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Governor’s criminal justice overhaul passes House committee
Nathan Deal 2018
Nathan Deal

ATLANTA — The final piece of Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s years-long criminal justice overhaul is expected to see a vote in the Georgia House early next week, after passing through the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Thursday.

The proposal, which backers say seeks to keep fewer non-violent offenders behind bars, would give judges more leeway in forgoing cash bail for low-income offenders and more opportunities to impose community service rather than fines. It also enhances penalties for certain crimes involving firearms.

Deal said in February when the proposal was unveiled that “while we provide individuals and families with second chances, we are simultaneously making communities safer by incarcerating the most serious and violent offenders.”

The bill, which has garnered bipartisan support, was altered since it passed the Senate last month in order to strike a compromise between the House committee and the Deal administration.

Among the changes, the latest version would mandate a criminal record check and fingerprinting for four specific misdemeanor violations, including shoplifting and possession of marijuana before an officer could issue a citation and release someone.

Chairman of the committee, Rep. Rich Golick, said that change alleviated concerns he had about a provision in the bill that would have allowed an officer to simply issue a ticket for those specific offenses.

“The discomfort for me would have been had they not had to go get printed,” Golick said. “I think we cure that by ensuring that (suspects) are processed and printed at the time.”