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Georgia governor signs series of public safety bills

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

Kemp, a Republican, signed Senate Bill 63, which expands the list of “serious offenses” for which bail is required, and SB 421, which stiffens the penalties for “swatting” and drive-by shootings. The move to tackle swatting follows several instances involving Georgia officials around the Christmas holiday, following a national trend.

“Georgia families are always top of my mind,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones, a Republican, said in a statement. “The passage of these bills helps enable law enforcement to do their jobs and allows offenders to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will not allow criminals to roam free in our streets. These bills continue our efforts to keep Georgians safe.”

However, the ACLU of Georgia took umbrage, saying the measure “is cruel, costly, and counterproductive” and promised a legal challenge.

“Research shows that sweeping people into incarceration only increases crime and taxpayer costs, and yet Georgia locks up a higher percentage of its people than any other state in the country,” the group said in a statement. “SB 63 doubles down on that position, forcing even more people to languish in jail because they are poor or mentally ill. We are very disappointed that Gov. Kemp has sacrificed the good of Georgia for political gain. The ACLU of Georgia will challenge SB 63 in the courts to stop it from going into 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 push took renewed urgency following the February slaying of a college student in Athens, allegedly at the hands of someone who entered the country illegally.

However, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said it is “disappointed” by the bill’s signing, saying it “is a state mandate without any supportive funding.”

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

The governor also signed several other bills, including SB 10, the “Safe Streets Act.” It creates an offense for knowingly facilitating or attending illegal drag races or exhibitions of “laying drag;” it also increases the penalty for reckless stunt driving.

“Georgians have witnessed the disastrous impact lawlessness is having on communities across the country,” Kemp said in a statement. “Thanks to the work of our legislative partners in the General Assembly, we are able to once again send the message that such lawlessness will find no safe haven in Georgia.”