Capitol Update – Week 4 – Justice Reform and Second Amendment

This week at the Capitol

The 2014 Session of the Georgia General Assembly reached full speed this week. Members participated in dozens of committee hearings, votes each day on the House floor and the State of the Judiciary on Wednesday.

In his address, Chief Justice Hugh Thompson applauded a series of criminal justice reform bills signed into law over the past few years.  The primary goal of criminal justice reform was to increase accountability courts in Georgia to improve rehabilitation and reduce incarceration.  Chief Justice Thompson proclaimed that 93% of these court graduates remain free of criminal charges and 85% have found and maintain employment.  With fewer people in prison, these courts save Georgia more than $20 million in prison costs each year. Congratulations to Governor Deal for championing these reforms that are saving lives and saving taxpayer dollars.

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee secured the most attention this week with hearings on HB 875HB 875 would expand Second Amendment rights for Georgia Weapons Carry License holders by increasing locations where licensed individuals may carry their weapons while protecting the primacy of private property rights.  The bill would expand access to government buildings, absent active security at entrances, and allow private property owners to permit or prohibit weapons on their property including churches and bars. HB 875 also allows honorably discharged veterans under age 21 to receive a weapon carry license, eliminates the re-fingerprinting requirement for renewals, prohibits the creation of a license holder database, and lessens the penalty for license holders found carrying a weapon on public college campuses.

While HB 875 would expand rights for responsible, law-abiding citizens, it also takes measures to improve mental health regulations for Georgia Weapons Carry License applicants.  Under HB 875, licenses would be denied to any person who has been deemed “mentally incompetent to stand trial” or any person who is been deemed “not guilty by reason of insanity” at the time of the trial.  Additionally, HB 875 would provide school boards the flexibility to arm an employee under certain guidelines and supervision. Finally, should the Governor declare a state of emergency, this bill would prevent the confiscation of weapons or ammunition by the state, which is currently allowable.  The committee favorably reported out HB 875 and the bill now awaits further action in the Rules Committee.

Upcoming bills of interest

The House Health and Human Services Committee will hear on Monday afternoon HB 885 permitting use of a cannabis oil derivative to treat certain severe medical conditions. While I support proceeding with debate on this issue, there remain a number of hurdles that the legislature must address including the current Schedule I classification of the drug and impediments to transportation.

HB 762 adding sanitation workers to the Spence Pass Law is pending before the House Rules Committee and I will ask for a vote by the full House.

The Ways & Means Public Policy Subcommittee heard HB 412 and HB 648 for the first time last week and I anticipate a second hearing this week. I will ask for passage to the full Committee and then the full House on HB 412 allowing electronic transmission of property tax bills. HB 648 returning the fourth penny of sales tax on motor fuels to transportation began a worthwhile discussion; however, I will ask that the debate continue in preparation for action upon our return in 2015.

Committee calendarsHouse committee meeting calendar:
http://webmail.legis.ga.gov/Calendar/?chamber=house

Senate committee meeting calendar:
http://media.legis.ga.gov/Calendar/?chamber=senate

As always, I remain appreciative that you allow me to serve as your state Representative. I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions you have about the legislation being considered at the state Capitol.  You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0254 or on my cell at 404-966-5804 or via email at brett.harrell@house.ga.gov.

Thank you,

Brett_Signature
Brett Harrell
At the Capitol
Please call, email, or visit Brett at the Capitol.
Representative Brett Harrell
601-D Coverdell Legislative Office Building
18 Capitol Square
Atlanta, GA 30334

Committee assignments:

Budget & Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Regulated Industries, Transportation, and Ways & Means