HB 426 was narrowly approved by the House last year and could be considered by the Georgia Senate when lawmakers return next week to complete the legislative session that was suspended in March to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Sponsored by state Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, HB 426 would provide sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of targeting a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.
Supporters of HB 426 have asked the Senate to approve the legislation as is and send it to the governor's desk. But Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has said, while he supports passage of a hate-crimes bill, he believes the legislation needs to be stronger.
"We can do better than House Bill 426," Duncan said Wednesday during an appearance on CNN. "I've been told by an African-American gentleman sitting in my office that House Bill 426, if passed, would be the weakest hate-crimes law in the country."
Other proposals in the Senate Democrats' package of legislation include restoring voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences, restricting the use of rubber bullets and creating a special prosecutor to handle cases involving police officers. Stone Mountain state Sen. Gloria Butler, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said many of the proposals have been offered by lawmakers in the past.
“The vast majority of Democratic legislation has been sidelined and has not received a committee hearing,” Bulter said. “Too many of our citizens have died or been injured, while politics are at play. That time is over,” Butler said.
The announcement comes one week after House Democrats released a similar package of criminal justice legislation, focusing on repealing Georgia's citizen's arrest law.