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ac­tual or po­ten­tial crim­i­nal or delin­quent act, or road con­di­tion which causes an im­me­di­ate and se­ri­ous traf­fic or safety hazard.” But why? Safety is a ma­jor con­cern and the driv­ing force be­hind the Hand­sFree Ge­or­gia Act.

The Na­tional High­way Trans­porta­tion Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion says 3,450 peo­ple were killed in dis­tracted­driv­ing in­ci­dents in 2016. The num­ber in­cludes driv­ers, pas­sen­gers, and pedes­tri­ans.

While the Hand­sFree Ge­or­gia Act aims to pro­mote safer phone use by driv­ers, the best course of ac­tion is to not use your phone at all when driv­ing. Re­search by the Na­tional Safety Coun­cil shows us­ing hands-free de­vices to talk while driv­ing is still dan­ger­ous.

Up­dates and amend­ments to ex­ist­ing laws

Ev­ery year the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral Assem­bly tweaks and ad­justs ex­ist­ing laws. Here are a few high­lights from this year’s ses­sion.

New rules for schools

No tu­ition for stu­dents placed in psy­chi­atric treat­ment: HB 853/Act 382 amends the Qual­ity Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Act so that chil­dren placed in psy­chi­atric res­i­den­tial treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties pur­suant to a physi­cian’s or­der may not be charged tu­ition.

Con­cern­ing “school cli­mate”: HB 763/ Act 451 gives school at­ten­dance com­mit­tees au­thor­ity over “school cli­mate.” This means the com­mit­tees will help pro­mote learn­ing growth, morale, com­mu­nity sup­port, and at­ten­dance, “while de­creas­ing stu­dent sus­pen­sions, ex­pul­sions, dropouts, and other neg­a­tive as­pects of the to­tal school en­vi­ron­ment.” The act also re­quires the

co­or­di­nat­ing of school safety plans with lo­cal law en­force­ment and ju­ve­nile courts.

Ap­proved ab­sences for chil­dren of ac­tive mil­i­tary: HB 718/Act 332 grants up to 5 ex­cused ab­sences per school year to any stu­dent whose par­ent or le­gal guardian is cur­rently serv­ing or pre­vi­ously served on ac­tive duty, pro­vided the ab­sence is to at­tend an event re­lated to the par­ent or guardian’s mil­i­tary ser­vice.

Mov­ing dur­ing the school year? Keep your school: HB 852/Act 431 al­lows a stu­dent who moves to a new school at­ten­dance zone midyear to com­plete the year in the same school. The stu­dent can’t have chronic dis­ci­plinary or at­ten­dance is­sues, and their par­ent or guardian must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for get­ting them to and from school.

Changes to lo­cal laws

Up­date to Fire­works Reg­u­la­tions: HB 419/ Act 312 clar­i­fies that the use of fire­works is sub­ject to lo­cal noise or­di­nances and re­quires fire­works re­tail­ers to post a warn­ing no­tice ad­vis­ing con­sumers to check lo­cal or­di­nances, use cau­tion, and be con­sid­er­ate to neigh­bors. Also, the Gover­nor now has the op­tion to ban the use of fire­works in any area of Ge­or­gia that is un­der drought (as de­fined by a mea­sure of 700 or higher on the Keetch-Byram Drought In­dex).

Ban on Ban­ning Wood: HB 876/Act 466 pro­hibits lo­cal au­thor­i­ties from specif­i­cally ban­ning wood as a con­struc­tion ma­te­rial, pro­vided its use meets all other code re­quire­ments.

Af­fect­ing pub­lic safety

Mil­i­tary fire­fighter train­ing is ac­cept­able: HB 699/Act 327 lets mil­i­tary fire­fighter train­ing count as re­quired ba­sic train­ing for fire­fight­ers.

New color scheme op­tion for GSP cars: HB 809/Act 344 per­mits the Com­mis­sioner of Pub­lic Safety to al­low

the paint­ing of Ge­or­gia State Pa­trol cars in a solid color. (The law pre­vi­ously re­quired a two-tone color scheme. Note: that scheme was voted win­ner of the “Best Look­ing Cruiser Con­test” spon­sored by the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of State Troop­ers.)

New board mem­ber: HB 856/Act 383 adds the Com­mis­sioner of Com­mu­nity Su­per­vi­sion as an ex of­fi­cio mem­ber of the Board of Pub­lic Safety, thereby in­creas­ing the size of the board from 15 to 16 mem­bers.


Reg­u­lat­ing peri­na­tal fa­cil­i­ties: HB 909/ Act 392 au­tho­rizes the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health (DPH) to reg­u­late fa­cil­i­ties that pro­vide care to new­born chil­dren and their moth­ers. DPH has un­til De­cem­ber 2019 to de­velop stan­dards.

Ex­tra plate for Gold Star fam­i­lies: HB 287/ Act 307 amends the law per­tain­ing to Gold Star Fam­ily li­cense plates to al­low 2 (rather than the pre­vi­ously al­lowed one) free li­cense plates to any el­i­gi­ble fam­ily mem­ber of U.S. mil­i­tary killed in ac­tion.

Sex­ual ha­rass­ment aware­ness for lob­by­ists: HB973/Act 493 re­quires reg­is­tered lob­by­ists to ac­knowl­edge and ac­cept the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral Assem­bly Em­ployee Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment Pol­icy.

Lee­way to leave a lease: HB 834/Act 482 amends the law on res­i­den­tial leas­ing to al­low a renter to ter­mi­nate a lease with 30 days no­tice if a civil fam­ily vi­o­lence or­der or

crim­i­nal fam­ily vi­o­lence or­der has been is­sued.

The Gen­eral Assem­bly voted; now it’s your turn

Most of the time the Gen­eral Assem­bly cre­ates a law and that’s it; it ap­plies and we fol­low it. Other times, how­ever, our law­mak­ers pass de­ci­sions on to the peo­ple of Ge­or­gia, ei­ther as a whole or within our in­di­vid­ual com­mu­ni­ties.

Each of the acts be­low re­quires ap­proval by vot­ers be­fore tak­ing ef­fect. In cases where the new law would ap­ply only within a cer­tain mu­nic­i­pal­ity, be sure to keep an eye on lo­cal govern­ment meet­ings to find out when (or even if) the is­sue will be placed on an up­com­ing bal­lot.

Ear­lier al­co­hol sales on Sun­day: SB 17/Act 461 — which car­ried the leg­isla­tive nick­name “the brunch bill” — au­tho­rizes lo­cal votes to al­low sales of al­co­holic bev­er­ages start­ing at 11 a.m. on Sun­days. (Cur­rent law pro­hibits such sales un­til 12:30 p.m. on Sun­days, in ju­ris­dic­tions that have opted to al­low Sun­day sales at all.)

Land con­ser­va­tion: HB 332/Act 415, dubbed the “Ge­or­gia Out­door Stew­ard­ship Act,” calls for a statewide ref­er­en­dum on the Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tion bal­lot. If passed, the ref­er­en­dum would cre­ate the Ge­or­gia Out­door Stew­ard­ship Trust Fund to sup­port parks, trails, and land con­ser­va­tion, funded by al­lo­ca­tion of sales and use tax pro­ceeds from sport­ing goods stores.

Taxes for At­lanta tran­sit: HB 930/Act 405 al­lows each of 13 metro At­lanta coun­ties the op­tion to hold a ref­er­en­dum to im­pose a sales tax to fund ad­di­tional tran­sit. (The act also has an­other ef­fect; see be­low.)

New gov­ern­ing bod­ies

The Gen­eral Assem­bly can’t be ev­ery­where and con­trol every­thing, so it cre­ates au­thor­i­ties, boards, and other intermediate gov­ern­ing bod­ies to over­see par­tic­u­lar ar­eas of law, cer­tain parts of the state, or some­times both.

A few new ones were cre­ated this year.

Ben­e­fit­ting vet­er­ans: HB 422/Act 313 au­tho­rizes the Vet­er­ans Ser­vice Board to cre­ate the Ge­or­gia Vet­er­ans Ser­vice Foun­da­tion, Inc. The foun­da­tion would be a 501(c)(3) non-profit to so­licit and col­lect funds to ben­e­fit Ge­or­gia’s vet­er­ans.

In re­lated ac­tion, SR 484 cre­ated the Se­nate Study Com­mit­tee on Cre­at­ing a Lottery Game to Ben­e­fit Vet­er­ans. Sen. Ed Har­bi­son will chair the 5-per­son com­mit­tee, which is tasked to ”look at the pos­si­bil­ity of cre­at­ing one or more games within the Ge­or­gia Lottery for the ben­e­fit of Ge­or­gia’s mil­i­tary vet­er­ans.” The com­mit­tee has un­til De­cem­ber 1, 2018 to re­port its find­ings.

At­lanta tran­sit: HB 930/Act 405 cre­ates the At­lanta-re­gion Tran­sit Link Au­thor­ity to over­see tran­sit de­vel­op­ment.

Ru­ral pros­per­ity: HB 951/Act 300 cre­ates the Cen­ter for Ru­ral Pros­per­ity and In­no­va­tion and the Ge­or­gia Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil. The cen­ter will be lo­cated within a to-be­de­ter­mined Univer­sity Sys­tem of Ge­or­gia in­sti­tu­tion, and will as­sume the busi­ness and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the Cen­ters of In­no­va­tion Agribusi­ness. The Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture will col­lab­o­rate with the cen­ter.

Em­ploy­ment for in­di­vid­u­als with dis­abil­i­ties: HB 931/ Act 455 cre­ates the Em­ploy­ment First Ge­or­gia Coun­cil to help cre­ate an “Em­ploy­ment First Pol­icy” as it re­lates to state-funded em­ploy­ment ser­vices pro­vided to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. The coun­cil of 14 will bring to­gether lead­ers and ex­perts in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor, in­clud­ing peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence dis­abil­i­ties first-hand.

Jon Suggs is the Con­tent Strate­gist for Dig­i­tal Ser­vices Ge­or­gia. He writes on a va­ri­ety of top­ics for Ge­or­

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