After two versions of hate crime legislation failed to make it out of their respective House committees, it seems hate crime legislation may become a reality in Georgia after all.
The House Judiciary passed out of committee last week Senate Bill 373 which would impose harsher penalties for persons convicted of crimes against protected classes of people as defined under the new legislation.
But the bill isn’t making it’s way through the legislature in the most honest of ways. SB 373 was originally intended to increase the number of Superior Court Judges in Cobb County from 10 to 11, but after a news story broke last week alleging that Cobb Superior Court Clerk Rebecca Keaton had been “counting cases wrong,” it turns out Cobb does not need another judge.
So the judge bill became the bus bill for the hate crime bill.
Despite having passed the Senate, carried by Cobb Senator Lindsey Tippins, as a judicial bill relating to salaries, compensation, and terms, the Superior Court Judge allocation language was stricken completely and now resembles that of a hate crime bill, addressing simple assault, battery, and criminal damage to property.
That happened in the Judicary Committee on March 9, chaired by Rep. Wendell Williard of Sandy Springs. He’s also the House sponsor of the bill. SB 373 in its new form adds protections for perceived religion, race, national origin, homeless status, gender, and sexual orientation.
The new language addresses code section and would make the following changes:
- Currently a misdemeanor, simple assault against a person “intentionally selected because of such individual’s actual or perceived religion, race, national origin, homeless status, gender, or sexual orientation shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished as for a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.”
- Aggravated assault against a person for the above-mentioned reasons would increase the punishment to a minimum of three years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
- Simple battery against a person for the above-mentioned reasons is increased to a high and aggravated misdemeanor.
- Battery against a person for the above-mentioned reasons is increased to a high and aggravated misdemeanor.
- Criminal damage to property of an individual or group related to the protected groups would also carry a heavier punishment by imprisonment for not less than three nor more than ten years.
High and aggravated misdemeanors carry heavier fines and jail time than simple misdemeanors. All are contingent upon convictions.
Georgia is one of five states with no hate crime legislation.
You can read the most recent version of Senate Bill 373 here.
You can read the original version of Senate Bill 373 here.
Listed here are the members of the House Judiciary Committee.