NEW GEORIGA LAWS EFFECTIVE IN 2019

By David S. Fried

Every year, new bills signed into law the previous year go into effect.  Here in Georgia, this year is no different with more than 100 new Georgia laws now taking effect.  Here are a few of interest that you may have missed:

HR 279 – Single Parent Day.  Parents must invest immeasurable amounts of time, energy, and devotion when raising their children in order to provide them with the love, support, and guidance required to become responsible, productive, and successful adults.  It’s a tough enough job for two parents.  For single parents, it is even more difficult.   In many cases, dependable, up-to-date resources are not readily accessible.  House Resolution 279 recognizes this shortage of resources for single parents and opens the door to partnerships with local, federal and state agencies, nonprofits, policy makers and businesses. House Resolution 279 also designates March 21st each year as Single Parent Day in Georgia.  With House Resolution 279, Georgia finally recognizes the dedication and achievements of single parents, regardless of their gender, cultural background or economic status.

House Resolution 279 also brings Georgia into lockstep with the federal government. In 1984, the United States Congress passed House Joint Resolution 200, which designated March 21, 1984, as National Single Parent Day. Congress enacted the Resolution in conjunction with Proclamation 5166 issued by President Ronald Reagan, which also designated March 21, 1984, as National Single Parent Day.

HB 657 – Firearms; providing to person on probation as a felony first offender; make unlawful.  Over the course of the last decade, Georgia has consistently liberalized both its laws and parole board actions pertaining to the rights of felons to carry firearms. More importantly, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has been increasingly generous in granting these gun rights restorations under the prevailing statutes. According to the Associated Press, between 2008 and 2013, Georgia Parole Boards restored gun rights to more than 1,400 felons. Another report noted that in 2013 alone, 666 Georgia felons had their gun rights restored. This represented a 1,000 percent increase over the number of gun-rights restorations in 2008.  HB 657 amends existing laws and makes it unlawful to knowingly and intentionally provide any firearm to any person known to be on probation as a felony first offender or to have been convicted of a felony.  Although the act of providing a firearm to a felon has now been criminalized, the law does not apply if the felon has previously been pardoned or has had his/her rights to gun possession restored.

SR 685: Georgia Coast; bed of tidewater known as “Runaway Negro Creek”; rename to “Freedom Creek.   Hats off to the Georgia Legislature for this one.  This portion of the text says it all:

WHEREAS, intentional or not, the current name of such creek serves to cast, edify, and perpetuate a posture of criminality upon the men and women who pursued the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and

WHEREAS, the Division of Archives and History of the University System of Georgia is the Names Authority for this state, which the United States Board of Geographic Names relies upon for advice for the recording of geographic names in this state; and

WHEREAS, the name of such creek should be changed to reflect this state’s commitment to freedom and the inalienable rights of the men and women who pursue it.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AND ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that the entire length of the bed of tidewater on the Georgia 44 coast at latitude 31.9766030 and longitude -81.0462222, a portion of which runs along the 45 edge of Skidaway Island State Park, shall be renamed and known as “Freedom Creek.”

SR 146 (Marsy’s Law).  Marsy Nicholas was murdered by her boyfriend in California in 1983.  One week after the murder, Henry Nicholas and Marcella Leach, Marsy’s brother and mother, ran into the murderer outside a grocery store while he was out on bail. The suspect was later convicted and died in prison.  That might have been the end of the story except that years later, Henry Nicholas started a tech company called Broadcom and became a billionaire.  In 2008, Nicholas poured millions of dollars into a campaign for a California state constitutional amendment designed to make sure that others would not have to relive that moment outside the grocery store. He called the initiative Marsy’s Law.  The initiative passed in California and has been adopted in seven states since.  Last year, Georgia adopted the measure.

Marsy’s Law provides Constitutional Rights to victims of crime in Georgia.  The amendment to the Georgia Constitution gives victims and the families of murder victims rights regarding notifications about court dates, bond or parole hearings and any change in custody status. Victims have the right to be heard in court if they so desire. They also have a right to restitution.  For those traumatized by violent crime, these rights offer some sense of protection and, hopefully, some peace of mind.

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