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Ga. Capitol roundup: House passes bill to block ‘defunding’ of police

Georgia Capitol
Georgia Capitol(WALB)
Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 8:42 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2021 at 1:24 PM EST
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia state House has passed a bill that would block cities and counties from defunding the police.

The legislative effort passed Wednesday follows nationwide protests for racial justice that led Atlanta and Athens to debate plans to redirect some police spending last year.

House Bill 286 passed 101-69 in a largely party-line vote. Republicans were in support and Democrats opposed. It now goes to the state Senate for more debate.

The proposal would ban cities and counties from cutting spending on police departments by more than 5% in a year. There would be some limited exceptions such as revenue loss.

Georgia Senate seeks to let state take over county elections

Georgia’s State Election Board could take over county election offices under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate. Senate Bill 89 passed on a 35-18 vote, sending it to the House for more work. The measure is one of a barrage of bills Republicans are pushing. The measure creates a new election official, reporting to the board, that could intervene in “low-performing” county election offices. If a county fails or refuses to make changes within 90 days of state-paid evaluation, the state could take over a county. Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Atlanta, was again singled out on the floor Wednesday as a potential target.

Senate seeks to let home-schoolers play public school sports

Home-schooled athletes are one step closer to being able to play on their local public school team after the Senate voted 39-15 to pass Senate Bill 51 on Wednesday. The measure lets students in grades 6-12 take part in sports or extracurricular activities when they take at least one online course through the local public school system. The bill moves to the House, which has traditionally been the roadblock to approving home-schooler participation in public school athletics. The Georgia High School Association oversees athletics and activities for public schools and some private schools and has endorsed the bill.

Distance-learning angst helps push school voucher proposals

Republican lawmakers pushing to spend public money to pay for private or home schooling say they are responding to parental frustration over lack of in-person schooling. Opponents of such vouchers say they will sap resources as schools try to help kids harmed by online school and other disruptions. There are fresh voucher proposals in states with already abundant subsidies for private and home schools and in states where there are none. Schools have been more likely to stay all-virtual in states controlled by Democrats. Yet the proposals appear more likely to pass in states controlled by Republicans. One Georgia plan would create educational savings accounts that and parents could use for private school tuition or home-schooling costs.

Bill would require certification for sheriff candidates

Aspiring Georgia sheriffs would have to earn their law enforcement certification before they pin on their badge under a bill advancing in the state Senate. The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to pass Senate Bill 183 on Tuesday. It says that anyone who wants to file to run for sheriff in one of Georgia’s 159 counties must have already be certified by the state Peace Officers Standards and Training Council. The council would also have to attest that potential candidates are in good standing and haven’t been disciplined. Republican Sen. Randy Robertson of Cataula says the idea is to raise standards. Now, any sheriff elected who is not certified is required to complete training within six months.

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