State Sen. Bill Heath

State Sen. Bill Heath

Between the period of Jan. 14, 2019, when the legislature convened for the 155th Georgia General Assembly, and when we adjourned Sine Die on April 2, 2019, we passed around 130 general bills and resolutions.

The Senate welcomed a new Lt. Governor, five new members and had over 65 hours of actual debate on legislation that was brought to the floor for a vote. This number does not include other official Senate business.

We addressed a variety of issues including school safety, broadband access, relief for those affected by Hurricane Michael, health care access and improvements, among other topics that will have an impact on all Georgians.

During the interim, I will be providing updates by topic on the various bills and resolutions that received final passage.

With the deadline – May 12, 2019 – quickly approaching for the Governor to either sign, veto or let legislation become law without his signature, I wanted to begin the post session updates with legislation that passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This was my first session as a member of this committee where we addressed and ultimately passed the legislation highlighted below.

♦ Senate Bill 1 – C.J.’s Law – states that “Any person who, without malice aforethought, proximately causes an accident that the person knew resulted in bodily harm and leaves the scene of the accident” would be guilty of the crime of serious injury by vehicle. Anyone convicted under SB 1 would be guilty of a felony and punished by imprisonment between one and ten years. This bill is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk.

♦ Senate Bill 9 would create a new crime of “sexual extortion” outlawing coercing an individual into sending nude images, videos or any electronic communication of the individual engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Additionally, this legislation outlines the crime of “improper sexual contact by employee or agent” which would occur when an employee or agent knowingly engages in sexually explicit conduct with an individual under their supervision. Under SB 9, there is a tier system for offenses and charges that would be imposed when a person is convicted of each of these offenses. This bill is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk.

♦ Senate Bill 158 – “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act” – makes numerous changes to how victims of human trafficking and sexual servitude are identified, broadens the definition of trafficking for sexual servitude, how the crimes are punished and removes the crime of “pandering by compulsion” from Georgia Code. Signed by Governor Kemp on April 18, 2019, and will become effective on July 1, 2019.

♦ House Bill 281 increases the penalty for conviction of pimping or pandering by changing the mandatory minimum imprisonment for a first offense from 24 to 72 hours and adding a penalty for a second or subsequent offense to include a felony charge and between one and 10 years of imprisonment. Signed by Governor Kemp on April 18, 2019, and will become effective July 1, 2019.

♦ House Bill 282 addresses the period of time law enforcement agencies handling a case where a victim reports sexual assault have to maintain all physical evidence that contains biological material. Under current law, the requirement is 10 years but HB 282 would increase that to 30 years from the date of arrest or seven years from the completion of the sentence, whichever occurs last. The period increases to 50 years if no arrest is made. This bill is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk.

♦ House Bill 424 revises the definition of “criminal gang activity” to include human trafficking for labor or sexual servitude, keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, or pandering. Under HB 424, updates to Georgia’s Rape Shield Statute and Child Hearsay Statute are addressed. Signed into law by Governor Kemp on April 18, 2019.

♦ House Bill 478 would make numerous changes to the child abuse reporting process and outlines the appeals process an alleged child abuser may follow to remove their name from the Child Abuse Registry. This bill is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk.

These are highlights of what was addressed in the Senate Judiciary Committee to increase safety for our citizens, especially our children, and to ensure our citizens have protections under Georgia’s judicial system.

If you have any questions about any of the bills mentioned above, others that passed through the committee or anything that passed this session, please do not hesitate to reach out.

While our work under the Gold Dome is done for the 2019 session, my line of communication with you is never closed. I look forward to hearing from you.

State Sen. Bill Heath serves as Chairman of the Government Oversight Committee. He represents the 31st Senate District which consists of Haralson and Polk counties and portions of Paulding County. He may be reached at 404-656-3943 or by email at billheath@billheath.net

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