children to die in prison than any other state. This has dire consequences for not only those children, but also the communities who lose them. We will work with our partners to support lawmakers seeking to end the practice of sentencing children to spend their entire lives behind bars.  

Ensuring that people in Georgia’s jails and prisons are not subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. In addition to frequent litigation on this issue, we must promote legislative solutions that hold state actors to their duty to protect incarcerated people.

The Georgia Senate has initiated an investigation into conditions at Fulton County Jail even as some of those legislators continue to propose policies expanding wealth-based detention. We are committed to supporting legislators in understanding the root causes of the dysfunction in Fulton County while addressing the ways lawmakers can reduce harm in local jails. 

We know that cash bail and excessive monetary obligations disproportionately impact Black, brown and poor people in the criminal legal system. These practices also contribute to deplorable conditions in jails and prisons, including overcrowding and violence. We will work with lawmakers to ensure that Georgia does not yet again expand cash bail.

After working on a bi-partisan basis to repeal Citizen’s Arrest in Georgia, we committed to monitoring the impact of data tracking legislation we worked to pass last year.

We will continue to fight proposals like SB 359, which criminalizes protest by expanding Georgia’s RICO statute and creates criminal penalties for constitutionally protected activity.

2024 Bill Tracker

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