ATLANTA — During the most recent legislative session, state lawmakers proposed 615 pieces of legislation. Of those, 305 bills passed with Gov. Nathan Deal signing the vast majority of them into law. Some became law upon the governor's signature, while a large number take effect on July 1, the start of the state's fiscal year. A summary of some of the major bills set to take effect July 1:
The Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act, criticized by one group as the "guns everywhere" bill, expands where licensed carriers can take their weapons and includes varying rules affecting bars, churches, schools and government buildings. Under House Bill 60, licensed carries can bring their guns into government buildings that don't have metal detectors or security guards screening visitors. School districts are now able, if they so choose, to allow some employees to carry a firearm on school grounds under certain conditions. Lawmakers removed any mention of bars from this section of law, which means guns are permitted unless a bar owner posts a sign saying otherwise. For places of worship, the assumption is still that guns aren't allowed but lawmakers gave religious leaders the ability to say they are OK.
House Bill 990 limits the governor's ability to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law, something the governor has already said he doesn't want to do. The legislation forbids state government from changing the income eligibility rules and thereby enabling more people to join the program without legislative approval.
House Bill 697 establishes the Zell Miller Grant for technical college students. It provides full tuition coverage for those technical college students eligible for the HOPE Grant who maintain a 3.5 grade-point average, with the goal of attracting students back to the system. The technical college system's enrollment had dropped after changes were made in 2011 to the overall HOPE program. Republicans had argued the changes were needed to keep the program afloat for future generations.
House Bill 715 limits development on Jekyll Island and clarifies the amount of land that can be used for public recreation, unrestricted use, campgrounds and more. The law allows development on 1,675 acres and most of that area has already been developed. Previous regulations barred development on 65 percent of Jekyll Island's land, but it was unclear if nearby marsh areas were included in that percentage.
House Bill 449 restricts the public release of recordings of 911 calls when the person who called either dies during the call or is a minor. In those cases, only a representative of the person's estate, a parent or guardian of the minor, a criminal defendant, a party in a civil action when the recording is or may be relevant or an attorney representing any of those individuals.
Senate Bill 365 represents the third installment of criminal justice reform since Deal took office. Under the law, corrections officials are required to establish a program so inmates can complete treatment plans and vocational training while in prison to help prepare them to re-enter society. Meanwhile, House Bill 749 creates a criminal offense of cargo theft with sentences varying based on the value of the stolen goods and House Bill 838 establishes a criminal offense for those convicted of transmitting explicit or nude photos or video of an adult with the purpose of harassment or to cause financial loss. House Bill 845 seeks to crackdown on websites that post photos of people under arrest and charge for such photos to be removed. The law requires those requesting such arrest booking photos to submit a statement affirming the photo will not be used in a publication or on a website that requires payment to remove or delete the photo.
House Bill 774 increases the maximum speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on certain highways in urban areas with a population of 50,000 or more. House Bill 753 establishes a fine of up to $1,000 for a motorist, bus operator or commercial driver who causes an accident or blocks the flow of traffic while failing to comply with certain requirements during severe weather events. The law applies when state officials limit access to a portion of a state highway due to a state of emergency for severe weather. State officials will be required to post signs indicating that it is unlawful to proceed without tire chains.
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