New laws affecting what kids can learn and whether they can play school sports, how gig workers are classified, and how gun owners can carry take effect Friday, July 1. Here are some of them:
- Critical race theory and trans female student athletes – HB 1084: “The Protect Students First Act” prevents the teaching of “divisive concepts” related to race. It also retracts state funding from schools that do not comply with an athletic association’s ban on transgender girls participating in athletic events designated for cisgender girls. Transgender boys were not included in the bill.
Sponsored by Rep. Will Wade (R—9), the bill bans teaching “divisive concepts” defined as:
- one race’s superiority over another
- the United States as fundamentally racist
- an individual is inherently racist or oppressive by virtue of their race
- an individual should be discriminated against because of their race
- a person is responsible for past actions by people of the same race
- appreciation of character traits as racist
- “any other form or race scapegoating or race stereotyping”
Local school boards are required to adopt a policy for resolving complaints under HB 1084. If the person who makes the complaint is unsatisfied with the result, they can appeal to the State Board of Education.
Both public and private schools are forbidden from allowing transgender girls to play on girls’ school sports teams. Should any school or coach refuse to comply, the school will lost its Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding for all its students.
- Parental control of education – HB 1178: The “Parents’ Bill of Rights” protects the rights of a parent to conduct the upbringing and education of their children under the age of 18.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Josh Bonner (R—72), prevents any government entity from infringing the parent’s rights unless to achieve a narrowly tailored, compelling state interest.” It guarantees that parents can:
- review all classroom instructional materials for their minor child
- enroll their child in a public or a private school
- access all records related to their child (unless legally prohibited)
- require written consent before someone makes an audio or video recording or takes a photo of their child
School boards must adopt a policy to promote parents’ involvement in public schools.
- Harmful materials to minors – SB 226: This law requires local school boards to develop a complaint resolution policy about “inappropriate” content distributed to minors.
School boards must have that policy in place by Jan. 1, 2023. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R—31), requires a school principal or their designee to decide whether the material is harmful to minors within seven days of receiving the complaint. If they do find it harmful, the principal or designee must tell the parent whether the material will be removed or restricted.
The decision can be appealed to the local school board.
- Weapons carry license reciprocity – HB 218: HB 218 expands the ability of those licensed to carry a weapon in another state to carry that weapon in Georgia.
HB 218, sponsored by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R—23), allows people with handguns, long guns, or other weapons to carry those weapons in Georgia if they are licensed to carry in any other state, as long as they agree to follow Georgia’s weapons laws. New Georgia residents with WCLs from other states have 90 days’ grace period before they have to apply for a Georgia WCL.
It also requires the state attorney general to enter into a reciprocity agreement with any other state that requires such an agreement for a Georgia WCL to be recognized in their state.
- Firearm possession by felons or probationers – SB 479: This bill increases the penalty for convicted felons and first offender probationers who receive, possess or transport a firearm.
SB 479, sponsored by Sen. Bo Hatchett (R—50), adds a separate charge for each firearm a convicted felon or first offender on probation uses in a crime.
- Mental health parity – HB 1013: The Mental Health Parity Act requires insurance companies to provide a level of coverage for mental health and substance abuse care that is comparable to the level of coverage they provide for medical or surgical care.
HB 1013, sponsored by House Speaker Rep. David Ralston (R—7), also requires health insurers to provide an annual comparative analysis report to the state insurance commissioner. Insurers who are found out of compliance with the new law will be fined, put on compliance plans, or Noncompliance will result in monetary penalty and are subject to compliance plans and reprocessing of claims.
The bill also establishes a mental health parity officer, appointed by the insurance commissioner, and a process for addressing complaints about mental health parity.
- Alternative behavioral health response – SB 403: This bill requires community service boards to set up a program of community responders, who work alongside local law enforcement on behavioral health emergency calls.
Under the bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson (R—1), law enforcement agencies have the choice to collaborate with these programs and consider their input. It also requires facilities that receive someone transported by the response team to notify the local community service board before the person is released.
Law enforcement agencies and community service boards are immune from civil or criminal liability for actions made “in good faith” related to team dispatch, an individual’s incarceration or lack thereof, or transportation to an emergency receiving facility.
- Mental health, substance use treatment insurance – SB 566: This bill expands insurer responsibility to include mental health and substance use treatment.
Sponsored by Sen. Dean Burke (R—11), the bill revises the state insurance code definition of a medical or traumatic condition to include a mental health condition or substance use disorder. It also adds post-stabilization services to the definition of emergency medical services.
- Evidentiary standard for testimony of expert witnesses in criminal cases changed to match the standard used in civil cases – HB 478: This bill requires reliable scientific evidence from expert witnesses in criminal cases, in line with the standard for civil cases.
- Criminal gang prosecution – HB 1134: Under this bill, prosecuting attorneys and the state attorney general both have jurisdiction in prosecuting gang-related crime. The attorney general also can use “peace officers” to investigate these cases.
Sponsored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R—104), the bill gives “concurrent authority,” defined as simultaneous jurisdiction in criminal proceedings, to Georgia’s attorney general and prosecuting attorneys in trying cases related to criminal gang activity.
The bill empowers the attorney general to assign law enforcement, or “peace officers,” to gang investigations. Defined by the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council, a “peace officer” is legally vested with the authority to enforce criminal or traffic laws with arrest and whose duties include the “preservation of public order, the protection of life and property and the prevention, detection or investigation of crimes.” Peace officers include the Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and county, municipal and campus police.
- Criminal records and election fraud – SB 441: This bill moves the Criminal Case Data Exchange Board to the Council of Superior Court Clerks of Georgia. The CCDEB will create standards for the creation and transmission of electronic criminal history data between local and state justice agencies.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bo Hatchett (R—50), also requires the exchange board to develop an automated system for notifying victims in certain situations. District attorneys or solicitors-general must ensure that case disposition information is submitted after the final decision. The bill requires the Georgia Crime Information Center to update its policies to reflect the Council of Superior Court Clerks of Georgia’s standards.
SB 441 also gives the Georgia Bureau of Investigation the power to identify and investigate election-related claims if there is sufficient evidence to doubt the result of an election. The GBI director, assistant director, and deputy directors for the investigations are authorized to issue subpoenas, with the attorney general’s consent, to gather tangible items related to the investigation.
- Employment security – HB 389: This bill strengthens the definition of employment and restricts the ability of network companies, like Uber and DoorDash, and the music industry to regulate their independent contractors.
This bill recognizes gig workers as independent contractors, meaning that they are not eligible for workmen’s compensation. Sponsored by Rep. Todd Jones (R—25), HB 389 has an enforcement mechanism: a fine per misclassified employee of up to $2,500 for companies with less than 100 employees and up to $7,500 for companies with 100 or more employees.
“Employment” excludes services through a network company that does not require an individual to be logged onto the network’s company for specific dates, times or a minimum number of hours. The bill defines “network company” as a “ride share network service or a business entity that maintains an online enabled application or platform used to facilitate delivery services in this state.” Examples include Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Postmates.
The bill also denies employee status to music industry professionals who work under similar conditions to those of network companies.
- Strengthening of dating protection orders – HB 1452: Sponsored by Rep. Houston Gaines (R—117), this bill expands the scope of dating relationship protective orders.
The bill, which passed unanimously, extends the definition of “dating violence” to include those who have dated within the last year rather than six months.
- Local authorities to define drone rules – HB 1009: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Todd Jones (R—25) mainly grants the power of regulating drones to local authorities.
“Local authorities,” defined under Georgia law as any local authority created from an act of the General Assembly, can prohibit hours of operation of drones on sidewalks, bike lanes and shared use paths to assure the safety of others. They can also prohibit the operation of personal delivery devices on property owned or maintained by the local authority and limit delivery drones (“personal delivery devices”) to a certain geographical area. Under the law:
- Drones can travel on bike paths, highways, roads and sidewalks
- Pedestrians have the right of way over drone operators
- Drones must give off a sound within six feet of a vehicle or pedestrian
- The speed limit for drones are 20 mph in a bicycle lane, shoulder, or roadway
- The speed limit for drones is 4 mph on a sidewalk, shared use path, or crosswalk
- Drones must follow the same parking restrictions as other motor vehicles