With the coming of 2013, several new laws are scheduled to take effect throughout Georgia. Since it has been a while since the General Assembly adjourned and these laws were signed off by Governor Deal, it's worthwhile to take heed of some of the noteworthy ones.
HB 1176 is a comprehensive sentencing and corrections reform bill that was signed into law on May 2, 2012 by Governor Nathan Deal. The overall intention of the bill is to lengthen penalties for violent and career criminals, while providing more effective punishments for low-level drug users and property offenders. This legislation also serves to protect Georgia's young people by expanding the mandatory reporting of child abuse to include anyone who has reasonable cause to believe that abuse is occurring and eliminates the statute of limitations for sex crimes committed on a child younger than 16.
HB 954, better known as the fetal pain bill, prohibits abortions when the probable gestational age of the unborn child is found to be 20 weeks or more, except when a physician has deemed a pregnancy "medically futile." This term means the unborn child has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal abnormality that would not allow the child to live after birth. The bill was passed with considerable controversy in the closing hours of the Assembly's session, and the sponsor's bill, Democrat-turned-Republican Doug McKillip, lost his bid for re-election in the Republican primary.
HB 711 will keep all communication confidential between victims and advocates at domestic violence and sexual assault centers. The bill also exempts domestic abuse cases from the spousal evidence privilege in criminal proceedings.
The 2013 General Assembly session will start on January 14.
The state of Georgia has begun placing an eight percent tax on online purchases. Consumers had been able to make purchases over the internet without paying sales tax, but a bill passed by the Georgia Assembly this past session put the tax in place.
Statements from the state of Georgia and Governor Deal's office say that the changes in the tax code will bring in about $18 million a year in sales tax revenue.
The change makes Georgia the tenth state to charge tax on internet purchases.
Starting October 1, any purchase over the internet should be hit with an eight percent tax, to be added at checkout. If a transaction is performed without adding the tax, the user is liable for a "use tax" to be paid with annual income taxes, according to the Georgia Department of Revenue and Revenue commissioner Doug MacGinnitie.
By ERRIN HAINES — Associated Press
ATLANTA -- Out-of-work Georgians will soon see their benefits slashed nearly in half and those seeking food stamps will have to pass a drug test under news laws that start Sunday.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed more than 500 bills into law after the legislative session ended this spring. Many of them, as well as Georgia’s 2013 budget, will take effect at the start of the state’s fiscal year on July 1.
Other new laws include the beginning of sweeping changes to Georgia’s criminal justice system and a rule that would revoke bonuses for teachers who cheat on standardized tests.
This session, Republicans argued that the state needed to find a solution to begin repaying more than $760 million borrowed from the federal government in recent years to cover Georgia’s unemployment benefit payments when the state’s trust fund was drained during the prolonged recession. The answer was to reduce unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of between 14 and 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said now is the responsible time to act with the unemployment rate declining.
“The best way to help the unemployed is to create jobs in Georgia, and that’s where Gov. Deal’s focus is,” Robinson said. “It’s important to note the safety net is still there, but we had to reform the system or it would have collapsed -- that’s the worst outcome for Georgians in need.”
The state’s unemployment rate has remained above the national average for months.
The new law requiring some people applying for welfare to pass a drug test is likely to face a court challenge. Opponents say they will likely pursue a lawsuit, but not until the measure is actually put into practice. Courts have struck down similar laws in other states, but supporters in Georgia have expressed confidence that the law here would be upheld.
Under it, the state Department of Human Services must create a drug-testing program that would be paid for by welfare applicants. Those able to prove they are receiving Medicaid would pay a maximum of $17 and those without Medicaid would be responsible for the full cost of the test. Applicants who test negative would be eligible for reimbursement.
Those who fail would be ineligible to receive benefits for a month. A second positive result would ban applicants from participating for three months, and a third violation would make an applicant ineligible for a year.
Sen. Vincent Fort of Atlanta said the pair of bills, among others, amount to a bad deal for the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
“This is my 16th year in the Legislature and I’ll be very honest ... The Republican majority has engineered the worst attack on working families that I’ve ever seen,” said Fort, Senate Democratic Whip. “At the time that it’s implemented, we’ll take a look and see if legal steps can be taken ... to allow a judge to rule on whether or not it’s constitutional.”
A more compassionate approach to sentencing for criminals with drug or mental health issues was also approved by the governor, who used to be a judge. He championed the legislation as a priority, sought to provide alternative sentences for nonviolent offenders while reducing soaring prison costs. The Judicial Council of Georgia will spend the next several months establishing standards for state drug and mental health courts.
Sentencing changes for theft, shoplifting and forgery will also take effect July 1.
Also, after an Atlanta Public Schools system investigation revealed widespread cheating among educators in nearly half of the district’s 100 schools, lawmakers passed a bill to strip bonuses from teachers found cheating on standardized tests.
Laws of note also taking effect July 1 include:
• A bill eliminating the $1 charge for the optional “In God We Trust” decals for car license plates;
• Legislation that will increase the number of barrels brew pubs could produce from 5,000 to 10,000. The bill also increases from 500 to 5,000 the number they could sell to wholesale distributors. Supporters said the law addresses the growing popularity of craft beers;
• Liquor tastings will be allowed at Georgia distilleries, but limited to half an ounce per person, per day. The state’s few distilleries can conduct free promotional or educational tastings, and the move could help boost tourism.
E-Verify Requirements of Georgia’s New Immigration Law Unaffected by Federal Court Ruling
By Kamy Molavi and Leanne Prybylski
On June 27, 2011, United States District Court Judge Thomas Thrash, Jr. signed an Order enjoining enforcement
of portions of HB87 that were set to go into effect on July 1, 2011. Judge Thrash’s ruling, however, does not
affect portions of the new immigration law requiring certain employers to register with and use E-Verify.
The provisions of HB87 that relate to E-Verify are summarized below.
Sections 2 and 3 of HB87, which still go into effect on July 1, 2011, revise and clarify current Georgia law
requiring contractors performing physical services for public employers and their subcontractors and sub-
subcontractors to use E-Verify. Performing physical services means to build, alter, repair, improve, or
demolish a public building or structure or to perform any labor for a public employer. The new law makes
clear that the requirement to use E-Verify flows down to all subcontractors and sub-subcontractors on those
public projects. Such contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors must complete affidavits attesting
to E-Verify participation, and the affidavits must contain the language specified by the statute. The new law
also clarifies the requirement for subcontractors and sub-subcontractors to provide completed affidavits
at the time of entering into the contract.
Section 3 adds a new provision to Georgia law, which requires a person or entity with no employees to
provide a copy of his or her state issued ID or driver’s license when entering into a contract with a public
employer for the performance of physical services or a contract with a contractor, subcontractor or
sub-subcontractor on such public project. The ID or driver’s license provided pursuant to this provision
must have been issued by a state within the United States that verifies a person’s lawful immigration status
prior to issuing such documents. The Attorney General will provide a list of states that verify lawful immigration
status prior to issuing state ID’s or drivers’ licenses. The new law, however, does not explain what to do if the
person only has an ID or driver’s license issued by a state that does not check immigration status.
Section 3 also contains a flow up requirement of notice when new contracts are entered into so that the general
contractor has the responsibility of notifying the public employer of all contracts for the project. This is somewhat
different than the current law under which notices flow directly to public employers from both contractors and
From January 1, 2012 through July 1, 2013, Section 12 of HB87 phases in the requirement for private employers
with more than ten employees to register with and being using E-Verify. Before issuing or renewing any business
license or other document required for doing business in Georgia, counties and municipalities will require
employers to submit affidavits that they are registered with and using E-Verify or are exempt from the
requirements. The effective dates of this portion of the new law are based on the number of employees as follows:
January 1, 2012 Effective for employers with 500 or more employees
July 1, 2012 Effective for employers with 100 or more, but fewer than 500, employees
July 1, 2013 Effective for employers with more than 10, but fewer than 100, employees
Employers using E-Verify pursuant to Georgia law are only allowed to use E-Verify for verifying the employment
eligibility of new employees hired on or after the date the employer registers with E-Verify and signs the
E-Verify Memorandum of Understanding. An employer may verify the employment eligibility of existing
employees only when the employer has a federal contract or subcontract subject to such requirement.
The federal court’s Order of June 27, 2011 enjoins only portions of HB87. The ruling applies to Sections 7
and 8 of the bill, which would have allowed state and local law enforcement officers to check the immigration
tatus of persons under certain circumstances involving suspected criminal activity. As long as the injunction
remains in effect, “[s]tate and local law enforcement officers and officials have no authorization to arrest,
detain, or prosecute anyone based upon Sections 7 and 8 of HB87.” See page 45 of the Order. Thus,
Judge Thrash’s ruling will not delay the requirement for certain employers to register with and use E-Verify.
Georgia General Assembly Website
Bills/Laws already signed and approved by Governor
Bills/Laws awaiting to be discussed.
House Approves the American Taxpayer Relief
Act of 2012
By William Perez, About.com GuideJanuary 2, 2013
On January 1, 2013, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the American
Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8). This bill now goes to the President for signature before becoming enacted. The House passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) with 257 Representatives voting in favor and 167 voting
against (Roll Call 659). Earlier in the day, the Senate approved ATRA with 89 Senators voting in favor and 8 voting against (Roll Call 251). The House did not change any of the proposals from the Senate's amendment.
ATRA permanently extends a number of tax provisions that had already expired at
the end of 2011 and 2012, revises tax rates on ordinary and capital gain income,
modifies the estate tax, and extends unemployment benefits, Medicare payments and
farm subsidies. Some tax provisions, however, are extended only temporarily.
The following is a very brief summary of the tax provisions impacting individuals.
Individual Income Tax Rates
ATRA permanently retains the 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, and 33% income tax brackets.
The 35% tax bracket ends at $400,000 for single filers. Above this threshold, there's
a new 39.6% tax bracket. Thresholds for the new 39.6% bracket for 2013 will be
Married Filing Jointly: $450,000 of taxable income,
Qualifying Widow(er): $450,000 of taxable income,
Head of Household: $425,000 of taxable income,
Single: $400,000 of taxable income, and
Married Filing Separately: $225,000 of taxable income.
ATRA permanently retains the 0% and 15% tax rates on qualified dividends and
long-term capital gains, and adds a new 20% tax rate that would apply to taxpayers
who fall within the new 39.6% tax bracket. Which capital gains tax rate will apply
depends on what tax bracket a person is in. The new capital gains tax rates for 2013
and future years will be
0% applies to capital gains income if a person is in the 10% and 15% tax brackets,
15% applies to capital gains income if a person is in the 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35%
tax brackets, and
20% applies to capital gain income if a person is in the 39.6% tax bracket.
Alternative Minimum Tax
ATRA provides the following AMT exemption amounts for 2012, and provides that
these amounts will be indexed for inflation annually:
Married Filing Jointly: $78,750
Qualifying Widow(er): $78,750
Head of Household: $50,600
Married Filing Separately: $39,375
Estate Tax Rates
ATRA permanently extends the $5 million exclusion, indexed to inflation, and
unified exemption amount with portability. The new top tax rate for estates is 40%.
Limitations on Deductions
Itemized deductions will be limited. The total amount of itemized deductions
that are allowable as a deduction will be reduced by the lesser of 3% of the
taxpayer's adjusted gross income (AGI) over the threshold amount or by 80%
of otherwise allowable itemized deductions. The threshold amounts at which
itemized deductions would start to be reduced are:
Married Filing Jointly: $300,000 of AGI
Qualifying Widow(er): $300,000 of AGI
Head of Household: $275,000 of AGI
Single: $250,000 of AGI
Married Filing Separately: $150,000 of AGI
These threshold amounts would be indexed for inflation for years after 2013.
Similarly, personal exemptions will be limited. Taxpayers would see their
total personal exemptions reduced by two percent for each $2,500
(or fraction thereof) by which adjusted gross income exceeds the threshold.
The threshold amounts at which personal exemptions would start to be reduced
are the same as for itemized deductions, namely:
Married Filing Jointly: $300,000 of AGI
Qualifying Widow(er): $300,000 of AGI
Head of Household: $275,000 of AGI
Single: $250,000 of AGI
Married Filing Separately: $150,000 of AGI
These threshold amounts would be indexed for inflation for years after 2013.
Other Individual Tax Deductions
The student loan interest deduction is permanently extended. ATRA eliminates
the rule that the deduction can be claimed only during the first 60 months of
The classroom expenses deduction of up to $250 is temporarily extended
through the end of 2013.
Mortgage insurance premiums will continue to be deductible as part of the
mortgage interest deduction through the end of 2013.
The sales taxes deduction, in lieu of a deduction for state income taxes, is
temporarily extended through the end of 2013.
The charitable deduction for contributing real property for qualified conservation
purposes is temporarily extended through the end of 2013.
The above-the-line tuition and fees deduction is temporarily extended through
the end of 2013.
Various Individual Tax Credits
The child tax credit remains unchanged and is permanently extended.
The maximum amount of the child tax credit is $1,000, and the credit is partially
refundable. However, the provision the reduces the earnings threshold for the
refundable portion of the child tax credit to $3,000 will expire at the end of 2017.
The dependent care tax credit remains unchanged and is permanently extended.
Daycare expenses up to $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more children
qualify for the tax credit, and these amounts are not indexed for inflation.
The adoption credit is permanently extended. The credit is worth up to $10,000
(indexed for inflation).
Also permanently extended is the earned income tax credit for families with
three or more dependents.
The American opportunity tax credit is extended temporarily through the end
Tax-Advantaged Savings Accounts
ATRA permanently extends the $2,000 annual contribution limit to Coverdell
Education Savings Accounts.
The tax-free charitable distribution from IRAs of up to $100,000 per year is
temporarily extended through the end of 2013. ATRA provides rules for handling
IRA distributions made in December 2012 and January 2013 so as to enable
IRA beneficiaries to make charitable distributions for the 2012 tax year.
Employer provided educational assistance is permanently extended.
Employers are permitted to reimburse employees for undergraduate and
graduate level courses.
Mass transit and parking benefits set at maximum of $175 per month,
which is temporarily extended through the end of 2013.
Exclusions from Income
National Health Service Corps Scholarship program and F. Edward Hebert
Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship and Financial Assistance
Program are granted permanent tax-free status for recipients.
Alaska Native Settlement Trusts are permitted to tax income to the Trust and
not to the beneficiaries, a provision made permanent by ATRA.
Federal tax refunds are now permanently disregarded in determining income
and asset eligibility factors for federal assistance programs.
The tax-free exclusion for cancellation of debt income relating to a principal
residence is temporarily extended through the end of 2013.
This list of tax changes in the American Taxpayer Relief Act is not comprehensive.
There are further provisions covering business deductions, business credits, and
energy tax incentives.
A Host of New Laws on the Books
A tax reform plan that would remove the "birthday tax" for all cars purchased after the bill goes into effect and instead pay a one-time car title fee has passed the Senate and is headed to the Governor's desk for signature. The bill in its entirety contains a number of tax related provisions, of which another is the removal of the state tax on the energy used in the manufacturing process, although cities and counties can opt to continue collecting the fee. In addition, companies building projects that bring new jobs to the state will be exempt on the sales tax on construction materials. The legislation is being referred to as a "pro-business and pro-families" piece of legislation that will have impact on the everyone who pays taxes in the state, including the implementation of sales tax holidays for school supplies. Married couples will also get an additional $2000 increase in the amount of income they can shield from the state's income tax. For more information see Key Provisions of HB 386
HB 684, Local Governments Notified of State Park Closings; Option to Take Control
Ashley Meggitt, 678-536-4367
This bill would require the Department of Natural Resources to notify a local government within 90 days when they are considering closing or reducing the hours of operation of a state park or recreational area.
Passed Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee; Pending in Senate Rules
HB 872, Metals Theft; Secondary Metals Recyclers
Rusi Patel, (678) 686-6210
This legislation is one of two comprehensive metals theft bills moving through the legislature this session. First introduced by Representative Jason Shaw, the bill will be heard on the Senate floor on Monday, March 26th. In the Senate the language of the version of the legislation that passed the House was substituted with language which had previously passed the Senate in SB 321. GMA fully supports the current version of this legislation because it would fight metals theft on a number of fronts and return to city governments the ability to pass ordinance and other laws regarding the sale and purchase of regulated metal property. Cities are often on the front-line of the fight against metals theft. Local governments know the businesses and people in their jurisdictions and will be more capable of keeping track of the crimes and occurrences in their jurisdictions. In that vein, local governments, including cities, should be given the ability to regulate metal property in their jurisdictions. Over the past few years local governments have been preempted from such enacting such regulations and the state has seen a sharp spike in metals theft. The return of local control can only serve to quell the growing metals theft problem and, therefore, GMA fully supports the current version of this legislation. GMA currently favors the Senate position of returning local control to the issue of metals theft over the House position of retaining the preemption.
Passed the Senate. The House must now agree or disagree with the Senate changes.
By Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
While some pieces of legislation became law the moment Gov. Sonny Perdue signed them and others will kick in Jan. 1, the most common effective date is when the government's new year begins July 1. Thursday is also when a new, leaner budget takes effect with a new tax on hospitals.
Legislation that increased hundreds of fees for state services, from birth certificates to filing court documents took effect May 12 when Perdue signed the controversial bill that has become an issue in many legislative campaigns this year.
Here's a rundown of some of the most significant legal changes coming on the first:
* No texting or reading e-mails while behind the wheel, even at stop lights. Rookie drivers under age 18 can't use cell phones either. The fine is $150 and 1 point against the driver's record.
* No driving all-terrain vehicles in a stream bed, except to cross it. Environmentalists joined with property owners frustrated by the damage ATV enthusiasts have caused zipping up and down dry stream beds. The law will allow deputy sheriffs and nature rangers authority to police it.
* A disabled parent or guardian who has had a driver's license can accompany a student driver. And, a judge can grant limited permission to drive to someone under age 18 whose license was suspended due to speeding.
* State Patrol cars no longer have to have two-tone paint, a savings to taxpayers of $8,000 per vehicle. However, the new law does prohibit the patrol from using so-called slick-top cars without a light and siren mounted on top which are harder to spot from a distance or in the mirror before the lights are activated.
* The parents, children, brothers and sisters of anyone killed in action while serving in the military can now put a Gold Star license plate on their cars and trucks.
* A new law spells out the proper way for a driver to make turns to the right and to the left. The law fixes a loophole created by a Supreme Court case in which the state high court invalidated the prior left-hand turn law for being unclear when the justices sided with a man fighting a drunk-driving conviction.
* If you get your eyes fixed, you don't get a ticket for driving without glasses. The law change is for people whose license requires them to wear glasses but who have had an operation to correct their vision.
* State employees must wait more than two months before they return to work -- even as an independent contractor -- or their retirement application will be nullified. If the worker reached normal retirement age, he or she won't have to wait to work for a state contractor as long as it's not for essentially the job just retired from.
* Voters overseas, including members of the military, can cast a write-in absentee ballot or request an official absentee ballot by e-mail.
* Governors and former governors can now perform marriage ceremonies, just like judges, as long as the marriage license is processed with a probate court.
Crime and punishment
* Victims will be able to address juvenile court and state court to describe the impact of the crime. Victims will also be notified of the proceedings, may attend hearings and be allowed to file written objections in a parole hearing. Victims have had these rights in superior court where most major crimes are tried.
* Juvenile judges now have more options for what they can require of delinquents under what's known as probation management. Through written or verbal orders, the requirements can include added restrictions, increased reporting, community service, counseling, weekend programs, electronic monitoring and home confinement.
* Threatening to punish someone for gang-related activity becomes a crime, including threats to inflict damage on property.
* Residential mortgage fraud is now subject to investigations by
* Local school boards can now use state funds to refurbish school buses rather than having to replace them. Until now, the state would only contribute toward new vehicles, but since the recession, many local districts haven't had their share of the purchase price and wanted to patch up their existing buses instead.
* Local school boards that impose furloughs on teachers or other staff can't turn around and give pay raises to their superintendent or other administrators in the same school year.
* Textbooks can now be electronic, either software or hardware, and still qualify under the formal definition.
* Families won't have to hire nurses to give routine shots and perform other minor, common medical procedures to care for a disabled loved one. The "proxy caregiver" will have to be trained and supervised by an advanced-practice nurse, physician or physician assistant and follow written orders. Advocates say the law will allow more disabled people and the seriously ill to live at home rather than having to be hospitalized.
* If you want to get paid for massage therapy, you'll need a license now, as will any business that advertises massages combined with escort services or adult entertainment.
Submitted by: Scott Maxwell
Mathews & Maxwell, Inc.