Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (Photo by Beau Evans)

ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp signed two tax credit bills Monday along with legislation authorizing “co-responder” teams of law enforcement officers and mental health professionals to answer emergency calls.

The three bills were priorities of Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the Georgia Senate. All three passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support.

“We worked together across the party divide,” Duncan said during a news conference at the state Capitol before Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bills.

The “LESS” (Law Enforcement Strategic Support) Crime Act will provide Georgia taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar income tax credit on contributions to public safety initiatives in their communities.

Law enforcement agencies will be able to use the money for police officer salary supplements, to purchase or maintain department equipment and/or to establish or maintain a co-responder program.

“This gives much more resources to local law enforcement,” said Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry, the bill’s chief sponsor.

The bill includes a statewide cap on the program of $75 million a year. Individual law enforcement agencies are limited to $3 million annually.

Single taxpayers will receive a tax credit of up to $5,000, with married couples filing jointly eligible for up to $10,000.

The second tax credit bill Kemp signed Monday will provide up to $20 million a year to nonprofit organizations that help foster children about to age out of the foster care system. More than 700 young men and women age out of the system each year.

“They don’t have a huge constituency down here lobbying us … to give them the same chance I had,” Duncan said.

The money will pay for services such as housing, food and transportation to help foster children leaving the system pursue college or technical school as well as provide mentors to help influence them to make good decisions.

The third bill will for the first time set up a statewide co-responder program to let mental health workers respond with police to emergency calls involving people who appear to be in mental distress.

A comprehensive bill overhauling Georgia’s mental health system the General Assembly passed unanimously this year calls for funding five co-responder programs around the state, including a training component.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.