ATLANTA (June 23, 2020) | Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said the legislation passed by the Senate today delivers on his promise of a strong, meaningful and bipartisan hate crimes bill. HB 426 passed by an overwhelming margin of 47-6.

“At a time when our nation feels so divided, Georgia is bringing forth a moment of unity,” Duncan said. “The Senate legislation builds on the great work done by the House, and it includes input from a diverse coalition of leaders. This collaborative effort has produced a strong, meaningful hate crimes bill that protects people in targeted groups and sends a strong statement about our values.

“Our state is the cradle of the civil rights movement. It’s the home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our capital is the City Too Busy To Hate. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made – progress that allowed us to become the first state in the Deep South to emerge as an international business hub. But events in recent months – from the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick to the protests we’ve seen in Atlanta – have reminded us that we still have much work to do. This legislation is one example of how we’re committed to doing that work.”

HB 426 as amended by the Senate provides a penalty enhancement for crimes where it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected any victim or group of victims or any property as the object of the offense because of the victim or group of victims’ actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability."

The Senate amended the legislation to craft a list of five “designated misdemeanors,” which include: simple assault; simple battery; battery; criminal trespass; and theft by taking. Penalty enhancements can be imposed when a hate crime is committed and the underlying crime is one of the five designated misdemeanors or a felony offense. The Senate also included a reporting element that requires police departments to file a written “Bias Crime Report,” which will be considered for statistical purposes only, and where no arrests are made, will not be subject to Open Records laws. The reports will be compiled by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and published annually in the Georgia Uniform Crime Report. “Today, Georgia is one step closer to taking its name off the short list of states lacking a hate crimes law. I look forward to working hand in hand with Speaker Ralston to get this bill to Gov. Kemp’s desk,” Duncan said.