Legislation to recognize, track and punish hate crimes in Georgia failed to pass the House by the Crossover Day deadline Wednesday, Feb. 28, but advocates aren’t giving up this session.
House Bill 660, introduced by Rep. Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven) and endorsed by the Anti-Defamation League and the Coalition for a Hate-Free Georgia, never got out of House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. It had a hearing Feb. 13 before a subcommittee chairman who took the view that the measure was unnecessary because all crimes are hate crimes.
“I had more hopes before the hearing,” said Shelley Rose, the ADL Southeast deputy regional director, who said the meeting started late and didn’t provide enough time for supportive testimony.
Georgia is one of five states without any hate-crimes law. H.B. 660, based on a federal law, would have increased the penalties for crimes motivated by bias based on the victim’s actual or perceived “race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental disability or physical disability.”
“It’s a different level of crime,” Rose said, because an entire group feels targeted and is being sent a message, not just the victim.
The failed legislation also would have mandated reporting on hate crimes and training for law enforcement on how to investigate such crimes and deal with their victims. Law enforcement leaders backed the bill.
It was one of the priorities of Capitol lobbying Feb. 22 led by Reform group Tzedek Georgia and joined by the ADL and others. Rose and Tzedek Georgia Co-Director Jeff Willard were encouraged by lawmakers’ response to the lobbying.
While H.B. 660 is dead, the push for a hate-crimes law is not. Advocates hope to amend another bill to include at least the law enforcement aspects of H.B. 660 if not the whole measure.
“We haven’t given up,” Rose said. “I’m cautiously optimistic we can move something along.”