ATLANTA – The Georgia House of Representatives gave final passage Tuesday to legislation adding a long list of offenses ineligible for no-cash bail.
The Republican controlled House voted 97-69 along party lines to adopt a conference committee report on Senate Bill 63 worked out by House and Senate negotiators.
The ban on no-cash bail applies to both violent and non-violent crimes, from murder and rape to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and white-collar crimes including forgery and financial transaction card fraud.
The Senate passed the conference committee report last week in a 30-17 vote, also along party lines. Most of the work on the bill was done last year, but the conference committee formed at the end of the 2023 legislative session couldn’t reach an agreement before lawmakers adjourned for the year.
“This legislation will make it clear that Georgia is not going to go down the path of other states that have (allowed) no-cash bail,” Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, who carried the bill in the House, said Tuesday.
Gaines said statistics show that criminal suspects who are granted no-cash bail fail to appear in court at much higher rates than those forced to post bail.
House Democrats argued the legislation punishes people who have yet to be convicted of a crime simply for being poor. In many cases, those denied no-cash bail have been charged with low-level offenses that don’t even carry a jail sentence if they’re convicted, said Rep. Gregg Kennard, D-Lawrenceville.
Rep. Tanya Miller, D-Atlanta, accused Republican lawmakers of undermining criminal justice reforms then-GOP Gov. Nathan Deal championed during the last decade. Miller said forcing criminal suspects to remain in jail before their court date is counterproductive.
“The more time they spend in pre-trial detention increases the probability of re-arrest,” she said.
The bill’s opponents also complained about a provision in the bill that limits charitable organizations that raise money for bail from posting more than three cash bonds per year.
“We can possibly criminalize churches that raise money to get their member out of jail,” said Rep. Derrick Jackson, D-Tyrone.
Senate Bill 63 now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.