House Bill 286 bars cities and counties from reducing their law enforcement budgets by more than 5% in one year or cumulatively across five years.
Opponents of the bill have said it flies in the face of state Republican lawmakers’ often-stated principle of allowing local governments to have control over local issues and sets a bad precedent where state legislators dictate how local elected officials spend their money.
Conversations about reducing police budgets arose in response to killings of Black men and women across the country, with activists saying the criminal justice system doesn’t keep them safe.
No local governments in Georgia have followed through with proposals to significantly reduce police funding. Elected officials in Athens and Atlanta considered changing the way they funded law enforcement but ultimately decided against the proposals.
HB 286 includes exemptions for police forces with fewer than 25 officers, for one-time spending on equipment or facility purchases, and if a local government sees a decline in revenue.
It also would require local governments to allow public safety officers and first responders who request it to have money set aside from their paychecks to pay premiums for insurance plans that provide legal assistance if needed.
It also requires any local government that wishes to decrease the police budget by more than 5% to hold public hearings discussing the changes.