Greetings dear friends! Monday, June 15, brought the reconvening of our Georgia General Assembly under the Gold Dome. Over the last few days, we began our work to complete the 2020 legislative session which was adjourned in March prior to legislative day 40. After more than a two-month hiatus, we picked up where we left off, vetting and voting upon proposed legislation. We also began reworking the House version of the budget for the Fiscal Year 2021.
As a result of COVID19, the budget will endure intense challenges. It will be the job of the legislative and executive branches to attack these challenges, prioritize and plan longterm recuperation for the FY 2021 Budget. Over the course of our session recess, members of the Senate and House Appropriation Committees have been hard at work analyzing and essentially reworking the entire budget. To put this in perspective, between the Governor’s office, state agencies and the general assembly, we usually work on a budget for more than a year prior to taking a vote each session. Last week, the 2021 FY budget, which was already in the Senate prior to our recess, was passed out of their chamber with significant changes to our original version. Therefore, leadership in each Chamber has appointed a conference committee to work out final changes in regard to our budget which will now reflect the impact of COVID-19.
Despite our break, we had no issues resuming business as usual, immediately jumping into our legislative work on various bills still up for consideration.
As Georgia is one of four remaining states without a hate crimes law, we revisited our version of the proposed law, House Bill 426 which passed in 2019, also known as the “Georgia Hate Crimes Act.” Under the House version of HB 426, anyone convicted of a crime that has been determined to have been committed because of the individual's belief or perception regarding the race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability would be subject to increased penalties for these crimes. The sentencing for a misdemeanor hate crime would range from three to 12 months of jail time and a fine up to $5,000. For a hate crime that is of a high and aggravated nature, sentencing would require between six and 12 months of jail time along with a $5,000 fine. Offenders of a felony hate crime would face a minimum of two years in prison.