The Georgia House voted late Tuesday -- not once, but twice -- to reject a Senate measure that would broaden and strengthen the state’s domestic terrorism laws.
The first vote on passage of Senate Bill 1, one of that chamber’s top priorities for the year, was 85-83. It takes 91 votes to pass a bill in the House. After a procedural vote to revive the bill, the House then voted 84-83 to pass SB 1.
That measure is now dead, although it can be added to another measure before lawmakers quit for the year on Thursday.
The bill’s sponsor is Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, and was a top priority of Senate GOP leadership. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle accused the House of making Georgians less safe.
“Less than one week after a deadly terrorist attack struck London, and in the wake of countless acts of terrorism at home and abroad, 83 members of the House declined to approve a measure to enhance Georgia’s defense against potential terrorist threats,” Cagle said. “I will not give up on protecting our citizens and we can never subject the safety and security of Georgians to political gamesmanship.”
SB 1 would classify a crime as “domestic terrorism” if it is a felony that causes bodily harm or death, or the disabling or destruction of “critical infrastructure” that results in major economic losses. It would also have to be proven the crime was intended to intimidate residents or to change public policy.
Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, the bill’s sponsor in the House, said attacks over the past several years in Orlando, Charleston and elsewhere spurred the need for the bill.
“Per Georgia law right now today those events those horrific acts would not qualify under Georgia law as domestic terrorism,” he said. “This issue has to be addressed.”
But others worried the bill’s mandatory prison sentences were too stiff, that the definition of domestic terrorism could capture peaceful protesters and have other unintended consequences.
Still, Rep. Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, said, the bill that came out of House committee was far superior to the one the Senate originally passed.
“I’d thank my colleagues on Judiciary Non Civil for the outstanding work that they did to take a terrifying bill and just make it scary,” Trammell said.
Staff writer Kristina Torres contributed.
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