Six members of the Georgia House of Representatives have responded to the “Defund the Police” movement and filed a bill that would prohibit local governments in the state from cutting more than 5 percent of their police budgets.
State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens), the bill’s primary sponsor, said Tuesday that his legislation would, if enacted into law, exempt local governments that lose more than 5 percent of their budget revenues.
Members of two Georgia-based organizations objected to the legislation, but Gaines said state residents are better off with it than without it.
“Athens-Clarke County proposed cutting 50 percent of its police budget just last year, and there’s a decent chance they will vote on that this summer,” Gaines told members at a Governmental Affairs General Government Subcommittee meeting.
“Also, the city of Atlanta had a proposal to cut $73 million (of the police budget) that failed on a 7-8 vote in the city council.”
Gaines told the subcommittee that members of the Police Benevolent Association of Georgia support the bill. He also said that his legislation does not apply to a police force that employs fewer than 10 officers.
“That’s because what you have in some really small cities [is] that 5 percent [of the force] could be one officer,” Gaines said.
Members of the Georgia Municipal Association said they take issue with Gaines’ proposal.
“The bottom line is our members feel like the decision-making on municipal budgets should be left to the elected officials in each community,” GMA Director of Governmental Relations Tom Gehl told the subcommittee Tuesday.
Gaines’ bill also troubles members of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.
“We understand the intent of the bill, but we think they should run [the] police as elected officials, accountable to the public, and how they feel best,” said Todd Edwards, that organization’s associate legislative director.
Other sponsors include State Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), State Rep. Kate Dempsey (R-Rome), State Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), State Rep. J. Collins (R-Villa Rica), and State Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas).
Nine of the subcommittee’s 12 members voted Tuesday to pass the bill on to the full committee.
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