Republicans have jumped on the increase in murders in Atlanta to make tackling violent crime a cornerstone of their 2022 top-to-bottom election strategy.
Ralston was a supporter of former Governor Nathan Deal’s efforts to slow the growth of Georgia’s prison population through alternatives such as special courts aimed at giving more chances to those convicted of drug-related offenses.
But, like other Republican leaders in the state, he has expressed concern over the increase in violent crime over the past year.
Atlanta experienced a historically murderous 2020, when authorities investigated 157 homicide cases – the highest number in more than two decades. This year in June, homicides were up more than 50% in Atlanta and shootings were up 40% compared to the same period in 2020.
It’s unclear whether Ralston’s proposal will be considered this fall, in the special session, or in January, when lawmakers meet for the 2022 regular session.
Ralston has said he wants the state to set aside $ 25 million for bonuses. Local law enforcement agencies are reportedly asking for the money to give officers $ 1,000 in bonuses. The money couldn’t be used for anything else.
“Georgia is a state that strongly supports those who wear the badge,” said Ralston. “This $ 25 million is intended to reward the police and sheriff’s deputies who protect and serve our communities every day, often putting themselves at risk in the line of duty.”
The state, using federal COVID relief money, awarded teacher bonuses of $ 1,000 to most state employees earlier this year. Some state law enforcement officers have also obtained salary increases.
Ralston’s bonuses would be unusual as state money would go to local police and sheriff employees, not law enforcement. In 2016, when Deal proposed big increases for state patrol and other state justice officials, local officials complained they were going to be outbid for talent.
They wanted the state to help them increase the salaries of the local police, but nothing happened.
As part of Ralston’s plan, an additional $ 10 million would be used to increase the salaries of prosecutors and public defenders. The relatively low wages in these jobs have led to high turnover rates.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation would obtain additional funds for law enforcement and to increase the staff of criminal laboratories. Up to 50 new positions would be added in the laboratories, which fought to reduce the backlog of files. Additional money would be included to pay for private labs to help with backlogs as well. The money would also be used to assess threats to the school in hopes of preventing future shootings.
More money would go to mental health programs, including $ 7 million to add beds in crisis centers. Ralston and Georgia House have pushed for more funding for mental health, especially in the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for services.
New funding would be included for the GBI to initiate investigations in cases where electoral fraud is suspected. The funding will be accompanied by legislation at the 2022 session allowing the GBI to initiate such investigations without the need for a request or directive from any other local or state authority, such as the Secretary of State for Georgia, whose office oversees the elections.
After then-President Donald Trump claimed Georgia’s presidential election was rigged against him last fall, GBI investigators joined Secretary of State’s office for signature audit postal ballots in Cobb County. The investigation found no cases of fraud. Republican Trump was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden.
Earlier this week, Ralston told a committee he planned to ask the General Assembly to approve spending $ 3 million to pay 20 additional state soldiers and double task forces on the state gangs and human trafficking. Most of these agents would focus on the Atlanta area.
The state has the money to fund Ralston’s plan. The state posted record tax revenue in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and has $ 4.8 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money in its bank account or in progress. next year.