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Update on several bills from Nix at the Capitol

By Randy Nix
Represents District 69 in Georgia House

On Monday, March 8, the Georgia General Assembly began its ninth week of the 2021 legislative session. By the end of the week, we completed legislative day 31 and have more than passed the halfway point of the 40-day session. In addition, “Crossover Day” was Monday, March 8, and a flurry of activity happened that day as Representatives worked to get their bills passed by the House to be considered in the Senate.

On the COVID front, we passed House Bill 290, known as the ‘Patient and Resident Representation and Visitation Act,’ which prohibits a hospital or long-term care facility from implementing any policy that limits a patient or resident’s access to in-person physical contact with a designated legal representative which in most cases is a family member. There are certain precautions but what we are looking to do is reunite families that have been separated by the pandemic. We also limited the governor by removing his ability to waive or otherwise limit these provisions, including during a public health emergency.

As a big supporter of adoption of foster children, we increased the tax credit for adoption of a foster child, by increasing the current credit from $2,000 to $6,000 per foster child for the first five years of adoption and returning to $2,000 per year until the child reaches the age of 18.  H.B. 114 now heads to the Senate for consideration

As a believer in the Georgia General Assembly on law-and-order issues, I was happy that House Bill 109 easily passed. The ‘Child Victim Protection Act of 2021,’ essentially expands the time limits when a sexual abuse victim may come forward with civil actions for recovery of damages suffered because of childhood sexual abuse.  In addition, a plaintiff between the age of 23 and 38 years old may bring a civil action for recovery of damages because of childhood sexual abuse.  We also incorporated a look-back period of one year during which a plaintiff of any age, who was previously barred by a statute of limitations, may file an action for recovery of damages suffered because of childhood sexual abuse against a perpetrator or an entity.

We also passed another law-and-order bill, H.B. 194, which adds additional punishment for those convicted of a sexual felony or an aggravated assault with the intent to rape by requiring those individuals to be sentenced for imprisonment for life or a split sentence that is a term of imprisonment to be followed by probation for life. It also adds additional punishment for those convicted of a kidnapping that involves a victim under the age of 14, except by a parent, if that person being convicted also was previously convicted of a sexual felony. 

House members from across the aisle came together this week to unanimously pass House Bill 479, which would repeal Georgia’s antiquated citizen’s arrest law. In addition to repealing citizen’s arrest, HB 479 would clarify certain instances in which law enforcement officers may make arrests outside of their jurisdiction, as well as establish instances when certain private citizens may detain individuals. Law enforcement officers would only be able to make an arrest for an offense outside of their jurisdiction if the offense is committed in an officer’s presence or within his or her immediate knowledge, when the officer is in immediate pursuit of an offender for an offense first committed within the officer’s jurisdiction or while assisting another officer in his or her jurisdiction. Additionally, HB 479 would authorize retail store and food service establishment owners and employees to detain someone if they reasonably believe that the individual committed or attempted to commit shoplifting, theft or fraud. Further, state motor weight inspectors and licensed private detectives or security businesses may detain individuals when conducting their official business. However, the legislation clarifies that if these private citizens detain an individual, they must release the individual or contact law enforcement within a reasonable time. HB 479 would prohibit any use of force that is intended or likely to cause great bodily harm or death. Unfortunately, Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law has been weaponized to defend the unjust deaths of Georgians, including Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by private citizens while jogging in a coastal Georgia neighborhood in February 2020.

If HB 479 is enacted into law, Georgia would be the first state to repeal its citizen’s arrest laws.

We returned to the State Capitol on Monday, March 15 for the thirty-second legislative day.  You can reach me by phone at my Capitol office at 404-656-5146 or by email at randy.nix@house.ga.gov. As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.