We are excited to introduce the ACLU of Georgia’s new legislative update, By The People, which will keep you updated on the bills, elected officials and other legislative developments that impact civil and human rights in Georgia.
2017 Georgia General Assembly Calendar
Under the Georgia Constitution, the General Assembly can only be in session for 40 days per legislative year. Currently, the last day of session is scheduled for March 30, 2017.
Civil Rights Legislation
Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) proposed SB 119, (Georgia Civil Rights in Public Accommodations Act). Under this legislation, all persons will be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation without discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.
The ACLU of Georgia supports strengthening Georgia’s non-discrimination protections and is working with the sponsors of this legislation.
Sanctuary Campus Bill
The Georgia House Higher Education Committee convened on February 1, 2017 for a hearing on HB 37 (“Sanctuary Campus”). While there is no legal definition of a Sanctuary Campus, HB 37 allows the withholding of public funds to private colleges and universities that do not cooperate with federal officials in conducting immigration enforcement. The Committee heard from numerous individuals, including many college students, who protested the bill. Despite their opposition, HB 37 passed out of committee by way of a voice vote and is scheduled for the House Rules committee.
The ACLU of Georgia is working with coalition partners against this legislation as it is facially discriminatory towards immigrants.
Juvenile Justice (Raise the Age)
The House Juvenile Justice Committee held a hearing on February 4 to consider Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver’s (D-Decatur) legislation, HB 53, which proposes to change the jurisdiction of juvenile courts from the age from 17 to 18 years of age. Currently, Georgia prosecutes individuals under the age of 17 in juvenile courts. Forty-three states begin juvenile court jurisdiction at the age of 18.
Those who testified in support of this HB 53 included J. Tom Morgan, a previous DeKalb County District Attorney and currently a private attorney; Melissa Carter, Executive Director of the Barton Child Law Policy Clinic; Marissa Dodson with the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Polly McKinney and Erica Fenner Sitkoff with Georgia VOICES for Children.
The ACLU of Georgia supports HB 53 as it will reduce the number of children within the criminal justice system.
Sen. Harold Jones II (D – Augusta) introduced legislation that would reform the punishment and sentencing structure for the possession of marijuana.
Under current law, possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is considered a felony. Under SB 105, those penalties would be reduced so that a person possessing up to half an ounce of marijuana would be subject to a fine of up to $300. A person possessing more than half an ounce, but less than two-ounces of marijuana would be subject to a misdemeanor, including confinement not to exceed 12 months and a fine not to exceed $1,000.
The ACLU of Georgia supports this legislation. Read the ACLU’s report: The War on Marijuana in Black and White.
Welcome Christopher Bruce to the ACLU of Georgia!
Christopher Bruce, Esq. is the Director of Political Affairs for the ACLU of Georgia. A Georgia native, Chris grew up in Stone Mountain. He graduated Cum Laude from Georgia State University and obtained his law degree from the University of Georgia. He previously worked as an insurance defense attorney before he became the Deputy Campaign Manager for Judge Dax Lopez. Before joining the ACLU of Georgia he was the Deputy Political Director for an Atlanta Mayoral Candidate. He was previously on the Board of Governors of the Red Clay Democrats and is currently an Executive Board Member of the Gate City Bar Association and Executive Board Member of the Atlanta Council of Younger Lawyers. Bruce is a member of the LEAD Atlanta 2016 class and a recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Atlanta Award.
Bruce will be at the State Capitol daily to monitor, defend, and advocate on behalf of our issues. Please feel free to call him with any questions you may have at (678) 372-0978 or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.