Gold Dome Update: Sine Die
On Thursday, March 31, the Senate officially adjourned Sine Die, bringing an end to the 2021 legislative session. While a long and, in many ways, unprecedented session, the General Assembly still addressed many of the issues of most concern to our constituents and took further steps to promote health, safety and economic development as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every year, the General Assembly is tasked with only one constitutionally required duty: pass a balanced budget. Early In the session, we fulfilled one-half of this obligation by sending the Amended Budget for the 2021 fiscal year to the Governor. During our final legislative day, however, the House and Senate officially agreed to the 2022 General Budget. The FY22 budget is based on a revenue estimate of $27.2 billion, contributing to a 5% increase over the original FY21 budget. The original FY21 budget passed in June 2020 and in the height of the pandemic required some substation budget reductions. This budget, however, restores the majority of those cuts, with 90% of the restorations going towards education and healthcare. We would not be in the position to add funding to the budget if it were not for the countless small business across the state who worked throughout the pandemic to keep the economic engine of our state turning. This budget is a reflection of your hard work and resilience and we are eternally grateful for your contributions to your communities and to our state.
Over our last few days, I had the opportunity to carry a few more House Bills, most of which address public safety. House Bill 255 would establish a state-wide sexual assault kit tracking system. This will grant our law enforcement an additional tool at their disposal to ensure that victims of sexual assault receive the justice they deserve. Our law enforcement community has also informed us of their rising concern of retail thefts. House Bill 327 would address the uptick in crimes of this nature by codifying organized retail crime as an offense and would outline new requirements for how gift cards are maintained. These new procedures will allow law enforcement to take stronger action against organized retail crimes and lessen the potential for gift cards to be the targets of such crimes.
One of the General Assembly’s priorities this year was revisiting Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law and identifying areas in which it could be adjusted. In coordination with the Governor’s Office, members of the General Assembly worked around the clock since the session began to gather information and input from all stakeholders on how best to proceed. Ultimately, the final product came together in the form of House Bill 479, which would repeal Georgia’s existing Citizen Arrest law, but does add new provisions that specify how and when a private person may detain a suspected criminal, such as permitting a business owner to detain someone suspected of shoplifting. These updates were long overdue and allow for greater fairness and justice, while still granting individuals the right to protect themselves and their property.
The Governor now has 30 days to either approve or veto the bills that were sent to his desk by the General Assembly. In Georgia, a bill can still become law without the Governor’s signature, so long as it is not vetoed. Even though the session may be over, we are here to represent you year-round. If there are any bills that you have any remaining questions or concerns about, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. I want to thank District 56 for your constant support and for trusting me with representing you here at the Capitol. This has been a memorable first legislative session and I look forward to continuing to serve you in the years to come.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org