Gov. Kemps signs bill banning 'defunding' local police

Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation into law Friday afternoon that prohibits local governments in Georgia from "defunding" their police departments.

Under the new law, city and county governments cannot reduce their law enforcement funding by more than five percent in a single year or five percent in a rolling five-year period.

"The bottom line is this-- 'defunding' the police makes communities and families less safe. Here in Georgia, as long as I'm governor, we will not allow the liberal mob to impose their dangerous, anti-police agenda on our state," Gov. Kemp said during his remarks at the signing ceremony.

The idea to "defund the police" sprang from social justice protests last summer after the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta during interactions with police officers. Many have called to reallocate police budgets to different initiatives.

State Rep. Houston Gaines said he filed House Bill 286 after some leaders in Athens-Clarke County considered slashing their law enforcement budget.

"When the proposal to cut 50% was released, I heard from folks across the political spectrum concerned. I knew we had to do something," Rep. Gaines explained. "I support local control, but when you have local governments that are out of control, I knew we had to act."

House Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, argued earlier this year that the legislation was unconstitutional because it overrode the will of local governments. He said the proposal also failed to address the root of the problem.

"We really need to struggle with the reality of what we're dealing with right now in society and that is how can we make policing safer in all neighborhoods? Especially if the police are the people you've got to be most afraid of," Rep. Beverly said.

The law includes exceptions for years when cities or counties make a one-time capital improvement for equipment or incurred a legal obligation. It also exempts local governments that must make across-the-board cuts because of budgetary shortfalls.

Counties or cities with fewer than 25 law enforcement officers are exempt from the law altogether.

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