Bipartisan Call For Georgia Hate Crimes Legislation

We get a lot of press releases from individual legislators here. We don’t post most of them, as our space is limited and many are often just PR vehicles or for bills being dropped that have no chance of moving. I’m sharing two today because they are the opposite of those.

The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery and the arrest of Gregory and Travis McMichael, as well as the delay in that arrest, has once again brought attention to the state’s lack of hate crime legislation. HB 426’s lead sponsor is Representative Chuck Efstration (R-Gwinnett), Chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. A Chairman sponsoring legislation is a strong signal that a bill is viable. We’ll take his press release second.

The bill’s second sponsor is Representative Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus). He’s the Dean of the House, having served longer than any other member. He’s also someone that eschews press and is known for working behind the scenes rather than mugging for cameras or trying to get his name in print. He’s effective working both sides of the aisle, at least in part because he choses action over words. So when he does speak, he’s like E.F. Hutton (to use an 80’s reference): People listen.

Representative Smyre’s release is as follows:

ATLANTA – State Representative Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), Dean of the Georgia House of Representatives, today issued the following statement regarding recent efforts to push for the final passage House Bill 426, also known as the “Georgia Hate Crimes Act:”

“In light of what has transpired in Brunswick and the horrific video showing of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, House Bill 426 will be a top priority for me when we return for the conclusion of the 2020 legislative session. While we will demand and expect fairness and integrity going forward in the judicial process that follows, what happened to Ahmaud Arbery has become too much of a norm in today’s society; these circumstances have to be corrected and stopped, for we know that more crimes of hate will follow.

“It is time for Georgia to get out of the dark ages as one of four states without a hate crimes act. As a bipartisan co-sponsor of HB 426 I say, ‘now is the time for us to act by calling on the State Senate to pass HB 426.’ We have been trying to get a hate crimes act passed for three years. House Bill 426 has been carefully crafted not to impose mandatory minimums or reverse the bipartisan progress made in criminal justice reform, but to announce that now is the time for our state to assert with one voice that crimes of violence and prejudice against our neighbors will be classified and condemned for what they are: hate crimes.”

Representative Calvin Smyre represents the citizens of District 135, which includes portions of Muscogee County. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974 and currently serves as Vice Chairman on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. He also serves on the Higher Education and Rules committees.

Representative Efstration’s release is as follows:

ATLANTA – State Representative Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, today announced that he will advocate for the passage of House Bill 426, also known as the “Georgia Hate Crimes Act,” when the 2020 legislative session resumes this year. 

“For two years, I have been working to pass a hate crimes law in Georgia,” said Chairman Efstration. “Speaker David Ralston made this bipartisan bill a priority in the Georgia House of Representatives last year, and I am calling on the State Senate to pass House Bill 426 as soon as possible.” 

According to recent reports, the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was fatally shot near Brunswick, has renewed calls for the passage of a hate crimes law in the state. The federal government and 46 other states currently have hate crime laws in place.

“Members of the Georgia House will be monitoring the Ahmaud Arbery case to see if we may need to review the law on ‘citizen arrests’ and other issues,” added Chairman Efstration.  “It is now time for the Georgia Senate to do the right thing and pass the Georgia Hate Crimes Act without delay.” 

Chairman Efstration says that the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) fully supported his efforts to pass HB 426 in the House during the 2019 legislative session. HB 426 has not yet received a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and is available for consideration when the 2020 legislative session resumes in the coming weeks. 

For more information on HB 426, please click here.

Representative Chuck Efstration represents the citizens of District 104, which includes portions of Gwinnett County. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2013 and currently serves as Chairman of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and the Rules, Code Revision, Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment, Judiciary, Defense & Veterans Affairs, Insurance and Juvenile Justice committees.


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