Here is a report released Tuesday by state Rep. Ronnie Mabra.
“This week will be the final week of the 2016 legislative session. On Thursday, March 24, we will convene one final time this session for legislative day 40, or ‘sine die,’ the last day we have to pass any legislation this year. While the end is near, there is still work to be done and many issues to be considered, and your input on these issues is very important to me. My colleagues and I will work long hours every day this week to ensure that we are doing what is best for Georgia and its citizens. If you are following legislation that you would like to see passed, or if you have any questions about the bills that the General Assembly has considered this session, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Your input will help guide my decisions during this crucial time, and I appreciate all of your feedback.
“Tomorrow, the House reconvenes for day 39 of the 2016 legislative session. We have a busy legislative agenda for this week, both on the House floor and in committee meetings to continue to vote on and review legislation. With day 40 right around the corner, many more House and Senate bills received final passage last week and are now on their way to Governor Deal’s desk for consideration.
“My bill, HB 804, Fifth Judgeship to Clayton County, will add a fifth judge to the superior courts of the Clayton Judicial Circuit. The additional judge will be appointed by the Governor for a term beginning July 1, 2016 and continues through December 31, 2018. The Clayton Judicial Circuit is also empowered to appoint an additional court reporter. Last Thursday, HB 804 passed the Senate by vote of 53-1. It is now ready for the Governor’s desk.
“HB 531, ‘Long Arm’ statute bill, is stuck in the Senate Rules Committee; in order for the bill to be heard on the Senate floor, it must pass the Rules Committee.
“The House passed a measure last week to toughen the penalties for criminals who commit domestic violence in Georgia. Senate Bill 193 would make it a felony if a person commits family violence and has a previous conviction for family violence battery in Georgia, or in any other state. Prosecutors would be able to issue repeat family violence offenders a felony instead of another misdemeanor, closing a loophole that previously allowed some offenders to receive misdemeanor charges upon their second family battery conviction. The bill would also make the crime punishable by one to five years in prison. This legislation would strengthen our judicial system and punish violent, serial criminals, while also protecting those who they seek to harm.
“We also passed another bill to keep Georgians safe in Senate Bill 367, a comprehensive update to Georgia’s criminal justice reform legislation. SB 367 would expand Georgia’s accountability courts to include “operating under the influence” court divisions as an alternative to the traditional justice system with the ultimate goal of reducing recidivism rates. Any court with jurisdiction over DUI or boating under the influence cases would be able to create a division of their courts to handle those cases. Similarly, any juvenile court would be able to create a “family treatment” court division to address issues within families through court intervention and the reduction of dependency. The goal of a family treatment court would be to reduce alcohol or drug abuse and addiction in child dependency proceedings; improve outcomes for families when dependency is based on alcohol or drug use and addiction; increase the personal, familial and societal accountability of defendants in child dependency proceedings; and promote effective intervention and use of resources among child welfare personnel, law enforcement, treatment providers, community agencies, and the courts.
“SB 367 would also allow the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice to operate charter schools within state juvenile justice facilities under the control of the State Charter School Commission to allow children who are incarcerated to continue to receive an education. Furthermore, individuals who have a suspended license as a result of a criminal conviction would be able to receive their license sooner under SB 367 by allowing time spent in prison to count toward license suspension time. The bill would also add court-mandated activities such as attending programs, treatment, and accountability court to the list of limited driving exemptions for drivers with limited driving permits. SB 367 would change the Georgia First Offender Statute to allow courts to set a date at when a defendant would be exonerated of guilt and have their criminal record restricted as long as the defendant successfully complies with the sentence and does not receive future convictions. The bill also updates probation stipulations if an individual fails to pay a fine or report to their probation officer and will now include a scheduled hearing in court.
“The legislation would also let inmates who have served sentences for certain drug-related offenses or repeat offenders of nonviolent felonies be eligible for parole if they had no convictions for violent felonies; completed at least six years of their total sentence; were considered a low risk for recidivism; earned a high school diploma; and had no serious disciplinary violations in the past 12 months in jail. Those convicted of felony drug convictions would now be allowed to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits upon their release to help ease the transition to re-entry. Finally, the bill would prohibit professional licensing boards from refusing to license an individual because of an arrest or conviction of a felony unless it directly related to the occupation they were attempting to be licensed.”