Georgia Governor Signs Bill That Limits Decreasing of Police Funding

The legislation was passed by the Georgia House of Representatives during the 2021 Georgia General Assembly session, with three Democrats voting in favor of the bill.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol on Saturday, April 3, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

(CN) — A bill signed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Friday restricts the amounts of reductions local governments can make in funding law enforcement to no more than 5% annually.

Kemp, a Republican, signed House Bill 286 at a gun range at the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office and took aim at calls to “defund the police.”

“Radical movements like the defund the police movement seek to vilify the men and women who leave their families every day and put their lives on the line to protect all Georgians,” Kemp said. “This far-left movement will endanger our communities and our law enforcement officers and leave our most vulnerable at risk.”

HB 286 was written by Athens Republican Representative Houston Gaines along with Republicans Trey Kelley, Katie M. Dempsey, Marcus A. Wiedower, J. Collins and Joseph Gullett. The bill is meant to “restrict the ability of municipal or consolidated government governing authorities to reduce funding for municipal police departments; to provide for exceptions; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”

According to the bill, “the governing authority of a county that has elected to establish a county police force pursuant to this chapter shall ensure that the annual budgetary appropriations for such police force during a rolling five-year period shall not decrease by more than 5% during such time period.”

Gaines tweeted on Friday, “Today, we made it clear that we won’t allow the ‘defund the police’ movement to take a foothold in Georgia. House Bill 286 will protect families across the state. Public safety is not a partisan issue — it’s one we can all agree on, and that’s why this legislation is so critical.”

The bill passed on Feb. 24 with a 101-69 vote. Three Democrats — Mesha Mainor, Patty Bently and Mike Glanton voted in favor of the legislation, while four Democrats abstained or were excused.

In a tweet on Friday, Democratic Representative Shea Roberts, who took office Jan. 11, called the signing of HB 286, “Another partisan power grab at the expense of Georgian’s public safety. Local (governments) know best how much to spend to keep their citizens safe.”

The bill also requires public hearings if a local government attempts to cut their annual police budget by more than 5%.

“The governing authority shall also place an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation serving the residents of the unit of local government and post such advertisement on the website of the governing authority, which describes to proposed percentage reduction in police services from the previous year’s appropriation for police services,” the bill states.

Calls for police reform have increased nationwide in recent years as police killings of Black citizens have become a hot-button issue that has reignited the Black Lives Matter movement, with many protesters chanting and holding signs that say, “defund the police.”

Protests hit a boiling point in Atlanta last summer after Rayshard Brooks, a Black man, was shot and killed by police officer Garrett Rolfe in a Wendy’s parking lot. The restaurant was set on fire as the city enacted a curfew to curb the unrest. After the county’s medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, 11 charges were brought against Rolfe, but local officials in Atlanta and Athens rejected proposals to decrease police funding.

HB 286 was one of multiple controversial bills that passed in the Georgia General Assembly’s 2021 session. The state House passed House Bill 531, which limits the hours of early voting and places more identification requirements for absentee voting. Democrats slammed the legislation as an attempt at voter suppression.

The passing of HB 531 has resulted in several lawsuits, and Major League Baseball pulled the 2021 All-Star Game and draft from Atlanta after Kemp signed it into law.

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