Controversial Georgia House Rep. Vernon Jones wants to add political party to a proposed hate crime bill.
Jones made headlines in April when he endorsed the reelection of President Donald Trump against his party’s wishes.
“It’s very simple to me. President Trump’s handling of the economy, his support for historically black colleges and his criminal justice initiatives drew me to endorse his campaign,” Jones said at the time. The controversy generated by his endorsement prompted him to resign from his post on April 22, but although he changed his mind a day later, he withdrew his candidacy for reelection and will not be representing Georgia House District 91 in the legislative term that begins in 2021.
As Georgia’s legislators try to figure out how to get a hate crime policy on the books, Jones wants to add political affiliation to the list of protected parties. House Bill 426, which was passed by the House last year, would provide sentencing guidelines for any suspect who discriminated against someone based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability and country of origin.
If HB 426 becomes law, a person convicted of a crime motivated by bigotry faces up to a year in prison and a maximum of $5,000 in fines if the offense is a misdemeanor. If the crime is a felony, two years can be added to an offender’s punishment.
Jones wants to add “actual or perceived political beliefs or political associations” to the list, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Trump controversy influenced his suggestion.
“Americans are being attacked nationwide because of their party affiliation and political ideology. I have personally been subjected to hate speech and threats because of my support for President Trump’s reelection,” Jones said in a statement. “While we are discussing hate-crimes legislation in Georgia, this could address another form of hate crime that people are experiencing.”
Jones’ suggestion is a long shot. HB 426 could be amended to include Jones’ provision is if the Senate alters the bill and sends it back to the House for approval.