ATLANTA - June 11, 2020
- Ahead of the restart of Georgia’s 2020 legislative session on June 15, 2020, the Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus released a package of bills aimed at hate crimes and reforming policing standards and policies.
The Georgia Justice Act contains a spectrum of bills that would both enhance policing efforts and provide greater protections for citizens, including: hate crimes, police body cameras, no-knock warrants, limiting police chases, PTSD training, eliminating racial profiling, de-militarizing police forces, repealing Stand Your Ground law, creating a Special Prosecutor for police, marijuana reform, restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences, restricting use of rubber bullets, statewide licensure for police officers, and a ban on chokeholds.
“At the very top of our list is passing a meaningful hate crimes bill that will allow prosecutors and judges to pursue increased sentencing for those charged and convicted of hate crimes. House bill 426 has been sitting in a Senate committee for months and we should bring it forward for debate,” said Sen. Steve Henson, leader of the Democratic Caucus.
While the Georgia Justice Act is ambitious, Sen. Gloria Butler, Democratic Caucus Chairwoman, said the majority of the bills are not new ideas.
“For years, we have been introducing legislation aimed at curtailing police violence and offering tools that would increase awareness and training efforts. However, the vast majority of Democratic legislation has been sidelined and has not received a committee hearing. Too many of our citizens have died or been injured, while politics are at play. That time is over,” Butler said.
The videos that revealed the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn revealed the generations-long use of violence against people of color - particularly black men. Racial inequities are common place in the justice system.
“We have long felt the anguish that many Americans of all races are now experiencing. Racism is deeply embedded in our criminal justice system and it has permeated our society. The videos of police brutality that we’ve all seen demonstrate that our system must be fixed - and fixed now,” said Sen. Harold Jones II, Democratic Caucus Whip.
Jones, a former prosecutor now in private practice, is a longtime proponent of reforming minor drug offenses. He said many marijuana possession charges are what lead to over-policing and many times result in injury or even death.
Senate Democrats said they would continue the fight for economic inequality, pledging to push for Medicaid Expansion, increasing minimum wage, ensuring workers’ rights, addressing tax equity, and expanding educational opportunities, while capping costs.
“Our caucus is calling on our colleagues in the majority party to set aside politics and do what is right and necessary. Georgians are clear minded about what needs to happen and the time has come to protect and ensure equity for all citizens,” Henson said.