Criminal justice overhaul expected to be filed soon
11:17 am, February 27th, 2012
A Georgia criminal justice overhaul bill could be submitted to the General Assembly as early as today, according to House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs.
Willard told the Daily Report Monday morning that he’d just signed the bill as a sponsor. He described the legislation as a 100-plus-page omnibus bill that tackles sentencing options in Georgia courts, restoring some judicial discretion and reducing minor traffic offenses from misdemeanors to violations so that offenders are subject to civil penalties but do not have to appear in court.
Willard is one of 18 members of a joint House and Senate committee tasked with reviewing and voting on legislation and resolutions that incorporate the recent recommendations of the state’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.
The special council is composed of judges, lawyers and legislators. Their recommendations, which were released in November, included creating a statewide system of accountability courts and giving judges more sentencing options for non-violent offenders.
Willard said he was the third sponsor signed on to the bill, which is expected to be filed by House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Chairman Rich Golick, R-Smyrna.
Willard told participants of Saturday’s Georgia Bar Media and Judiciary Conference that the bill will take an alternate path than most bills filed earlier in the session.
The joint committee “will work it as a document out of that one committee, which will then go to the House for consideration,” Willard said. “Passing the House, it will go directly to the Senate floor. So, it will not be going through the normal committee process.”
As a result of this process, the bill does not need to cross from the Senate to the House by the end of the 30th legislative day of the session to stay alive. Most other bills have to move from one chamber to the other by that day.
The effort to reduce recidivism and the amount of money the state spends annually to house offenders began last year when the governor announced legislation creating the special council and tasking it with studying the problems and finding legislative solutions.
Read related Daily Report articles on criminal justice reform in Georgia: