This past year has been filled with challenges, including a pandemic that stopped the world in its tracks, riots and protests, and a divisive culture like we have not seen in recent history. While there are many issues that divide our nation, I believe that supporting those who put their lives on the line to ensure our safety and freedom is not one of those. The men and women who serve in the public safety community do what many choose not to — risk life and limb for a stranger. They never know if they will come home to their families, beginning each day of work with the realization of that harsh possibility. It takes a special person to be selfless and prioritize the well-being of a complete stranger over their own, or to run into a fire when everyone else is running away. While these times remain uncertain, I am proud of the legislation we passed this year to show our state’s heroes that we back the blue and support all of those who risk their lives to keep us safe and healthy.
Below are summaries of some of the key pieces of legislation we passed related to public safety:
•House Bill 576 – Addresses the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund by bumping up payments made to the program from 12th to 5th place. Reckless driving and DUI fines are used to fund this program. – Effective Aug. 3, 2020.
•House Bill 838 – Provides additional protections for our state’s first responders — any firefighter of a municipal, county, or volunteer fire department, a peace officer as defined in Georgia’s Code, and an emergency medical technician as defined in Georgia’s Code. Anyone who maliciously and intentionally terrorizes, harasses or intimidates any citizen because they are a first responder will be charged with the new crime of bias motivated intimidation and if found guilty, will serve one to five years in prison and pay a fine of up to $5,000 or both. – Effective Jan. 1, 2021.
•House Bill 1017 – Updates indemnification payments for specific public safety personnel when a death occurs while in the line of duty. – Effective July 1, 2020.
•Senate Bill 341 – Enables retired peace and correctional officers to assist local police and sheriff departments during declared emergencies or disasters. To participate, the officers must maintain certification. – Effective Jan. 1, 2021.
•Senate Bill 342 – I sponsored this legislation to establish the Georgia Volunteer Fire Service Council and to set forth requirements and the certification process for volunteer firefighters and departments. – Effective Jan. 1, 2021.
Many other pieces of legislation that address public safety received final passage but I wanted to provide you with some major highlights. If you have any questions about the bills listed above, other pieces of legislation related to public safety or any legislation discussed during the 2020 session, please feel free to contact my office.
State Sen. Burt Jones is the chairman of the Insurance and Labor Committee. He represents the 25th Senate District which includes Baldwin, Butts, Greene, Jasper, Morgan and Putnam counties and portions of Bibb, Jones and Walton counties. He may be reached at 404-656-0082 or via email at email@example.com.