Dozens of new laws are now in effect with the start of Georgia’s fiscal year, including an end to a ban on guns on the state’s public college campuses.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed 275 measures into law after the General Assembly adjourned at the end of March, and more than 100 of them took effect as of July 1. The rest became effective with Deal’s signature or were written to take effect at later dates.
Georgians can see a full list of the laws at the General Assembly’s web site. Here’s a look at some of the key measures taking effect this month:
GUNS ON CAMPUS
Starting July 1, Georgia joins nine other states that allow concealed weapons to be carried on campuses.
Permit-holders must be at least 21 — or at least 18 with proof of basic training or active service in the military. Applicants must provide fingerprints for a criminal record check and undergo an additional federal background check.
But students on campus over the summer or returning to school this fall won’t find new storage facilities or signs. The University System of Georgia released guidance to its 28 campuses in May advising that there will be few visible changes. Several campuses began holding information sessions this month to talk with faculty and students about the change, which also creates a mish-mash of exempted areas.
The law excludes on-campus preschools, faculty or administrative offices, disciplinary hearings and classrooms being used by high school students taking college courses. Also off-limits to concealed weapons are dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and athletic facilities.
But the definition of athletic facilities doesn’t extend to tailgating areas popular with college football fans.
The state’s judicial watchdog agency has been reconfigured and expanded from its 1972 roots.
The new law increases the number of members of the Judicial Qualifications Commission from seven to 10. It also splits the commission into a seven-member investigative panel and a three-member hearing panel. The members of the two panels are not allowed to speak to each other about any disciplinary or incapacity matter.
The changes also give legislative leaders power they didn’t previously have to appoint members of the commission and strips appointments from the Georgia State Bar. Since the state Senate isn’t session, members will begin serving in their roles until the chamber can vote on the appointments.
People convicted of certain crimes against police and other law enforcement officials will face tougher sentences.
According to a new law, assault involving firing a weapon carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years; assault without firing a gun but using another object would require a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years. The law allows prosecutors to make plea deals for a lower sentence but opponents say judges should have discretion in all cases.
At least 12 other states have passed new laws this year expanding penalties for certain violent crimes against law officers.
Lawmakers have expanded the list of places where newborns can be left without prosecution to include fire stations and police stations.
The law previously permitted only medical facilities, including hospitals and health centers, under the “Safe Place for Newborns Act.” The law applies only to the mother of a child who is less than 30 days old. Lawmakers also added language allowing a mother not to provide proof of identity at the time.
A separate law allows victims of domestic violence who change their names to ask that records of the change be closed for their protection. Advocates say some people fear an attacker will use court documents to learn their new names and continue contacting or stalking them. The law allows judges to close such records at a victim’s request.
The state gains new authority to intervene at struggling local schools this month. But most of the process laid out in the new law can’t begin until a new employee, dubbed a “chief turnaround officer,” is chosen. State officials and representatives of various education groups decided in June to contract with the National Association of State Boards of Education to search for candidates, but said they’re more concerned with finding the right person for the job than the time frame to finish that search.
The eventual pick will have broad authority to select schools for state intervention and the power to enforce plans aiming to improve student performance. Schools selected will negotiate contracts with the state, aiming to reverse years of struggles.
The strategy is a scaled back approach to a stubborn problem in education after voters last fall rejected Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over schools deemed chronically failing.
The new law still lays out dramatic consequences for schools that show no improvement within three years or that refuse to cooperate, including removal of staff, a complete overhaul of teachers and staff or new management by another school district or a nonprofit organization.
LICENSE AND REGISTRATION COSTS
The cost of hunting and fishing licenses rises this month for most people in Georgia. For instance, an annual resident hunting license will cost $15 compared to the former $10 charge and a resident hunting/fishing license will now cost $30 compared to $17.
Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources says the last time license prices increased was in 1992 and all charges go back to the department’s work. The department also says the new licenses are in simpler categories, eliminating some varieties.
The new law limits future increases to a maximum of 20 percent.
FAMILY CARE LEAVE
Employers that offer sick leave must allow people to use that to take care of an immediate family member starting this month.
The new law says employees can only use sick days that they have already earned. It also doesn’t require any business to start offering sick leave and only applies to companies with 25 or more employees that already offer employee sick days. The law will be repealed in three years unless lawmakers extend it.
SCHOOL POLICE TRAINING
Another law requires a council focused on police training to create a course focused on officers who act as school resource officers. Initially proposed as a requirement that such officers complete training, the bill was quickly watered down during the legislative session to call training a “best practice” without requiring it.
The law says the training should include 40 hours on various topics, including search and seizure law in schools, gang and drug awareness, interviews and interrogations and how to interact with kids, including those with any mental health issues.