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Republicans Attack Libraries & Charitable Bond

A Brief Introduction to SB 63 & SB 390:  

We’ve given you a general overview of the legislative session so far, but here’s a deep dive into two bills that we think you really need to know about. The first bill, SB 63, criminalizes charitable bail funds, causing an outsized impact on marginalized communities. The second bill, SB 390, restricts state funds from libraries that are a part of the American Library Association, which will hurt already underfunded libraries and effectively restrict library reading materials.

SB 63: The Bail Bond Bill 

On Tuesday, Republicans passed SB 63 in the State House after it was presented by Houston Gaines (R-Athens), with the bill now on its way to Governor Kemp's desk for his signature. Marketed as a bail system reform bill, in reality it would require bail for a variety of misdemeanors and would heavily restrict the practice of charitable bail. 

The specifics:

  • The passing of this bill would erode the ability for judges to release most misdemeanor offenders without bail.

  • Judges can still set an ultra-low bail, but it will be required that there is a bail amount.

  • SB 63 would require cash bail for a variety of both violent and non-violent crimes, including possession of marijuana.

  • Many of the crimes that will now require bail do not carry a jail sentence upon conviction, meaning that those who can't pay for their bail may now go to jail even if the crime they committed it doesn't require it.

  • This bill also presents issues with charitable bond coverage. Legal requirements to become a charitable bail bond company are tougher under SB 63’s language. Further, there will also be stricter enforcement and penalties of the bail bond maximum of three people annually. Those who provide bail for more than three people will be given a misdemeanor.

  • With more misdemeanors requiring bail and less bond coverage, Georgia will be sending offenders into already poorly maintained and overcrowded jails for not being able to cover bail pretrial.

  • This will have an outsized impact on lower-class communities, as while wealthy offenders can easily pay their bails, even a low bail amount can represent an unpayable expense for people from lower income households or those who are on welfare.

  • With Governor Kemp having publicly stated that he wants more restrictive bail conditions, this bill is very likely to get his signature if passed by the legislature. 

Democrats have spoken about how they find the timing of this bill troubling. During the 2022 election cycle, Georgia Republicans used a “soft on crime” viewpoint to attack their opposition. With SB 63 coming soon before the 2024 election season, this talking point can be expected again, as Democrats reject this bill due to its overly harsh nature. 

Others believe that this bill is troubling due to the rise of community members protesting the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, colloquially known as “Cop City.” Dozens of protestors have been arrested, and if they continue to protest the construction of Cop City, their arrests will fall under bail required offenses with SB 63. 

Overall, this bill is riddled with cruel intentions, and will only serve to further hurt marginalized communities while unnecessarily adding more inmates to prisons that are already at capacity.

Library Bill: 

In addition to criminalizing bail funds, Senate Republicans also proposed SB 390, which would defund any libraries that accept materials or receive funding from the American Library Association (ALA) starting in July of 2025. The ALA is the largest library association in the US that provides grants for libraries, and it is the only association in the US that can accredit programs in library and information science. 

The specifics:

  • SB 390 would withdraw any public funding from libraries that are affiliated with or take grant money from the ALA

  • Programs incentivizing reading comprehension funded by the ALA would be terminated

  • Current materials loaned by the ALA to libraries may need to be returned, though the bill in its current state has been vague on this issue

  • Librarians would no longer be required to have graduated from an ALA accredited program, despite no other programs currently existing, and no new accreditation program in the bill.

  • Valdosta State, the only college in GA with an ALA-affiliated librarian training program, will have to close the program under the current bill’s language, which would cause a loss of over 3.5 million dollars annually in lost tuition. 

The bill’s primary sponsor, Larry Walker (R-Perry), noted that his inspiration for the bill came after he heard his town’s library took a grant that included some money for LGBTQ+ materials. Despite admitting that he “didn’t see any of the material," Representative Walker was offended enough that he demanded an apology. When this was not forthcoming, due to the librarians insisting that increased diversity in library materials is beneficial, Representative Walker began drafting SB 390 with the help of 21 other Senate Republicans. A constituent of Ben Watson (R-Savannah), another Republican sponsor of the bill, described the SB 390 as, "flimflam designed to win votes, not improve the intellectual lives of our children.” Further Republican anger came after the current president of the ALA described herself as a “Marxist lesbian” in a now-deleted tweet. 

The bill has been proposed and is now being debated in the Senate. With 22 Republicans as co-sponsors, SB 390 will likely pass on party lines to be sent to the House. In combination with other bills that have either been passed in recent years or are expected to pass this session, Georgia’s defunding and censorship of libraries will be some of the worst in the country.


Our Final Thoughts: 

These bills are paragons of the Republican mismanagement of our state. Instead of focusing on issues that impact Georgians, like poor recent crop harvests, skyrocketing maternal mortality, or unsustainable housing costs, Republicans continue to home in on culture-war issues. With SB 63, SB 390, and a slew of other harmful Republican bills expected to pass the GA legislature, the need to flip the State Assembly blue is more clear than ever.

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