On March 24th, the gavels in both the House and Senate sounded and the 2016 Georgia legislative session came to an end. I am pleased to announce that this session was a success for GJP and for thousands of returning citizens across Georgia. Below is a summary of the legislative victories achieved.
Senate Bill 367
SB 367 implements the recommendations of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform. After the bill passed the Senate in February, a House committee added a provision that lifts Georgia’s lifetime ban on food stamps for people with felony drug convictions. On Thursday, the Senate agreed to that version of the bill, which will now go to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk’s for his signature. The inclusion of this provision is a major victory for the thousands of Georgians denied food stamps each year as a result of drug convictions on their records. With the Governor’s signature, Georgia will join the 44 other states who have modified or lifted this ban. GJP worked closely with the Council all year to help craft these proposals, and we are glad to see them approved by the legislature.
As a reminder, SB 367 as passed also includes the following improvements to Georgia’s reentry environment:
Updates to the First Offender Act to give those sentenced under the act a real second chance in the digital age
Extending “ban the box” protections to applicants for occupational licenses
Retroactive reinstatement of driver’s licenses revoked for non-vehicle related drug offenses and driver’s license reinstatement fee relief for indigent individuals
Lifting the lifetime ban on food stamps for people with felony drug convictions.
Please see my previous update for further detail on these provisions.
House Bill 936
As amended and passed by both the House and Senate, HB 936 creates a tax credit for employers who hire certain qualifying parolees. This language was formerly included in HB 828, but now goes to the Governor for final approval as part of HB 936. Incentives for employers are a powerful means of encouraging increased hiring of individuals with criminal records, and HB 936 represents a significant step in the right direction.
I extend a sincere thank you to all of you for your support during this legislative session, whether it consisted of attending Lobby Day, calling your legislators, or simply staying informed on these issues that impact all citizens of our state. It is important for the members of the General Assembly to know that while SB 367 and HB 936 were positive steps, there is still more work to be done. Please call or email your representative and senator and thank them for supporting SB 367 and HB 936. Also share with them that people with criminal records in Georgia continue to face significant barriers to employment and that more can and should be done.