Georgia's governor signs a series of public safety laws

(The Center Square) – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a series of public safety bills Wednesday, including a measure that would require Georgia counties to comply with federal immigration laws.

Kemp, a Republican, signed Senate Bill 63thereby expanding the list of “serious crimes” for which bail is required, and SB 421, which increases penalties for “swatting” and drive-by shootings. The step to tackle hit follows several cases involving Georgia officials around the Christmas holiday, following a nationwide trend.

“Georgia families are always close to my heart,” Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones said in a statement. “Passing these laws will help ensure law enforcement can do their jobs and allow criminals to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” We will not allow criminals to roam freely on our streets. These bills continue our efforts to keep Georgians safe.”

However, the ACLU of Georgia expressed outrage that the measure was “cruel, costly and counterproductive” and promised a legal challenge.

“Research shows that incarcerating people only increases crime and costs to taxpayers, and yet Georgia incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other state in the country,” the group said in a statement. “SB 63 doubles down on that position and forces even more people to languish in prison because they are poor or mentally ill. We are very disappointed that Governor Kemp has sacrificed Georgia's well-being for political gain. The ACLU of Georgia will challenge SB 63 in court to prevent it from taking effect.”

During a bill signing ceremony at the Georgia Public Training Center in Forsyth, Kemp also signed House Bill 1105, the Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act of 2024, which aims to force local jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration laws. The advance continued again urgency following the murder of a student in Athens in February, allegedly by someone who had entered the country illegally.

However, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said it was “disappointed” by the bill's signing, saying it was “a state mandate without supporting funding.”

“Based on previous data, it is expensive and deprives local governments of scarce resources by replacing local discretion with state-level decision-making to the detriment of local communities,” David Schaefer, GBPI vice president for research and policy, said in a statement. “HB 1105 will likely expand the state’s system of prison control and caging of people of color while maintaining the separation of immigrant families.”

The governor also signed several other bills including SB 10, the Safe Streets Act. It is a criminal offense to knowingly facilitate or participate in illegal drag racing or drag laying exhibitions; It also increases the penalty for reckless stunt driving.

“Georgians have witnessed the catastrophic impact of lawlessness on communities across the country,” Kemp said in a statement. “Thanks to the work of our legislative partners in the General Assembly, we can once again send the message that such lawlessness will have no safe harbor in Georgia.”