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Rep. Todd Jones and Rep. Mary Oliver testified before the committee to explain various provisions and give their explanations of the Bill's purpose.
Rep. Jones noted that 5 sections of the 20 section bill deal with studies that need to be completed prior to full implementation of the Bill. Critics asked why one-quarter of the Bill would be used to create these studies when many studies are completed with task forces or special committees that complete their research without the need to modify Georgia law..
Mr. Jones also stated that a number of provisions are included in previous law. One such measure calls for any person to be taken in for mental evaluation given as little two affidavits signed by any two people. The names of these accusers would redacted from the affidavits. These two people could essentially be anyone regardless of age, relationship etc. Examples could be colleagues, past employees, personal enemies, school bullies, etc. The affidavits once completed, would have the names of the accusers redacted, a step not included in existing Georgia law. Mr. Jones noted that a Court could unseal such redactions but downplayed the time and cost required to do so. Additionally while such a process were to be pursued in the courts, the person accused would likely remain confined and potentially under treatment. Mr. Jones also made no comment on existing Georgia statutes which have required due process in the case of suspected mental illness.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the Bill is the fact that the meaning of the words “mental Illness” and “serious mental illness” are not defined and these key definitions would only be known at the end of the year, in December 2023, months after the Bill had become law. A member of the Senate committee acknowledged the importance of such definitions in the context of the functioning of the bill, stating "a lot hinges on the definition of "serious mental illness." He went on to say that something upon which so much hinges yet was not defined by the Senate was a "concern."
Following the committee hearing, a number of citizens met with Mr.. Jones to express their concerns about the Bill. During his comments Rep Jones reportedly mentioned a “DOJ settlement agreement” that is apparently associated in some way with HB 520. Investigators are currently researching the background of any such settlement agreement and are expected to add their findings to the discussions of HB 520 quickly.
Stay with The Georgia Record for more on this story in the coming hours and days.
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I am wondering what Rep Todd Jones motives are for bringing this bill to bear. I believe there has been collaboration with our local sheriff on this. One of the problems is that mentally ill people often end up in the county jail for minor offenses but the jailers are unable to treat or properly care for mental illness. Unfortunately HB 520 goes too far trying to solve this problem by taking away basic human rights.
This Draconian Bill seems straight out of some dystopian horror show and has no place in a free society. What is wrong with Georgia legislators that they are even CONSIDERING it? Stalin would have been ecstatic to have something like this handed to him.