Our Georgia law enforcement officers deserve our utmost respect. They and our other first responders put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities. This year the General Assembly showed support for them in two ways — through our own budget priorities and legislation protecting law enforcement budgets at the local level.
In the budget this year, over $250,000 was included for the GBI’s Gang Task Force, providing legal assistance to local jurisdictions to prosecute gang members.
We also included targeted pay raises for positions with the highest turnover in our criminal justice community — correctional officers. The hard-working Georgians who serve as correctional officers in our state face turnover rates of 97% for juvenile facilities and 35% within adult facilities. These targeted pay raises show our appreciation for the challenging and stressful work that these officers undertake.
Additionally, the Department of Public Safety is receiving $1 million to create two additional salary levels. These two salary levels will be for experienced troopers who choose to stay in the field rather than moving into administrative roles. Keeping our most experienced troopers in the field provides positive leadership and a wealth of institutional knowledge for newer troopers as they begin their careers.
House Bill 286, sponsored by Representative Houston Gaines from Athens, directly responds to the “defund the police” movement we have seen across our country and, unfortunately, here in Georgia.
We have all seen reports of local governments disregarding the safety of their communities and attempting to “defund” their police department.
This year, we tackled that problem head-on with HB 286. HB 286 prohibits counties and municipalities from reducing their police force budgets by greater than five percent. There are “safety valves” in the bill that make exceptions for extreme economic conditions or legal requirements placed on a county or municipality, but protecting our police forces from arbitrary and ideologically-driven budgetary reductions is a top priority for the House Republican Caucus.
We have seen many of our public safety employees involved in lawsuits recently, whether because of their actions or the actions of others, creating a high cost for these employees. HB 286 requires state and local government entities to provide payroll deductions for public safety employees who wish to purchase legal insurance. This type of legal insurance provides the employee with representation for matters that come about because of their job duties. HB 286 does not create a new liability for state or local governments but instead streamlines the process for public safety employees to make these insurance payments.
Although Session is over for the year, please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail, or participate on Facebook to share your thoughts and concerns.
It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.