202003.09
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2020 GA Capitol Update: Week 8

This week represented perhaps the busiest week of the session to date. While we only convened for four legislative days, our time in session grew longer with larger calendars of bills to consider and our committees met for extended periods to hold additional hearings to accommodate the number of bills assigned to them. The reason for all of this increased activity is the upcoming deadline of Crossover Day, which is the final day that Senate Bills can pass the Senate to be considered by the House and vice versa. With this in mind, we took up a number of issues this week with a special focus on enhancing public safety across Georgia.

Upon taking office last year, Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp have made it their mission to bring an end to the horrific practice of human trafficking, while also providing safety for victims and prosecuting offenders to the fullest extent of the law. This week, we passed a bill in support of those goals in SB 435. This legislation makes it clear that if an individual carries out a crime as a direct result of being trafficked, those convictions may be removed from their record. This gives victims an opportunity at a better life and removes the burden of past crimes they had no control over from following them throughout their lives.

In keeping with the theme of fighting human trafficking, I sponsored Senate Bill 394, which also received passage on the Senate floor. SB 394 would expand the powers of Georgia’s Attorney General so as to allow them to employ peace officers to investigate cases of human trafficking or sexual servitude, Medicaid fraud and internal affairs of state agencies. By increasing our criminal justice and judicial capabilities in this manner, our peace officers will have the additional resources they need to better investigate and prosecute cases involving human trafficking.

The Senate also completed one part of our constitutional obligation by passing the amended budget for the 2020 fiscal year (AFY 2020). This budget required careful and diligent attention, and members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its various subcommittees spent several long days analyzing the budget requests from each state agency. The end result is something all Georgians should be proud of and represents a fair and fiscally responsible allocation of tax dollars. One highlight from the budget I would like to mention is $819,000 for additional analysts for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Gang Task Force and $420,000 for the development of a gang database. These allocations will enhance public safety across our state and strengthen our state’s efforts in responding to criminal gang activity. 

Finally, I want to mention a few other bills I sponsored that will help some of our bravest Georgians retire with dignity. Senate Bill 248 deals with our firefighters and increases the monthly retirement benefits. Similarly, Senate Bill 249 would increase the monthly payment for retirees under the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund for our law enforcement offices. Both of these bills will give increased peace of mind and financial security to those who dedicated their lives to protecting lives and property across the state. It was especially meaningful to have hundreds of members of Georgia’s law enforcement and firefighter community present at the Capitol to celebrate the passage of these pieces of legislation.

The Senate is preparing for additional lengthy days in chamber next week, with the imminent arrival of Crossover Day on Thursday. Committee work will likely be relatively light, as the majority of our time will be spent in the Chamber working through the Senate Bills that are available for action. However, with every vote we cast, we do so with the best interests of the people of Georgia in mind. If I can ever be of any service to you, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. 

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Sen. John Albers serves as Chairman of the Public Safety Committee. He represents the 56th Senate District which includes portions of Cherokee and North Fulton counties. He may be reached at his office at 404.463.8055 or by email at john.albers@senate.ga.gov