Greetings from your Libertarian Party of Georgia Public Policy Committee!
The 2021 Georgia State Legislature convened Monday, January 11 and is scheduled to remain in session until April 2. It’s been said “no man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” and we take that admonition seriously.
When we spot bills that could negatively impact your civil liberties, or potentially restore a lost one, we’ll add them to our list. Our ally organizations (Peachtree NORML, the Georgia Justice Project, local chapters of the ACLU, Georgia Carry) also make recommendations and bring things to our attention.
Here’s what we’re watching in 2021, arranged by LP Georgia policy priorities:
Criminal Justice Reform: LP Georgia is committed to ending pretrial detention, cash bail, restrictive probation, qualified immunity, and asset forfeiture, all of which infringe on the inalienable rights of Georgians. We support efforts to remove penalties for victimless crimes, expunge criminal records for nonviolent offenders, reduce incarceration, offer second chances, ensure fairness in court fees, and promote fully informed juries in a state which allows citizens to nullify unjust laws.
Relevant bills 2021:
- HB12 Controlled Substances Removes some criminal penalties for misdemeanor possession of cannabis under 2oz, removes fingerprinting requirement and criminal record (retains $300 fine, which combined with court costs may be more than many Georgians can pay, resulting in a jailable offense after non-payment of the civil citation). Continues criminal penalties for amounts over 2oz, and references “marijuana and controlled substances” separately, suggesting penalties may withstand a federal change to drug scheduling.
- HB13 Record restriction, fee reduction “to allow the restriction of criminal history record information for convictions of certain misdemeanors and felonies after the completion of the sentence.”
- HB 18 Police Accountability Act, requires body cameras, revises Use of Force standard
- HB 19 Due Process in Civil Forfeiture Act increases burden of proof for gov in civil forfeiture proceedings.
- HB35 Ethical Policing Act to remove certain immunities from the actions of certain law enforcement officers; to allow state tort claims to hold bad actors accountable for violating the civil rights of Georgians.
- HB 58 Georgia Women’s Care Act amending the Georgia code to secure greater protections for pregnant and postpartum women arrested or incarcerated in Georgia.
Restoring the 4th Amendment: LP Georgia supports protections against unreasonable search and seizure of private property and persons. We urge the Georgia Assembly to immediately limit warrantless surveillance by police and federal agencies, including the use of device tracking, cell phone monitoring, and security footage in violation of Constitutional limits. Such invasions of communities and rights erode the trust of the public and trample our sacred rights.
Relevant bills 2021: none yet
Defending the 2nd Amendment: LP Georgia believes “shall not be infringed,” being the plain text of the 2nd amendment, throws suspicion on every law intended to make it more difficult or expensive for Georgians to own, purchase, sell, or carry firearms. Accordingly we support reforms that restore the right to self-defense, including against agents of the state, and we oppose further infringing and restricting gun rights in Georgia.
Relevant bills 2021:
- HB 2 Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2021 to revise provisions of law regarding the use, possession, transportation, and carrying of firearms.
- HB52 – OPPOSE? – abridges the right to possess and carry firearms of persons convicted of certain family violence offenses.
Ensuring Fair, Transparent Elections: LP Georgia is a leading voice for fairer, freer, more competitive elections in Georgia. To that end, we support ranked choice voting, expanding ballot access (more choices on every ballot), ending gerrymandering via independent redistricting, transparent and auditable voting machines, same-day voter registration, and nonpartisan officials overseeing elections.
Relevant bills 2021:
- HR 2: Proposes an amendment to the Georgia constitution (added to voter ballots) to declare ‘vacant’ the offices of elected officials who qualify/run for/campaign for another office.
- HR 4: Term limits Modify Georgia Constitution to 3 consecutive terms (Senate) or 6 consecutive terms (House of Reps), as well as 2 consecutive terms for Lieutenant Governor.
- HB 59 Elections: removes some eligibility for absentee ballots, but institutes ranked choice/ instant runoff voting by overseas citizens and military personnel.
Viewing the session:
When the Georgia General Assembly is in session, live video feeds are available online.
Go to www.legis.ga.gov and look for the links under “Schedule” on the left.
Many committee meetings of both chambers are streamed online.
Look for archives of House meetings at www.legis.ga.gov/house/media-services, scroll down the page and select the “media” tab. Archived Senate meetings can be found at www.legis.ga.gov/senate/press-office. Only meetings of full committees — not subcommittees — stream live online.
We’ll bring you updates as more legislation is filed and assigned to committees.
If you’re passionate about tracking this legislation, or you’re eager to make your voice heard in the Gold Dome, we want to support you! Contact the Public Policy Committee or Executive Committee for assistance with your citizen lobby activities.
May your legislators tread lightly on you this year. When they overstep, we’ll be there.