ATLANTA — The 2009 session of the General Assembly enacted 89 bills that become law Wednesday, affecting Georgians from embryos to students to retirees.
Of the 193 bills signed into law after the session, 91 took affect when Gov. Sonny Perdue signed them during the spring, and nine will become law Jan. 1. One each becomes law when appropriations come and one on Jan. 1, 2011.
The list taking affect next week includes two controversial measures. One establishes April as Confederate History Month; it includes the designation of the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum in Savannah as an official state historical civil rights museum. The other measure would require proof of citizenship when registering to vote, but it can’t be applied unless the federal government concludes it won’t unfairly harm minority voting.
Among the most sweeping new laws is the reorganization of the state’s health agencies so that concerns of mental health and disabilities get their own department.
"A new, focused agency will improve our mental-health system, while the two remaining agencies have been reorganized to better align services," said Perdue’s spokesman Bert Brantley. "Our end goals are simple: better care for our state’s most vulnerable citizens and more value for our tax dollars."
Here is a look at some of the other major new laws:
– Parents will be able to choose which public school their children attend, regardless of district boundaries, as long as the school has room.
– Eleventh and 12th graders can attend college while getting high-school credit.
– Every student in grades 1-12 will take annual fitness tests so parents will learn if their children are out of shape.
– Starting math and science teachers will begin earning as much as teachers with five years of experience.
– High schoolers aiming for the HOPE Scholarship will now have to keep a 3.0 grade-point average under a law that makes the eligibility calculation the same statewide rather than previous methods based on the two types of diplomas that are no longer issued, separate college-preparatory and career/technical diplomas.
– HOPE Scholarship payments for books and fees will be less susceptible to an automatic reduction triggered by slumping lottery sales.
– Children of active-duty military personnel stationed in Georgia will be considered state residents for the purposes of receiving the HOPE scholarship.
– Military parents will have an easier time transferring their children into schools with relaxed requirements on paperwork and courses.
– People will be able to adopt an embryo without having to wait until the baby is born, and the "legal embryo custodian" will determine how any unwanted fertilized eggs would be disposed of.
– It becomes a felony to abuse a disabled adult, which includes a person with Alzheimer’s disease or a resident of a long-term care facility.
– The Georgia Medical Center Authority will now be able to solicit grants through a separate subsidiary, and it will also be able to own stock in companies it advises in its goal of facilitating medical-technology employment by nurturing start-up enterprises.
– Voters who have obtained a restraining order or who are residents of family-violence shelters can soon request that their addresses remain confidential on voter rolls that are otherwise made public.
– The state must attempt to locate the relatives of any child taken from his or her parents before putting the child in a foster home.
– Mortgage brokers will be licensed after meeting certain education requirements as a way to help keep borrowers from being fleeced.
– Sales-tax exemptions on jet fuel, flight simulators and replacement parts used on airplanes not registered in Georgia aim to protect high-paying jobs in the aviation industry, such as those at Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah and Brunswick and at Standard-Aero in Augusta and Delta Air Lines in Atlanta.
– Businesses will no longer owe a state property tax on their inventory.
– Homeowner associations that charge annual fees over $500 must provide expense list to homeowners.