Each day our public safety community puts their lives on the line to keep our citizens safe. They are the ones who are running into situations many of us run from and who commit to a life of public service, which doesn’t always reap rewards and accolades. Although we can never thank these brave men and women enough, I believe that during the 2019 session we made progress with additional appropriations and legislation that will have a positive impact on this important community.
In the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, $2.1 million was appropriated to the Department of Public Safety for a 50-person trooper school and an additional $1.3 million will fund the creation of the Office of Public Safety Officer Support. To address the epidemic of opioid abuse and deaths throughout the state, $995,000 was appropriated to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) for a one-time agent on-boarding associated with the Opioid Task Force. Additionally, to combat the rise of gang activity in the state, the GBI will receive $500,000 to implement a GBI Gang Task Force, which will include one prosecutor liaison and two senior investigators.
In addition to what was appropriated in the FY20 budget, the legislation below was passed during the 2019 session and signed by Governor Brian P. Kemp into law:
· Senate Bill 6 prohibits drones being flown over places of incarceration. This includes photographing or recording images without authorization by the warden, superintendent or their designated representative. This bill was signed by Gov. Kemp on April 28, 2019, and will become effective on July 1, 2019.
· Senate Bill 25 clarifies that those passing a stopped school bus in the opposite direction may only do so if there is a grass median, unpaved area or barrier separating the two directions of traffic. This bill was signed into law by Gov. Kemp on February 15, 2019.
· Senate Bill 31 ensures that law enforcement officers would not be liable for action taken at the scene of emergency when rescuing a person or pet from a locked vehicle when said person or pet presents clear and imminent danger to their health. This bill was signed by Gov. Kemp on April 28, 2019, and will become effective on July 1, 2019.
· House Bill 325 lowers the time that the Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) Council is required to keep records on P.O.S.T. certified officer investigations from 50 to 30 years. HB 325 would allow the Council to destroy records after 30 years, or sooner if the officer is deceased and the case required no investigation other than intake of the complaint. This bill was signed by Gov. Kemp on April 28, 2019, and will become effective on July 1, 2019.
· House Bill 454 establishes the use and safety rules for three different classes of electric assisted bicycles. The classes are determined by the equipment used to provide assistance to the bike rider and the max speed the devices reach. This bill was signed by Gov. Kemp on April 26, 2019, and will become effective on July 1, 2019.
· House Bill 459 requires each local board of education to maintain a database with the full name and driver’s license number of all school bus drivers and provide this information to the Department of Public Safety. Additionally, HB 459 clarifies the process for local law enforcement when they designate certain volunteers or law enforcement officers to assist in school traffic control. This bill was signed by Gov. Kemp on April 28, 2019, and will become effective on July 1, 2019.
· House Bill 471 revises the implied consent script for chemical testing notices for hunting, driving on highways in Georgia or operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The revision would state that only the refusal of a blood or urine sample may be used against the defendant in a court of law. This bill was signed into law by Gov. Kemp on April 28, 2019.
In addition to this legislation becoming law this year, the following study committees were established to review several issues dealing with public safety:
- Senate Resolution 366 created the Senate Study Committee on Passenger Vehicle Seat Safety Belts.
- Senate Resolution 479, which I sponsored, created the Senate Study Committee on Evaluating E-scooters and Other Innovative Mobility Options for Georgians.
If you have any questions related to public safety funding or legislation passed this session, please do not hesitate to reach out. I will continue to update you over the course of the next few weeks on bills that will go into effect later this year. While session is over, please remember that I am always here to be of assistance and our office door is always open.