A general view of the Georgia State Capitol from the Atlanta Beltline headquarters on Friday, May 21, 2021. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

The Georgia House of Representatives received legislation from the Senate that would establish mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for people convicted of crimes under the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.

The bill, which was proposed by Governor Brian Kemp and brought forth by Senator Bo Hatchett, R-Clarkesville, would propose any person 18 years or older found guilty of committing crimes must serve a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.

Individuals that lead a criminal street gang must serve a mandatory sentence between five and twenty years in prison. 

“I’m not always for mandatory minimums, but in this case, you’re talking about a group of individuals that are targeting children and trying to recruit them into a criminal enterprise and they’re taking away their innocence,” said Hatchett.

Gang leaders found guilty of committing crimes must serve a mandatory minimum sentence of ten to twenty years in prison. Under no circumstances can the mandatory prison sentences be suspended or converted to probation. Furthermore, prosecutors have the power to appeal sentences if the judgment handed down is perceived to be lenient.

Also, persons found guilty of multiple crimes would have to serve consecutive sentences in prison.

“The governor’s office wants to send a strong message to gang members: You come after our children and endanger our communities, and we will come after you,” said Hatchett.

Senate Bill 44 passed on a 44-8 vote. The bill is now eligible for debate in the Georgia House. 

Transgender Bill Passes in Second House Committee

A bill that would severely limit medications for transgender youth passed along party lines in the House Public Health Committee. Senate Bill 140, presented by Senator Carden Summers, R-Cordele, would ban gender-affirming procedures for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors from being performed in hospitals and other licensed healthcare facilities.

“I want to put a pause there, but let me repeat: I don’t care what happens after 18,” Summers said. “But I don’t think any child at 14 years old should have irreversible surgery that may affect him or her.”

The committee voted 12-10 in favor of the bill. But, certain language was removed that protected physicians from being held criminally or civilly liable for damages, losses, injury or death from treatments.

The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender-affirming care.

This bill is part of a larger movement by the religious right’s strict position on “social issues,” such as striking down abortion, directing state dollars to fund religious-based education, and the fight against LGBTQ+ rights. At least 100 anti-trans health care bills have been introduced by Republicans in state legislatures this year. 

“Parents are the ones who know their childrens’ best, and they should have the right to make decisions about their education and upbringing without interference from the government,” said State Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, a Democrat from Snellville. “Parents have the fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit. I won’t quote everyone who said that. But all of that was said last year. So at what point did Georgia shift from giving parents rights to taking away their rights for whatever medical treatment they deem appropriate with their doctor?”

The bill is now eligible for full debate in the Georgia House. 

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...