By Sophia Strickland
A summary of Georgia laws taking effect July 1, 2018:
- Hands-Free Georgia Act: Motorists will be prohibited from talking on cell phones without using a speaker or Bluetooth device while the car is not lawfully parked. People may touch their phone to use navigation or accept a call if the phone is attached to a mount or in a storage spot. There are exceptions to this law for report a traffic accident, medical emergency, criminal activity, or a immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard.
- House Bill 930: This law creates the ATL (Atlanta-region Transit Link) Authority to oversee the development of new transit options; it also provides the 13 metro Atlanta counties the option to hold a referendum to impose a sales tax to fund additional transit.
- House Bill 718: Grade school students who have a parent or guardian on leave from overseas deployment will have five additional days of excused absences per school year.
- House Bill 697: This bill establishes a state grant to pay the full tuition for Georgia’s highest achieving technical college students.
- House Bill 852: If a student moves to a new school attendance zone mid-year, that student can complete the year at the same, previous school if they have no chronic disciplinary or attendance issues and parents or guardians can be responsible for travel.
- House Bill 853: This bill is an amendment to the Quality Basic Education Act stating that children who are in a psychiatric residential treatment facility by a physician’s order cannot be charged tuition.
- House Bill 779: A Board of Homeland Security will be created to manage operations in the event of a radiological or biological terror attack in the state.
- Stacey Nicole English Act: Named after the 36 year-old woman who was found dead after a month-long search two years ago, this bill attempts to speed up action in missing persons cases by prohibiting a “minimum waiting period” for a missing persons case. It also defines a “medically endangered person” and adds them to Mattie’s Call Act, which is the state alert system to locate missing elderly or disabled person.
- House Bill 65: Patients diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or who have “intractable pain,” which is pain that has not been managed for at least six months without adequate results or tolerable side effects, will have legal access to medical marijuana. This law builds on the previous medical marijuana bill passed by the General Assembly in 2015.
- House Bill 513: Provides for the posting of signs at facilities where a newborn child may be left by the mother without criminal prosecution or penalties.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
- House Bill 732: This bill expands the definition and punishment for sex trafficking and sets mandatory sentencing guidelines for sex trafficking.