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WABE’s Week In Review: 2020 Legislative Session Ends, COVID-19 Is On The Rise And Georgia Gets A Hate Crimes Law

A person holds up a fist near the Georgia State capitol during a protest against the mistreatment of black people and to let the legislatures know they want policy change, at the Georgia State Capitol on June 15. The NAACP March to the Capitol coincided with the restart of the Georgia 2020 General Assembly.
A person holds up a fist near the Georgia State capitol during a protest against the mistreatment of black people and to let the legislatures know they want policy change, at the Georgia State Capitol on June 15. The NAACP March to the Capitol coincided with the restart of the Georgia 2020 General Assembly.
Credit Brynn Anderson / Associated Press

On the Week in Review for June 21-June 27, WABE’s Senior Editor Susanna Capelouto highlights stories from our journalists. We hear about the end of the 2020 legislative session, which saw lawmakers passing a $26 billion state budget. It was a tight budget as sales and income taxes dropped due to COVID-19.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers gathered to watch Gov. Brian Kemp sign Georgia's hate crimes bill into law.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers gathered to watch Gov. Brian Kemp sign Georgia’s hate crimes bill into law. (Emma Hurt/WABE)

Georgia did get a hate crimes law as Gov. Brian Kemp added his signature to the bill Friday, surrounded by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers.

The law strengthens penalties for those who commit crimes against someone because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, mental and physical disabilities, among other identities. It also requires law enforcement to file reports of any such crimes, so that the state can begin tracking them.

The bill, H.B. 426, progressed quickly after national attention on Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. It had stalled in a Senate committee for more than a year after narrowly passing the House last year.

People are shown being tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru site in Virginia. Locally, Gwinnett County health officials say they have been doing a lot more testing, which has caught more cases of COVID-19.
People are shown being tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru site in Virginia. Locally, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia are on the rise. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Coronavirus numbers are on the rise in Georgia, and so are hospitalizations, but Gov. Brian Kemp said he will not impose any mandatory mask-wearing or other containment measures yet.

This week we found out that most new cases are among younger Georgians. Health reporter Sam Whitehead talked to experts about what statistics they’re looking at to find what the virus is doing.

Emma Hurt reported how the lockdown of long-term care facilities due to the pandemic makes it hard for advocates and officials to make sure the industry has enough oversight.

And schools are starting to unveil their teaching plans amidst a pandemic. This week we heard how Cobb and Clayton County plan to minimize exposure to COVID-19 while making sure kids learn.

Atlanta trees
For years, Atlanta officials have said they’ll work on an update to the tree protection ordinance in an effort to maintain the city’s tree canopy or even to expand it, with a goal of 50% tree cover. An analysis released a few years ago found that as of 2014, Atlanta was at about 47%. (Alex Sanz/Associated Press)

And Atlanta’s tree ordinance overhaul is still in the works. Environment reporter Molly Samuel reported on a city planning meeting where officials tried to figure out how to protect Atlanta’s trees.