On Monday, Jan. 14, we will convene the 2019 Georgia legislative session in Atlanta. This year I have multiple bills I am working on to create a better Georgia. Today, I would like to explain my two legislative priorities for 2019.
First, I will attempt again to accomplish something that I have sponsored since my first term in the legislature. I have pre-filed House Bill 7 which would eliminate the state income tax on military retirement income. This is the right thing to do for the men and women who protect this country with a career of military service. Never in our history has a smaller percentage of veterans protected so many in our country.
Further, it will level the field to attract disciplined and skilled men and women to live and work in Georgia. Our industries and businesses desperately need this workforce. Many veterans retire at 40 to 50 years of age and are ready for a new career. They have the skills, discipline and work ethic that our employers so desperately need. However, currently, our neighboring states offer them huge cost savings. In Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina, these veterans can save 5.75 percent of their income because these states do not tax this income as we do in Georgia.
Since being elected, I have made public safety my primary focus. So this year my second priority is to sponsor the Georgia Illegal Immigration Protection and Public Safety Act. Currently in Georgia prisons are some 1,360 criminal aliens. These are criminals convicted of serious crimes. For example, 193 for child molestation, 65 for aggravated child molestation, 134 for murder, 103 for armed robbery, 98 for rape, 42 for statutory rape, 61 for kidnapping, 45 for manslaughter and 18 for vehicular homicide. All 1,360 of these individuals had at least one Georgia victim. All of these 1,360 crimes were avoidable. Had our federal government done its job, none of these illegal immigrants would have been present to commit these crimes.
My bill does the following:
• Requires law enforcement officers, who receive verification from the federal government that a suspect is an illegal alien, to alert the prosecuting attorney of that illegal status.
• Requires discovery, before sentencing, if the federal immigration authorities (ICE) have placed a detainer request for the illegal alien and notify the court before the prisoner is released into Georgia communities.
• Requires all Georgia law enforcement agencies to honor ICE detainers. There would be legal penalties for officials who violate these rules. Importantly, the law would be enforced regardless of race, religion, national origin, etc., and will protect witnesses to crimes.
• Requires the State Department of Corrections to make public a list of the total non-citizen prison population, their home countries and their immigration status, and update the list every 90 days.
Only federal courts can deport criminal illegal aliens. However, it is our common sense duty to report crimes to ICE.
I ran for office to offer ideas and to support policies that improve Georgia. I am excited about the opportunity to do so again during this 2019 session.
Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-District 166) is entering his third term in the Georgia House of Representatives and represents most of Chatham County’s island communities.