A Georgia bill requiring cash bail for 30 crimes, including some that are often misdemeanors, is on its way to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk after receiving final approval in the House on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 63 was approved in the Republican-led House by a 97-69 vote after senators passed the measure with a 30-17 vote on Thursday. The bill is in direct opposition to a law championed by former Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018 allowing judges to release most people accused of misdemeanors without bail.
If enacted into law, the bill would require bail for those accused of misdemeanor battery or a second or later misdemeanor offense of reckless driving or criminal trespass. Bail would also be required for those charged with failure to appear in court for a traffic ticket if it’s at least the second offense.
The measure also limits the ability for charitable organizations and individuals to bail more than three people out of jail in a year – the restriction does not apply to bail bond companies who meet the legal requirements to be classified as such.
Republican Rep. Houston Gaines, who sponsored the bill in the House, said the measure makes it clear that “Georgia is not going down the path of failure seen by other states and communities that have eliminated cash bail.”
He wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday that Georgia is “keeping criminals accountable” by requiring cash bail for more crimes.
Gaines also criticized bail funds, describing them as “unaccountable,” and noted that leaders of the fund that freed those arrested while rioting against the planned Atlanta police training center have been indicted.
Gaines added that a part of the 2018 measure requiring judges to consider a person’s ability to pay when setting bail would remain a law.
Speaker of the House Jon Burns, also a supporter of the bill, praised lawmakers for passing it on X on Tuesday.
“The facts are clear: cash bail prevents repeat offenses and keeps bad actors off the streets. Today the House took a strong stand by requiring cash bail for certain offenses—and we will keep working to make Georgia communities as safe as possible!” he wrote.
Other lawmakers who oppose the bill believe it targets poor defendants and could potentially strand them in jail for crimes that may not result in time behind bars if ultimately convicted.
Rep. Tanya Miller, a Democrat from Atlanta, described the measure as a “criminalization of poverty” and said there is no proof it would make communities safer.
“This bill would require incarceration for many [offenses] that once the person is fully vetted through due process, if they are convicted, they would not even receive incarceration,” Miller said.
She continued: “What is most scary about this bill is the criminalization of churches and religious institutions that have historically been on the front lines of social justice and civil rights.”
Though Kemp has said he is in favor of more restrictive bail conditions, he has not announced if he will sign the bill once it arrives at his desk.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.