Kemp signs bills targeting police car arsonists, helping first responders with PTSD

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(The Center Square) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has signed measures to make a new criminal offense for burning police cars and another to help first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

House Bill 451 extends supplemental insurance coverage to first responders diagnosed with occupational PTSD.

“I am grateful to see House Bill 451 become law as this legislation demonstrates our commitment to prioritizing the health and well-being of our first responders, ensuring they can serve our communities without jeopardizing their mental health or facing financial hardships for treatment,” state Rep. Devan Seabaugh, R-Marietta, said in a release. “We can now foster a culture where seeking assistance is viewed as strength, not weakness.”

Meanwhile, HB 500 makes the arson of a law enforcement vehicle a new offense and carries penalties that include a fine of up to $100,000 and a prison sentence of five to 20 years.

“HB 500 is a much-needed update to the law to ensure that we have a mechanism to prosecute criminals who set fire to law enforcement vehicles and outlining criminal penalties for this behavior,” state Rep. Deborah Silcox, R-Sandy Springs, said in a statement. “We have seen these violent actions take place in our state in the past, and, now, our state will not tolerate those who seek to destroy state property or mistreat law enforcement officials.”

The measure was announced last year after vandals set fire to law enforcement motorcycles parked at the Atlanta Police Training Academy and its special operations precinct on Southside Industrial Parkway.

The governor also signed HB 409, called Addy’s Law, which mandates public school systems to prioritize bus routes that avoid students crossing roads with speed limits of more than 40 miles per hour.

The measure, named in honor of Adalynn Pierce, an eight-year-old Henry County girl killed crossing the road to board a school bus, also increases penalties for passing a school bus that is stopped to pick up children. It makes it a “high and aggravated misdemeanor” and carries a fine of at least $1,000 and a possible 12-month jail sentence.

“Addy’s Law represents a crucial stride in our commitment to protecting Georgia’s children, and I am profoundly grateful to Governor Kemp and my legislative colleagues for their support,” state Rep. Lauren Daniel, R-Locust Grove, said in a statement. “It is my hope that this new law will prevent another family from having to experience what the Pierce family and our community experienced with Addy’s tragic and preventable loss.”

Following multiple infractions, the bill mandates officials send license plate details to the owner’s insurance companies.