Gov. Nathan Deal today signed three bills pertaining to legal issues at the State Bar of Georgia and signed two bills advocated by the Women's Caucus at My Sister's House, an Atlanta facility that offers overnight shelter and residential discipleship programs for homeless women and women with children.
Bill signing at State Bar:
* HB 24 modernizes the Rules of Evidence
o Current Rules of Evidence are nearly 150 years old
o Brings OCGA in line with Federal Rules of Evidence pertaining to hearsay
o Georgia becomes the 45th state to modernize
* HB 238 revamps the Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council
o Agency has been plagued with issues
o Gives more autonomy to Director
o Reconstitutes the Council
* HB 415 provides for a statewide jury pool
o Since the 1960s, Georgia has used forced balancing to ensure demographic groups within counties are proportionally represented in the jury pool.
o Ends forced balancing and implements a series of procedures and rules to compile a statewide, inclusive juror source list. It calls for the Council of Superior Court Clerks to establish and maintain a statewide master jury list and requires the Department of Driver Services and the Secretary of State to provide certain information to the Council of Superior Court Clerks.
o The council will screen driver license records, vital records and voter registration records to create a more inclusive source list of eligible jurors. The database will be cleaned of duplicates, bad addresses and the names of felons and deceased people. Then the Council of Superior Court Clerks will certify and distribute an inclusive list to each individual county's Board of Jury Commissioners.
Bill Signing at My Sister's House:
"Human trafficking is a repugnant crime that is growing like a cancer in our society," Deal said. "Signing this bill into law, I join my fellow Georgians in declaring moral outrage and vowing to fight human trafficking here in our state. These criminals rob their victims of freedom and human dignity, and they destroy lives. With this bill now a law, we will find these criminals and we will punish them harshly."
* HB 200 addresses human trafficking
o Strengthens the punishment against traffickers by increasing the minimum imprisonment for any person who commits the offense of trafficking a person for labor or sexual servitude and subjects the convicted to a fine.
o Increases the punishment for any person who commits the offense of trafficking a person for labor or sexual servitude against a person who is under the age of 18 years
o Protects those that fall victim to predators whom act on their state of desperation by providing that a person shall NOT be guilty of a sexual crime if the conduct upon which the alleged criminal liability is based was committed under coercion or deception while the accused was being trafficked for sexual servitude
* HB 503 provides for the Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund to cover the costs of medical exams of alleged victims of rape
o Ensures that victims will have these exams paid for and that the responsibility will not fall on local law enforcement that have budget constraints