ATLANTA – It was “sine die” and goodbye for Georgia legislators April 2 when the General Assembly concluded its 40-day session.
In a day that ended just minutes before midnight, the Legislature approved the final batch of bills that now await the signature of Gov. Brian Kemp to become law.
Lawmakers will reconvene in January for the second part of the session, picking up where they left off with many bills introduced this session, but not finalized.
While many bills dealing with education issues passed prior to Day 40, including mandatory elementary recess, teacher raises and school bus safety, a few hot-button bills remained till the end.
Chief among them was Senate Bill 15, sponsored by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), known as the “Keeping Georgia Schools Safe Act.”
The bill includes recommendations developed by the Senate Study Committee on School Safety, chaired by Albers, created after the Parkland Florida shootings in Feb. 2018. The bill outlines new school mandates, including periodic threat assessments for public schools, which will be used to update the school’s safety plans.
SB15 provides a greater emphasis on law enforcement methods to mitigate school-based threats, including linking schools in with the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center. This is the state’s “fusion center” where terrorism data and other threat-based information is shared among law enforcement entities.
If signed into law, school safety plans will now be reviewed by local law enforcement and filed with the Georgia Department of Education.
Other provisions of SB15 includes the establishment of a school safety threat task force, and designating a school safety coordinator charged with reporting “reasonable suspicion” of violent criminal activity to law enforcement agencies. It also allows the reporting of any reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity, a provision that concerned some lawmakers.
The bill also requires annual drills, at least one focusing on a mass casualty event, in partnership with the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.