ATLANTA (AP) — A bill that would have required new Georgia drivers to receive training on how to interact with law enforcement as part of driver education courses failed to gain enough support to pass the state Senate late Wednesday evening.
The measure passed the state House 98-72. But it got voted down 23-26 in the state Senate after the House added a provision that would allow local governments and law enforcement agencies to sign contracts for speed cameras in school zones.
During debate in the House earlier Wednesday, Democrats argued that the bill implicitly blames drivers for how they are treated by police and did nothing to address racial disparities after the high-profile killings of Black Americans at the hands of police.
Senate Bill 115 would have directed the Georgia Department of Public Safety to develop a curriculum to educate drivers on “best practices” when interacting with police during a traffic stop.
“The sole purpose of Senate Bill 115 is to protect our families, our citizens and our officers through education, to teach them what those expectations should be," said Republican state Rep. Martin Momtahan of Dallas.
Several Democrats spoke in opposition, citing the police custody death of a Black man in Minneapolis last year that prompted widespread protests over racism and discrimination in policing.
“The death of George Floyd at the hands of police was a wakeup call for many Americans about the multitude of problems inherent in our modern day policing system," said Rep. Kim Alexander, a Hiram Democrat. “But it was déjà vu for Black Americans.”
Alexander said the bill “shifts responsibility away from where it should lie, which is with the police.”
A number of social justice organizations also expressed opposition to the bill.
“It should not be up to civilians to ensure they are not the subjects of police brutality. This bill fails to address the issue of police misconduct. It fails to address the fact that police disproportionately kill and use force against Black people,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, in a statement.
Republican lawmakers said they were surprised by claims that the bill perpetuates discrimination and accused Democrats of projecting things into the bill that weren't there.
“This bill doesn’t say anything discriminatory,” said Republican Rep. Alan Powell of Hartwell.