Georgia sanctuary cities could lose taxpayer funding under new bill passed after Laken Riley murder

Republicans say Laken Riley's death in Athens at the hands of a 26-year-old Venezuelan national was avoidable and Joe Biden's immigration policies are partly to blame.
Laken Riley

The Georgia Senate Public Safety Committee passed a measure that could cost local jurisdictions state taxpayer money if they declare themselves a "Sanctuary City."

The committee passed an amended version of House Bill 301, which the state House passed last year as a measure initially related to motor vehicles and traffic. The push has become a priority in the wake of last month's murder of a 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student on the University of Georgia campus in Athens.

"What we've done in this legislation is we've added some teeth because there were none in the past; we just told them don't do it, and they didn't do it," state Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, said. "...Primarily, what this will do is if a city does pass these ... policies, they risk losing funds that they would normally receive from the state or ... federal funds that are currently managed by the state."

"Now, these funds would not include funds used for emergencies, disaster relief or emergency health care issues, but other funds — what we may call luxury funds or additional funds — to help supplement county or municipal funds for other things that we all know that we're lobbied for day in and day out up here," Robertson added. "It would definitely impact those funds."

Jurisdictions could also correct their course by articulating their changes to a local Superior Court judge, Robertson said. Once the judge issues an order, the state will restore the funds.

"This legislation also creates an opportunity for citizens who feel that their communities are taking these actions — which are in violation of Georgia law when it's related to sanctuary cities — [to] take legal action against their community ... to get their community back on track," Robertson said.

Since Crossover Day, the deadline for either the House or the Senate to pass a measure for consideration during this year's session has passed, lawmakers amended a bill the House passed during the first year of the session. The move caused consternation among lawmakers and others who spoke during the Senate Public Safety Committee hearing as the updated version was not available or immediately posted to the state legislature's website.

"I do want to begin by saying I tried really hard to get copies of the substitutes before we began this meeting," state Sen. Kim Jackson, D-Stone Mountain, said during the hearing. "You all know that I like to be thorough and prepared, and so it's very frustrating and disappointing that I'm just seeing this."

Georgia Republicans say Laken Riley's death in Athens at the hands of a 26-year-old Venezuelan national who entered the country illegally and was living in the liberal enclave was avoidable and said President Joe Biden's immigration policies are partly to blame.

"Athens-Clarke County local officials failed to protect the greatest asset that their county has: the students at the University of Georgia," Republican Lt. Governor Burt Jones said in a statement. "Instead, they favored a radical agenda that puts the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of the citizens of Athens-Clarke County.

"They, along with Joe Biden and Washington Democrats who have fought to open our borders to an invasion from illegal immigrants, are responsible for every action by every illegal immigrant they've allowed to live freely in our communities," Jones added. "As part of our ongoing commitment to protect Georgians, we are taking a stand against those who attempt to implement sanctuary policies that violate the law and harbor criminals."