2015 Top 40 Bills

April 29, 2015

The following legislation passed the Georgia General Assembly during the 2015 legislative session:

HB 76 – 2016 Budget
The Fiscal Year 2016 budget effective for state spending beginning July 1, 2015, is set by a revenue estimate of $21.8 billion. This reflects an increase of $992 million, or 4.7%, over the original Fiscal Year 2015 budget. Budgeting priorities include enhanced funding for transportation, maintaining State Health Benefit Plan coverage for non-certificated school employees, full funding for Equalization grants for low-property tax wealth public schools, salary adjustments for critical positions in state agencies, support for rural hospitals and provider rate adjustments for doctors that serve Medicaid patients.

K-12 education received an infusion of $574.7 million, or 58% of all new revenue.  It provides $165.1 million to fully fund Quality Basic Education (QBE) enrollment growth of 1.33% as well as training and experience for teachers, charter system grants and State Commission Charter School supplements.  The bill also includes an adjustment in Local Five Mill Share of $9.4 million to recognize the decline in local property tax digests.  12.5% of all new revenue is assigned for higher education needs.

It also provides an additional $5 million for grants to expand the state’s accountability courts and provide additional funding for community-based treatment options for juveniles. It also includes $914,691 for 11 additional assistant district attorneys to support accountability courts and $1,247,305 for 15 additional assistant district attorneys to support juvenile courts across the state. The bill also supports a $6,000 annual supplement to the salaries of all Superior Court Judges, District Attorneys, and Public Defenders in circuits with an accountability court.

The bill includes $3 million to support the work of the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee in order to improve the financial health of struggling rural hospitals and leverage technology to improve patient outcomes.

The Governor included, and the General Assembly agreed, to allocate $12.5 million to annualize funding for 103 caseworkers and to add 175 additional caseworkers within the Division of Family and Children Services, and $12.7 million in new state funds for improvements to the delivery of child welfare services.

The State pension obligations for both the Employees’ Retirement System and the Teacher’s Retirement System are fully funded with an additional $139.7 million across all agencies.

The bond package for the Fiscal Year 2016 budget totals $1.1 billion. This package provides much needed funding for education, public safety and economic development projects while still maintaining a debt service ratio for the state of 6.4% – well below the constitutional limit of 10%.  The 2015/16 Budget contains a sizeable investment in transportation, $190 million, or 17%, including $100 million to repair, replace and renovate bridges and another $75 million to be used for transit systems statewide. The budget also includes $15 million for rail rehabilitation; seawall construction; and dike improvements along the Savannah River.

HB 1 – Use of Medicinal Cannabis Oil
This bill is intended to provide these Georgians with aid, and bring families back home.  It allows immunity for possession of cannabis oil with a maximum amount of 5% THC for 8 qualifying conditions (Cancer, MS, Seizure disorders, ALS, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, Mitochondrial disease, sickle cell disease) for those who have obtained a registration card from the Department of Public Health upon a recommendation from their physician.  The bill will only allow registered users, or their caregiver, to possess a maximum amount of 20 ounces, otherwise possession above that amount will be a felony.  It also clarifies that hospitals and healthcare providers shall not be subject civil liability if the registered individual receives cannabis oil while staying in a hospital.

It creates of the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis to make a recommendation to the Governor and General Assembly by Dec/2015 of what is the best regulatory infrastructure for creation of in-state growth/distribution model of medical cannabis.  This commission will be made up of medical professionals, law enforcement, Dept of Agriculture leadership, pharmacist, and head of GA’s Drug and Narcotics agency, among others.

HB 170 – Transportation Funding
This bill is a comprehensive restructuring of Georgia’s motor fuels taxing structure with the explicit purpose of generating revenue to support currently existing roads, bridges, and transit networks and new projects.  Total transportation funding per-mile-driven has declined yearly for decades because of increasingly fuel efficient vehicles.  The state excise rate on a gallon of gas will be 26 cents; the rate on a gallon of diesel fuel will be 29 cents per gallon. This rate will be adjusted annually based on an aggregate of fuel efficiency standards (CAFÉ) and the Consumer Price Index beginning on July 1, 2016.  LOST, HOST, MOST, SPLOST and ESPLOST are untouched. The local sales taxes will not be levied on any price per gallon above $3.00. Alternative fueled vehicles will be assessed an annual fee upon registration of $200 for non-commercial vehicles and $300 for commercial vehicles because they do not currently contribute to user fuel taxes.  It also establishes a new fee of $5.00 per day for hotel stays with an exemption for extended stay lodging to be used on transportation purposes.  The bill provides for accountability for GDOT by requiring that there be submitted to the General Assembly a ten year strategic plan that outlines the use of department resources for upcoming fiscal years.  It also creates the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure to review future tax reform initiatives.  The measure also eliminates the $5000 tax credit for electric vehicles ($50 million yearly cost) and the jet fuel sales tax exemption ($24 million yearly cost), which Delta and other airlines had previously qualified for.

HB 233- Georgia Uniform Forfeiture Procedure Act  

This bill increases transparency and oversight in the civil forfeiture process by strengthening the mandatory reporting requirements of all law enforcement agencies, standardizes civil forfeiture procedure statewide, and collects the disparate provisions into one uniform procedure to be followed for almost all civil forfeitures.

The bill provides for due process safeguards to assist innocent owners in recovering seized property and simplifies the standard for initiating a claim to recover wrongfully seized property, reducing the likelihood that procedural pitfalls will deprive innocent owners of an action. The bill allows the judge in a forfeiture action to grant either party additional discovery, and eliminates imposition of the State’s litigation costs on an unsuccessful forfeiture claimant.   It also requires agencies to provide an accounting of all property and funds derived from seizures and forfeitures and defines the specific purposes for which law enforcement agencies may use forfeited proceeds.  The bill resolves ambiguities in reporting procedure by authorizing the creation of a standardized reporting form and placing the duty to submit the form annually on all law enforcement agencies.  The bill also disqualifies certain individuals involved in pending criminal cases from serving on a grand jury.

SB 133/SR 287 – Opportunity School District
This bill establishes the “Opportunity School District”(OSD) within the Office of Student Achievement.  The superintendent of the OSD is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate.  The OSD may select up to 20 failing schools per year to administer, with no more than 100 schools under its supervision at any time. Failing schools are those which have earned an F rating for three consecutive years. The rating system used to determine grades is based on the state accountability system approved by the State Board of Education.

Schools under the oversight of the OSD may be taken over for:  direct management by the OSD; shared management with the local board; reconstitution as an OSD Charter School; or closed if the school is not enrolled at full capacity, the enrolled students will be reassigned to other schools.  The OSD superintendent is given the ability to retain or dismiss any leader, teacher, or staff member at an opportunity school. Any teacher who is not retained will still be an employee of the local board.  This Act begins with the 2017-2018 school year, upon ratification of the Constitutional Amendment.

HB 3 – Sanctions for Transactions Involving Student-Athletes
This bill prohibits a person from soliciting a student-athlete to engage in a transaction which could cause the student-athlete to permanently or temporarily lose athletic scholarship eligibility, the ability to participate on an intercollegiate athletic team, or the ability to participate in one or more intercollegiate sporting competitions as sanctioned by a national association for the promotion and regulation of intercollegiate athletics.  It also creates a cause of action against any person who attempting to solicit student-athletes under these conditions.

HB 17 – Hidden Predator Act

If the childhood sexual abuse was committed before July 1, 2015, this bill requires the action to be brought on or before the date which the plaintiff reaches the age 23.  If the abuse was committed on or after July 1, 2015, this bill requires the action to be brought on or before the date that the plaintiff turns 25.

The bill also provides a two-year retroactive window to allow revival of civil cases that have been time-barred by Georgia’s current five-year statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. Such actions may only be filed against the individual alleged to have committed the abuse; no claim may be brought under the revival window against a third-party “entity” described above. A revival action may not be brought if any claim has already been litigated to finality on its merits or if a written settlement agreement has been entered into between the plaintiff and defendant if the plaintiff was represented in the prior case by an attorney licensed to practice in Georgia.  It also allows access for victims of child abuse or their guardians to investigation files after criminal cases have been closed.

HB 57 – Solar Technology for Residences and Small Business
This bill legalizes financing of solar technology for residences and small business. The financing may be based on the amount of solar power generated.  It does not contain any tax breaks or credits.  It does not change any regulations for existing solar installations or cash purchases.  There are limits on the installations sizes that can be financed. The intent is that the financed solar is for use on an individual’s private property.  This bill does not change any existing requirements dealing with the sale back to the utility of any excess electricity generated by solar.  It does not alter any rights of local or county governments to make zonings.  This bill is the cumulative result of 9 months of careful negotiations between Georgia Power, EMC’s, MEAG’s, and the solar industry.

HB 63 – Employer’s GED Tax Credit Program
This bill revises the basic skills education program’s income tax credit for employers.  It provides a $400 tax credit to employers for each employee who passes the basic skills education test (GED) when such test is paid for by the employer. It also provides employers a tax credit of $1,200 for each employee who passes the GED and whose employer provides 40 hours of paid time off for the employee to complete a basic skills education and training program.  This tax credit is capped at $1 million per calendar year and no single employer can receive more than $100,000 per year in tax credits.

HB 72 – Measures to Protect Disabled Adults and the Elderly

This bill expands certain measures designed to protect disabled adults and elderly persons. Specifically, the bill includes “investment companies” and their employees as mandatory reporters for suspected abuse or exploitation of the elderly.  Once suspected abuse of elderly or disabled persons is reported to a law enforcement agency, the law enforcement agency must forward the report to the Director of the Division of Aging Services within the Department of Human Services.  In addition, the bill requires the prosecuting attorney to request “preferred scheduling” to expedite trial in certain circumstances. Venue for such criminal prosecutions includes the county where the violation is committed or the county in which the victim resides.   Further, the bill authorizes the commissioner of Community Health (or his designee) to request a warrant to make inspections.

In addition, current law provides civil immunity for any person who renders emergency care to a person at the scene of an accident.   This bill adds to the definition of “emergency care” the rescue of an incapacitated or endangered person from a locked motor vehicle.   This bill also states that a person providing emergency care in these situations will have a defense of justification to a criminal prosecution.

HB 91 – Eliminating GA High School Graduation Test Requirement     
This bill allows for students who did not receive a high school diploma because they failed to pass the now-obsolete Georgia High School Graduation Test to receive a diploma.  The Georgia High School Graduation Test was ruled by the State Board of Education to be an invalid test, and is no longer administered.  This will allow over 8,000 former Georgia high school students to get their diploma.

HB 110 – Sale of Fireworks

This bill legalizes and sets parameters for the distribution, transportation and retail sale of consumer fireworks. Use of consumer fireworks is permitted without a license between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 a.m. in any location not prohibited by law. Locations specifically prohibited by law include locations indoors, locations where the user is a trespasser, locations where law specifically prohibits such use, and locations within 100 feet of a gas station/refinery or a nuclear power facility.

The legislation also outlines requirements for the sale of consumer fireworks.  Retailers must have a valid license as a distributor.  Individuals ages 16 or 17 may sell or transport fireworks if they are serving as an assistant to a licensed distributor, but they are not permitted to transport consumer fireworks by interstate.  The initial fee for distributing fireworks will be $5,000, with a $1,000 annual renewal fee, payable to the Safety Fire Commissioner. Each distributor must carry a minimum of $2 million dollars of liability insurance. Temporary fireworks stands may be operated by distributors or non-profit groups if they are licensed and located within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant or co-located within a permanent store. No licensed distributor can operate more than two temporary stands per license. In counties without a permanent store, a licensed distributor located within 75 miles of the county’s border may operate one of their two allotted temporary stores in that county. The license fee for operating a temporary fireworks store is $500 per year, per location and must expire 90 days after the license is issued. The legislation also imposes an excise tax on the sale of consumer fireworks at a rate of five percent per item sold.

HB 152 – Regulation of Bouncers/Bar Employees
The bill prohibits persons under the age of 21 from serving as a bouncer at a bar.  The bill also prohibits individuals under the age of 21 from entering a bar unless he or she is accompanied by his or her parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years or older unless to attend a musical performance or concert or presentation of the performing arts.  It also requires bars to report any disciplinary action, such as a citation or arrest that arises out of a violation of any liquor license law/regulation.  This bill also prohibits the use, manufacture, sale, offer for use, purchase or possession of powered alcohol, except for bona fide research purposes.

HB 190 – Automobile Insurance for Uber/Lyft Drivers
This bill establishes the standards and requirements for automobile insurance for transportation network companies (TNC)(Uber, Lift) and their drivers.  The bill recognizes and separates coverage minimums based on the phase of the TNC experience.  It requires TNCs to maintain a primary motor vehicle insurance policy that recognizes the driver as a TNC driver and explicitly covers the driver’s provision of TNC services.  The policy must also provide for certain levels of coverage for passengers during the time a driver is logged on to the TNC’s digital network and available to accept a ride request until the driver is logged off.  Finally, the policy must provide a minimum of $1 million for death, personal injury, and property damage per occurrence and provides uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage of at least $1 million per incident during the time a driver accepts a ride request on the TNC’s digital network until the driver completes the transaction or the ride is complete, whichever is later.

HB 198 – Suicide Awareness and Prevention Training

This bill will require all certificated public school personnel to receive annual training in suicide awareness and prevention.  Local school systems must adopt a policy on student suicide prevention and identify appropriate materials to fulfill training requirements.  This bill is intended to help teachers recognize signs and know how to refer a student for help, it does not mandate any specific training materials.  There is no cost to implementing these provisions.

HB 202 – Comprehensive Ad Valorem Valuation Reform
This bill significantly revises the process of appealing an ad valorem tax valuation. The bill authorizes the use of electronic tax bills with consent of the tax commissioner and the taxpayer, requires the 5-year history and proposed millage rate(s) to be published on the local government’s website when one is available, and reduces the minimum time period between the notice of the proposed millage rate and five-year history published in the paper and the adoption of the millage rate from two weeks to one. It adds sheriffs to those with whom it is illegal to interfere with when attempting to execute a tax sale, and allows for multiple counties to form a regional assessor’s office, to share staff and resources but additionally prohibits contractors providing valuation services to the Board of Assessors.

The legislation provides for “Manufacturer’s HQ” tag which precludes a TAVT fee.  Any car owned and placed into service by a manufacturer or its affiliate whose headquarters is located within the state may apply for the tag.  The bill also provides for a one-year tax exemption on construction materials for construction projects at a private college.

HB 213 – MARTA Half Penny
This bill removes from the ‘MARTA Act’ the 50/50 capitol/operations expenditure restriction on 1 penny sales tax proceeds collected in Fulton and DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta.  Currently, 40% of expenditures pay for debt service so the practical effect will be negligible.

MARTA must file with the governor, state auditor, and chair of the MARTOC committee a report of findings of an independent management audit every four years.  If MARTA fails to file that report then the 50/50 restriction resumes for the four-year period following the year when the audit report was due but not submitted.

HB 225 – Taxicab and Uber/Lyft Bill   

This bill prevents counties and municipalities from requiring certificates of public necessity and convenience and medallions for taxicabs, but grandfathers in all those who already have such requirements.   The bill also establishes that the General Assembly will fully occupy and preempt the entire field of administration and regulation over ride share network services, transportation referral services, transportation referral service providers (i.e. Uber and Lyft).  Each transportation referral service provider doing business in this state must register with the Department of Public Safety to obtain a license on an annual basis.  These service providers must make sure that its drivers possess and maintain proper state and federal licenses, have a proper background check, have a zero tolerance policy regarding drugs and alcohol for drivers while on duty, have proper commercial indemnity and liability insurance.  Ride share networks doing business in this state must register with the Department of Public Safety and maintain a current list of all drivers enrolled in their network who are doing business in this state.  Such records are not to be disclosed to the public, but can be used by law enforcement or other government agencies.

HB 237 – Extend the Angel Investor Tax Credit   

This bill extends the Angel Investor tax credit, at the current capped amount of $5 million, for calendar years 2016-2018.  These credits may be claimed after two years have passed once the credit has been created.

HB 259 – “Georgia Business Act”

This bill provides an exemption for certain automobiles manufactured in Georgia from competitive bidding procedures.  Specifically, new automobiles manufactured by a company that constructs or assembles within this state any light duty motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than12,500 pounds are exempt from competitive bidding procedures when purchased by the state.   In addition, this bill increases the exemption threshold for competitive bidding procedures from $5,000 to $25,000.

HB 268 – Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse
This bill requires individuals who are employees or volunteers where their duty is to attend to a child, such as a school, hospital, or social agency, to report to the person in charge of that facility whenever they receive reasonable cause to believe that child abuse has occurred. The individual in charge of the institution or the designated person who receives such notification may not exercise any control, restraint, or modification or make any other change to the information received from the reporter, although he/she may be consulted before the report is made.  In addition, reports may be made by telephone, email, or facsimile, but oral reports must be followed up with a written report. The initial report must be filed within 24 hours from the time there is a reasonable suspicion of abuse.

HB 310 – Department of Community Supervision

This bill creates a Board of Community Supervision (BCS) to provide oversight and coordination of a new Department, the Department of Community Supervision (DCS). DCS’s creation will merge the felony adult and juvenile designated felon probation and parole caseloads under one community supervision officer.  Additionally, the proposal moves the oversight and management of private and municipal misdemeanor probation from the Council and Municipal Probation Advisory Council (CMPAC), which is a part of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), to the new Board.  Lastly, it statutorily creates the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support, and Reentry (GOTSR) and administratively attaches it to the new Department and under the new Board for oversight and coordination between the new Department and GOTSR.  The goal is to consolidate all community supervision oversight under one board to provide consolidated, centralized, case management for felony supervision in the community through one Department rather than multiple entities managing individual caseloads in the same household or neighborhood.

HB 339 – Digital Production Tax Credit

This bill is a three-year extension to the Qualified Interactive Gaming tax credit.  The credit is capped at $12.5 million and is available through an application process with the Commissioner of Department of Revenue.  The bill also requires companies that qualify for this tax credit to report the number of their employees to the Department of Revenue who will then deliver the information to the Chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

HB 342 – Nursing Homes; What Constitutes Negligence
This bill provides that no violation by a nursing home of any regulation pursuant to the federal ‘Nursing Home Reform Act’ or any Georgia regulation shall constitute negligence per se.  However, courts in a civil action shall still take judicial notice of these regulations and admit them into evidence if the court finds the regulations to be relevant to the harm alleged in the complaint.  It also states that results or findings of a federal or state survey or inspection of a nursing home facility shall not be used in an advertisement or solicitation, unless the advertisement includes information about the survey such as the date of the survey and general statements from DCH about survey practices.

HB 362 – Asthma Medication in Schools

This bill allows school systems to stock asthma medication. Any school employee trained in recognizing symptoms of respiratory distress may provide the medication or administer it to a student. This bill also allows schools to purchase asthma medication directly from manufacturers and allows physicians to prescribe the medication to schools.
There are no mandates in this bill, other than having local boards of education adopt a policy authorizing school personnel to administer levalbuterol sulfate or albuterol sulfate inhalers.
Any school personnel who in good faith administers (or chooses not to administer) the medicine to a student has immunity from civil liability.

HB 393 – Allowing Tesla in Georgia

This bill allows manufacturers of zero emission vehicles that were doing business prior to January 1, 2015, to sell factory direct to consumers. This is a narrowly-crafted exception to Georgia’s dealership law.  Manufacturers who qualify for this exemption are allowed to build up to five brick and mortar facilities licensed as new vehicle dealerships and any number of maintenance facilities.

HB 397 – State Soil and Water Conservation Commission
This bill attaches the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission to the Georgia Department of Agriculture.  Commencing with the appointments for 2015, the governor shall appoint one at-large member from each of the five soil and water conservation district regions to serve on the commission.  The bill also creates the Erosion and Sediment Control Overview Council.  The council will approve the Manual for Erosion and Sediment Control in Georgia prior to publication by the commission.  The manual is a published guidance of the commission governing the design and practices to be utilized in the protection of the state’s natural resources from erosion and sedimentation.   The overview council will also provide guidance on the best management practices for implementing any erosion and sediment control plan. If a dispute arises concerning the requirements of this Code section, the overview council shall mediate the dispute.

HB 429/SB 1 – Ava’s Law

This bill provides that no health benefit plan shall restrict coverage for treatment of a terminal condition when such treatment has been prescribed by a physician as medically appropriate.  This bill also incorporates SB1, “Ava’s Law,” requiring any individual or small group health insurance policy sold in this state to provide coverage for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders.  This coverage shall be for covered individuals six years of age or younger.  Although the policy or contract shall not include any limits on the number of visits, the policy or contract may limit coverage for applied behavior analysis to $30,000 per year.  Beginning January 15, 2017, and every January 15 thereafter, the Department of Insurance is required to submit a report to the General Assembly regarding the implementation of the this insurance coverage, and such reports shall include the total number of insured diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the total cost of all claims paid out in the proceeding calendar year, the cost of such coverage per insured per month, and the average cost per insured for coverage of applied behavior analysis.

HB 439 – Georgia New Markets Jobs Act

This bill allows insurance companies to make investments in qualified small businesses in low-income communities.  It allows for the regulation and sale of $55 million of tax credits to qualified companies.  The purchaser of a tax credit owns a vested right to credit against the taxpayer’s state premium tax liability.  The revenue derived from the sale of these tax credits will be used as venture capital in qualified start-up companies in Georgia.

SB 2 – “Move On When Ready”

This bill allows local boards of education the ability to award a high school diploma to dual enrollment students who meet certain qualifications.  It seeks to allow more individualization of high school graduation via post-secondary learning opportunities.  The students must be 16 years or older and have adequately completed their ninth and tenth grade years of high school, completed the required coursework at a post-secondary institution that qualifies for the HOPE scholarship and grants, and received a score of admission acceptable on the readiness assessment required by the postsecondary institution.  The student must have also completed an (a) associate degree program, (b) a technical college diploma program, or (c) at least two technical college certificates of credit programs in one specific career pathway.

SB 8/SR 7 – Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund

This bill restructures and revises the statute of limitations period for bringing a civil action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse.  If the childhood sexual abuse was committed before July 1, 2015, this bill requires the action to be brought on or before the date which the plaintiff reaches the age 23.  If the abuse was committed on or after July 1, 2015, this bill requires the action to be brought on or before the date that the plaintiff turns 25.

The bill also establishes the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission and creates a separate fund in the state treasury—the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.  The 8 member commission may allow money from the fund to be disbursed for the purposes of providing rehabilitative and social services to sexually exploited children.

SB 63 – Retail Sales of Alcoholic Beverages by Distillers and Brewers
This bill allows for manufacturers or distillers who are issued a distiller’s license and issued a permit by the commissioner to conduct distillery tours, for a fee or free of charge.  If conducting these tours, the distiller may provide a free souvenir of a complimentary sealed container of distilled spirits, free food and free, limited tastings.  The free souvenir must be a single bottle of distilled spirits manufactured by the distiller of not more than 750 milliliters.  The free souvenir must be provided after the tour, and the recipient must be 21 years of age or older.  Also, brewers of malt beverages may also conduct brewery tours in the same manner as distillery tours.  However, the free souvenir from a brewery tour is a sealed container or containers of malt beverages not to exceed 72 ounces.  All fees for tours must be collected prior to conducting the tour.

SB 89 – “Digital Classroom Act”

This bill allows local boards to use digital and electronic software instead of physical textbooks. The bill also encourages local boards, by July 1, 2020, to purchase all instructional materials in digital or electronic format and to provide an electronic device for students starting in 3rd grade.  The bill also creates the ‘Student Data Privacy, Accessibility, and Transparency Act’ to require the Department of Education to create a centralized data system that would be available to students and their parents, authorized staff, and authorized teachers and administrators. The bill allows parents the right to review their child’s education record including the student data recorded but provides protocols to insure the student’s information is kept safe.

SB 94 – Body Cameras

This bill provides a comprehensive revision and modernization of Georgia’s search and seizure laws to accommodate a police officer’s use of a body camera.  It moves code sections relating to the procedures governing wiretapping, eavesdropping and surveillance out of several sections within Title 16 and into Title 17 because the actions are procedural rather than criminal.  It permits requests to seal and delay disclosure of search warrants under limited circumstances.  It also establishes that District Attorneys and Solicitor General’s investigators are peace officers with the power to obtain search warrants.

SB 101 – Establishment of Marsh Buffers
This bill establishes a 25-foot buffer along coastal marshlands and provides exceptions to when such buffer must be established.  The exceptions include the discretion of the Director of the Department of Natural Resources when other portions of the O.C.G.A. allows that discretion.  Exceptions include certain maintenance projects including landscaping and hardscaping, accommodating drainage structures, the maintenance of man-made storm-water basins, and certain sizes of utility lines.  Most exceptions to the 25-foot buffer zones still require adequate soil erosion control measures to be fully implemented.

SB 111- Flexibility for Continuing Care Facilities  

This bill provides for a continuing care provider to offer continuing care in the home.  Continuing care at home means furnishing services which could include nursing care, assisted living, or personal home care.  The continuing care agreement can include providing food for the individual, but it is not mandatory.

SB 132 – “Quality Basic Education Act”
The bill allows all high school students, whether in public or private school, to apply to a postsecondary school in order to take one or more classes; if accepted, the student can get credit for the class at both the student’s high school and the postsecondary institution.

SB 134 – Speed Detection Devices
This bill extends certain speed detection practices to municipal law enforcement agencies, currently such practices are only allowed by county sheriffs.  Currently, when fines collected by counties/sheriff’s dept. from speeding citations equals or exceeds 40% of the budget of a law enforcement agency, a rebuttable presumption is created that the law enforcement agency is employing speed devices for purposes other than the promotion of the public health, welfare, and safety.  This bill lowers the percentage to 35%.  It also ensures that fines collected for speeding in excess of 20 miles per hour are not counted towards this total.

SB 156 – State Charter School Foundation
This bill allows the State Charter School Commission to establish a non-profit foundation that will aid the commission in carrying out its mission and purpose.  Donations to the foundation may be used by the commission, but may not be used for “direct employee costs”, which are defined as salary, benefits, and travel expenses.

SB 160 – Minors in Possession of Alcoholic Beverages 
This bill allows police officers the discretion to issue a citation to a minor that is in possession of alcohol.  Currently, that police officer would have no choice but to arrest the minor.  The bill still gives the police officer the discretion to affect a custodial arrest if the minor poses a danger to him/herself or the person/property of another.  The bill also makes it a crime (misdemeanor) to intentionally cause a minor to be identified as someone in an obscene depiction.  This includes giving the minor’s name, address, telephone number, or email address.