Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan signaled Friday he plans to work with state lawmakers on passing hate-crimes legislation following the high-profile arrests of three white men in the fatal shooting of a black man near Brunswick.
Duncan, who presides over the Georgia Senate, said Friday lawmakers need to craft legislation that gives victims of hate-motivated crimes “certain tools” to bring civil lawsuits and sets a framework for law enforcement officials “to correctly identify, investigate and prosecute hate crimes.”
“This is an important piece of legislation to get right,” Duncan said in a statement. “It is time to make it clear that Georgians will not stand for hate and violence.”
Duncan’s remarks follow the arrests earlier this month of Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father and son living in the Brunswick area who face murder charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery, who is black, was allegedly gunned down after being pursued in late February by the McMichael men, who are white.
Video of the shooting taken by a third man arrested in the case, William Bryan, who is also white, sparked widespread outrage among Georgia leaders and prompted renewed calls for passage of the hate-crimes bill.
The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Chuck Efstration, cleared the Georgia House last year but has stalled in the Senate. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have issued calls in recent weeks to pass the bill. Efstration said he plans to push for its passage once the General Assembly resumes the 2020 legislative session in mid-June.
In a statement earlier this month, Efstration, R-Dacula, noted the bill has gained support from the state House’s top lawmaker, Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. Other influential House lawmakers including the legislature’s longest-serving member, Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, have also pushed for passage this session.
“It is now time for the Georgia Senate to do the right thing and pass the Georgia Hate Crimes Act without delay,” Efstration said.