2015 Enacted Legislation

Budget

AFY 2015

Sponsor: Rep. David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge)      

HB 75 is the Supplemental Budget for State Fiscal Year 2015 (July 1, 2014 - June 30,  2015). To view the budget as passed by the General Assembly, Please click here.

Effective Date: February 19, 2015
Signed by Governor: February 19, 2015

Highlights of the AFY 2015 budget include:

Supreme Court

  • Increase funds paid to the Department of Public Safety for a trooper to provide security. ($33,219)
  • Increase funds to annualize additional yearly costs for a new network. ($31,000)
  • Increase funds to annualize additional yearly costs for the Reporters' Office - LexisNexis publication. ($1,665)
  • Increase funds to annualize additional yearly costs for TriVir e-filing and maintenance. ($6,000)
  • Increase funds to annualize additional yearly costs for WestLaw research contract fees. ($1,440)

Court of Appeals

  • No increase in funds for six hours of continued legal education training for staff attorneys.
  • No increase in funds for trial court records maintenance.
  • Increase funds to fill one vacant full-time central staff attorney position. ($37,297)
  • No increase in funds to fill one vacant full-time fiscal office position.
  • Provide funds for increased costs of software maintenance for the docket system. ($6,750)

Superior Courts

Judicial Administrative Districts

  • No increase in funds to restore a portion of operating expenses that have been reduced in prior years as a result of budget reductions
  • No increase in funds to restore three furlough days remaining in the base budget.

Superior Court Judges

  • No increase in funds to restore 1.5 furlough days remaining in the base budget.
  • Reduce funds for the initial equipment set-up for the Chattahoochee and Oconee judgeships created in HB 451 (2013 Session). (-$30,250)

Juvenile Courts

Council of Juvenile Court Judges

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ($27,639) 

Grants to Counties for Juvenile Court Judges

  • Increase funds for Grants to Counties for Juvenile Court Judges pursuant to O.C.G.A. 15-11-52 effective January 1, 2015. ($10,625)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Judicial Retirement System. ($158,284)

Judicial Council

  • Increase funds for three compliance monitor positions and operating expenses to effectively and efficiently register and regulate misdemeanor probation providers. (CC: Increase funds for personnel for one new compliance monitor position and operations to effectively and efficiently register and regulate misdemeanor probation providers.) ($88,217)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Judicial Retirement System for the Council of State Court Judges. ($117,265)

FY 2016

Sponsor: Rep. David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge)

HB 76 is the general budget for State Fiscal Year 2016 (July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016). To view the budget as passed by the General Assembly, Please click here.

Signed by Governor: May 11, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015

Highlights of the FY 2016 budget include:

Supreme Court

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ($106,140)
  • Increase funds paid to the Department of Public Safety for a trooper to provide security. ($33,219)
  • Increase funds for contracts to annualize additional yearly costs for WestLaw research contract fees. ($1,440)
  • Increase funds for information technology to annualize additional yearly costs for a new network. ($37,200)
  • Increase funds for contracts to annualize additional yearly costs of TriVir e-filing and maintenance. ($6,000)
  • Eliminate funds for one-time funding for the purchase of computer software. (-$306,785)
  • Increase funds for personnel for one case management position. ($69,4180)
  • No increase in funds for TriVir annual maintenance cost, starting July 1, 2015, for trial court records.
  • Increase funds for personnel for a $10,000 salary enhancement to Supreme Court Justices' salaries. (CC: Increase funds to reflect HB 279 (2015 Session), 5% salary enhancement to Supreme Court Justices' salaries ($56,637) and per diem for Judges residing more than 50 miles from the Judicial Building ($8,650)). (Total: $65,287)
  • No increase in funds for personnel for a $15,000 salary enhancement to match the Superior Court Judges' salary request.
  • Increase funds for contracts to annualize additional yearly costs for the Reporters' Office – LexisNexis Publication. ($1,665)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($58,497)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment to agency premiums for Department of Administrative Services administered self insurance programs. ($4,634)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in Teamworks billings. ($5,353)
  • Reduce funds used to digitize records. (-$17,438)

Court of Appeals

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ($163,744)
  • Increase funds for personnel for a $10,000 salary enhancement to Appellate Court Judges' salaries. (CC: Increase funds to reflect HB279 (2015 Session), 5% salary enhancement to Appellate Court Judges' salaries ($96,186) and per diem for Judges residing more than 50 miles from the Judicial Building ($43,250)). (Total: $139,436)
  • No increase in funds for personnel for a $15,000 salary enhancement to match the Superior Court Judges' salary request.
  • Increase funds for personnel to restore funds for one vacant full-time central staff attorney position. ($154,821)
  • Increase funds for personnel to restore funds for one vacant full-time fiscal office position. ($69,418)
  • Increase funds for information technology to provide for increased costs of software maintenance for the docket system. ($6,750)
  • Increase funds for trial court records maintenance. ($20,000)
  • Increase funds for information technology for network maintenance costs due to the Supreme Court leaving the shared network. ($36,876)
  • Increase funds for six hours of continued legal education training for staff attorneys. ($10,000)
  • Increase funds for one-time funding to convert microfilm court records to a searchable PDF format. ($60,000)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($101,312)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment to agency premiums for Department of Administrative Services administered self insurance programs. ($12,272)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in Teamworks billings. ($8,699)
  • Pursuant to HB279 (2015 Session), provide funding for three new Court of Appeals judgeships and associated staff effective January 1, 2016. ($1,496,111)

Superior Courts

Council of Superior Court Judges

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ($20,244)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($17,474)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment to agency premiums for Department of Administrative Services administered self insurance programs. ($5,847)

Judicial Administrative Districts

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ($36,517)
  • No increase in funds for operations to restore a portion of operating expenses that have been reduced in prior years.
  • Increase funds for personnel to restore three furlough days remaining in the base budget. ($18,051)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($13,368)
  • Reduce funds for personnel to reflect savings. (-$18,051)

Superior Court Judges

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ($234,456)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Judicial Retirement System. ($1,315,678)
  • Increase funds for personnel for a judicial salary increase. (CC: Increase funds to reflect HB 279 (2015 Session), 5% salary enhancement to Superior Court Judges' salaries ($987,410) and $6,000 accountability court supplement ($840,917)). (Total: $1,828,327)
  • Increase funds for the creation of one additional judgeship in the Western Circuit effective July 1, 2015. (H and S: Increase funds for the creation of one additional judgeship in the Western Circuit effective April 1, 2016). ($93,147)
  • Increase funds for personnel to annualize two judgeships in the Coweta and Waycross Judicial Circuits created in HB 742 (2014 Session). ($361,110)
  • Eliminate funds for the initial equipment set-up of the Chattahoochee and Oconee judgeships created in HB 451 (2013 Session). (-$60,500)
  • No increase in funds for personnel for two law clerk positions eliminated in prior years.
  • Increase funds for personnel for a step increase for the 22 secretaries who missed their step increase between January 1, 2012 and June 30, 2012. ($176,972)
  • Increase funds for personnel to restore one and a half furlough days remaining in the base budget. ($84,279)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($113,429)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in Teamworks billings. ($18,784)
  • Reduce funds for personnel to reflect savings. (-$84,279)

Juvenile Courts

Council of Juvenile Court Judges

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System.( $49,434)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($10,415)

Grants to Counties for Juvenile Court Judges

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Judicial Retirement System. ($496,625)
  • Increase funds for Grants to Counties for Juvenile Court Judges pursuant to
  • O.C.G.A. § 15-11-52 effective January 1, 2015. ($21,250) 

Judicial Council

Judicial Qualifications Commission

  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ( $2,015)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($702)

Accountability Courts

  • Increase in funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ($6,126)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($2,136)

Institute of Continuing Judicial Education

  • No increase in funds for operations to provide technology equipment for staff, replace aged technology equipment, and meet day-to-day operating needs for services provided to multiple classes of court.
  • No increase in funds for personnel for one curricula specialist to assist the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education with professional development of judges and court staff.
  • No increase in funds for one-time funding for the statewide cross-jurisdictional conference.

Administrative Office of the Courts

  • Increase funds to reflect the adjustment in the employer share of the Judicial Retirement System for the Council of State Court Judges. ($809,110)
  • Increase funds to continue the Cold Case Project, in conjunction with other agencies serving children in state custody, which will seek to identify children most likely to age out of foster care without a family. ($100,000)
  • Increase funds for information technology to support web hosting for the Access to Courts Filing Wizard. ($10,000)
  • No increase in funds for personnel for one executive director position and associated operating expenses for the Council of Probate Court Judges
  • Increase funds for grants for civil legal services to victims of domestic violence. ($193,126)
  • No increase in funds for the Council of Municipal Court Judges for continued strategic business and information technology planning, publication of Standard Operating Procedures, and executive committee and district representative travel related to district functions.
  • Increase funds for personnel for three new compliance monitor positions and operations to effectively and efficiently register and regulate misdemeanor probation providers. ($277,167)
  • Increase funds to improve and expand training for members of the Georgia Council of Court Administrators. ($7,500)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Employees' Retirement System. ($329,738)
  • Increase funds for merit-based pay adjustments and employee recruitment and retention initiatives effective July 1, 2015. ($43,218)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment to agency premiums for Department of Administrative Services administered self insurance programs. ($43,951)
  • Increase funds to reflect an adjustment in Teamworks billings. ($5,859)
  • Increase funds for the Statewide E-filing portal implementation. ($120,000)

Civil

Sponsor: Rep. Jason Spencer (R – Woodbine)

HB 17 amends O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.1, relating to limitations for actions for  childhood sexual abuse, by adding a "Discovery plus 2 rule" that allows an additional two years for plaintiffs who are time barred from filing a civil action for injuries resulting from  childhood sexual abuse to file such actions. Currently, sexual crimes committed against children under age 18 must begin prosecution by the time the plaintiff reaches age 23.

This bill amends Chapter 3 of Title 9 allowing anyone under the age of 23 to bring civil charges against perpetrators of child molestation, for all offenses committed on or after  July 1, 2015. HB 17grants access, for children who have reached the age of majority and  allege they were abused, to records concerning a report of child abuse allegedly committed against them that are in the custody of the Department of Human  Services or other agency. Before the child reaches 18 years of age, the reports shall  be made available to the child’s legal parent or guardian, so long as the requestor is  not the subject of the report and so long as the requestor or the requestor’s representative submits a sworn affidavit that attests the information is relevant to a pending or proposed civil action.

The bill also allows a cause of action against an entity that owed a duty of care to  the Plaintiff, where the alleged offender was a volunteer or employee of such entity.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Christian Coomer (R – Cartersville)

HB 98 provides for direct appeals and appeals which require an application for appeals to the appellate courts on matters pertaining to courts-martial. Included in the Act is  a provision to amend  Chapter 2 of Title 38 of the O.C.G.A., relating to military affairs,    so as to repeal and reenact Article 5, the Georgia Code of Military Justice,  bringing the Georgia Code in line with existing Federal Codes. HB 98 also provides changes to Article 2 of Chapter 6 of Title 5 of the O.C.G.A., without making substantive changes.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015.
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R – Armuchee)

HB 99 Amends O.C.G.A § 44-6-190 by adding new subparagraph 4 under subsection (a).   This subsection allows either party to a divorce/annulment to file an affidavit with the  divorce/annulment decree to convert any property held as joint tenancy with right of  survivorship into property held as tenants in common, unless the joint tenancy is  otherwise disposed of in the divorce order.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Weldon (R – Ringgold)

HB 153 amends Article 3 of Chapter 19 of Title 15 of the O.C.G.A. by strictly allowing  only active members of the State Bar of Georgia in good standing to close a real estate transaction or express, render, or issue a legal opinion as to the status of the title to real or  personal property. The bill allows the recovery of damages, reasonable attorney's fees,  and expenses of litigation for consumers who are damaged by a violation of this article or   a violation of the Supreme Court's rules or opinions governing the unlicensed practice of   law.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Alex Atwood (R – St. Simons Island)

HB 233 consolidates forfeiture and condemnation laws, from throughout the code, in a  new chapter of Title 16 of the O.C.G.A. HB 233 authorizes all types of property to be  seized if probable cause exists to believe that the property is subject to forfeiture. The bill   provides for non-judicial civil forfeiture for personal property valued at less than   $25,000, and civil forfeiture actions for both in rem and in personam actions.

The bill also eliminates the current standing of taxpayers to file a lawsuit against a law enforcement agency that fails to file an annual report that identifies forfeited  property and specifies its use. The 2015 Georgia Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act   retains the state's existing burden of proof in civil forfeiture actions as a preponderance of   evidence standard. The bill allows the court to provide for limited discovery in contested civil forfeiture actions. It also sets forth procedures regarding how seized property must be reported, what agencies are responsible for the reporting, and how seized property can  be used, sold or transferred to other government entities.

Language from HB 418 was added to HB 233 prohibiting certain individuals from  serving as grand jurors: 1. Any individual in a pretrial release program, a pretrial release  and diversion program, or a pretrial intervention and diversion program; 2. Any   individual sentenced under a conditional discharge for possession of controlled  substances as first offense and certain nonviolent property crimes and has not completed   the terms of their sentence; 3. Any individual on first offender probation; or 4. Any  individual who is participating in a drug court, mental health court, veterans court,  or similar federal court program.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Katie M. Dempsey (R – Rome)

Jurisdiction to enforce a child support is clarified so that jurisdiction where certain property is located shall be limited to in rem proceedings, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-26.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Jesse Stone (R Waynesboro)

Parts I through V of SB 65 is a trifecta of uniform law updates to the Georgia Code. With minor changes, it adopts the "Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act," Article 1 of the "Uniform Commercial Code," (UCC) and the "Uniform Voidable Transactions Act" (formerly, the "Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act").

It repeals current Article VI of the UCC. The bill provides the short title of "Debtor-Creditor Uniform Law Modernization Act of 2015, and adopts the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act, which allows domestication of judgments from outside the country. It does not apply to any judgment subject to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. It provides, among other things: allocations for burdens of proof related to the foreign-country judgment procedures for rendering judgments; and a statute of limitations of 15 years from the date the foreign-country judgment became effective in the foreign country.

SB 65 adopts Article 1 of the UCC, the only Article not yet adopted in Georgia. This Article deals with general provisions, such as definitions and rules of construction. It conforms cross-references in the Georgia Code. The bill adopts the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act. It clarifies ambiguous parts of the Act that have given courts in other states trouble with interpretation. It establishes that jurisdiction is proper where the debtor engaged in the transaction, with that jurisdiction's law controlling. It sets forth burdens of proof, depending on the type of claim. It authorizes that the assignee of a debt may pursue an action for a voidable transaction. It clarifies that a plaintiff does not have to serve process according to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4 to domesticate a judgment from another country.

Part VI of SB 65 seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 44-13-100, relating to exemptions for the purposes of bankruptcy and interstate insolvent estates. The debtor’s aggregate interest is not to exceed $1,200.00 in value plus any unused amount of the exemption, not to exceed $10,000.00.

Part VII provides effective dates for the different parts of the bill.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015. Parts 3A, 3B, and 3C of this Act shall become effective on   January 1, 2016.

Criminal

Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Tanner (R – Dawsonville)

HB 71 creates new avenues of accountability and transparency for the State Board of Pardons and Parole. It makes records from the Board’s decisions accessible to the  public.  Information related to evidence, votes on commutation and pardons, and the sex offender registry are covered.

Section 1 amends O.C.G.A. § 17-17-13 by adding that within 72 hours of receiving a request to commute a death sentence, the Board must provide notification to a victim of the date set for hearing such request and provide the victim with the opportunity to file a written response.

Section 7 amends O.C.G.A. § 42-9-53, relating to preservation of documents, classification of information and documents, divulgence of confidential state secrets, and conduct of hearings, by adding subparagraph (D) to 42-9-53(b)(2). This subparagraph  requires the Board to disclose, upon request, all records, papers, and documents the Board considered in granting or denying a pardon or commuting a death sentence, after a decision has been reached. It lists exceptions to disclosure, including internal communication among board  members. When the Board considers granting a pardon, the prosecutor who prosecuted the crimes at issue must be notified.

Signed by Governor: May 1, 2015
Effective Date: May 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Wendell Willard (R – Sandy Springs)

HB 72 expands and clarifies protection of disabled adults and elder persons. Section 1 clarifies the definition of mentally or physically incapacitated. Section 2 allows venue  in any county in which any act was performed in furtherance of the violation or in any county where the alleged victim resides. Section 3 makes violations of Article 8 of Chapter 5 of Title 16 eligible for RICO prosecution. Section 4 allows preferred scheduling on the docket for prosecution of these offenses, in order to expedite  prosecution. Sections 5 and 6 define financial institutions and investment companies, and make their employees mandatory reporters of abuse. Section 7 adds a felony violation of O.C.G.A. § 31-7-12.1 to the list of record checks requirements for certain care facilities. Sections 8 through 11 address inspection warrants issued by the commissioner of the Department of Community Health.

HB 72 amends O.C.G.A § 51-1-29 by providing a definition of "emergency care" to  include, but not be limited to, "the rescue or attempted rescue of an incapacitated or endangered individual from a locked motor vehicle." The intent is to provide immunity from liability to those persons who attempt to rescue any individual from inside a locked vehicle.

Language from HB 119 was added to HB 72. O.C.G.A. § 24-12-21, related to the disclosure of AIDS confidential information, authorizes probate judges to disclose to law enforcement officers who execute orders to apprehend mentally ill persons

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Chuck Efstration (R – Dacula)

HB 328 amends O.C.G.A §§ 17-10-7 and 42-9-45, Chapter 1 of Title 43, and O.C.G.A § 49-4-15, relating to the punishment of repeat offenders. Per the revision of subsection (b) of O.C.G.A § 42-9-45, inmates serving misdemeanor sentences shall only be eligible for  consideration of parole after serving six months of his or her sentence(s) or one-third of the time of his or her sentence(s), whichever is greater. Inmates serving felony sentences  shall only be eligible for consideration for parole after the expiration of nine months of  his or her sentence or one-third of the time of the sentences, whichever is greater.

In addition, HB 328 allows for inmates sentenced to a term of at least 12 years and up to   a life sentence to become eligible for consideration of parole if he or she has never been convicted of a serious violent felony as defined in O.C.G.A § 17-10-6.1; an offense   for which he or she would have been required to register pursuant to O.C.G.A § 42-1- 12; a violation of paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (b) of O.C.G.A § 16-5-21; a  violation of O.C.G.A § 16-11-106; or a violation of O.C.G.A § 16-11-131, and has  1) completed at least 12 years of his or her sentence, has obtained a low-risk for recidivism rating as determined by a validated risk assessment instrument approved by the Department of Corrections, has been classified as a medium or less than medium  security risk for institutional housing classification purposes by the Department of  Corrections, has completed all criminogenic programming requirements as determined by a validated risk assessment instrument approved by the Department of Corrections, in the  12 months preceding consideration, has not been found guilty of any serious disciplinary  infractions and has a high school diploma or general education development (GED)  diploma, unless he or she is unable to obtain such educational achievement due to a   learning disability or illiteracy. If the inmate is incapable of obtaining such education, he  or she shall have completed a job skills training program, a literacy program, an adult basic education program, or a faith-based program.

HB 328 amends Title 15 of the O.C.G.A., relating to courts, so as to create the Council of Accountability Court Judges of Georgia. It provides for membership, duties, and responsibilities of the Council. The bill changes responsibilities of drug court  divisions, mental health court divisions, and veterans’ court divisions from the Judicial  Council of Georgia to the Council of Accountability Court Judges of Georgia. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) shall provide the council with office space and administrative support, including staff for record keeping, reporting, and related administrative and clerical functions. Appropriations to the AOC for functions transferred   to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council shall be transferred in accordance with § 45-12-90. Personnel previously employed by the AOC and equipment and facilities of the  AOC shall also be transferred to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The  transfers shall be determined by the director of the AOC.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015; excluding Part 2 which shall become effective May 5, 2015
See also General
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Jason Shaw (R – Lakeland)

HB 461 provides for information maintained in a data base established by the Georgia  Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to be considered a trade secret and exempt from disclosure. Information maintained in the data base shall only be used for the purpose of  investigating of an alleged crime. Any person using the information for any purpose other than investigating an alleged crime shall be guilty of a felony. A first conviction may be  punished by imprisonment for one to five years or a fine not to exceed $5,000.00, or both.  A second or subsequent conviction may be punished by imprisonment for five to ten years or a fine not to  exceed $40,000.00, or both.             

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Jasperse (R – Jasper)

HB 492 is a follow up to 2014’s HB 60, the Safe Carry Protection Act. HB 492  clarifies the exemptions contained in O.C.G.A § 16-11-130 were not affected by HB 60,  and provides further definitions of key terms. The bill also clarifies the procedures  probate judges must follow in issuing and renewing weapons carry licenses. The law is now clear that only a non-fingerprint based criminal history records check is required   for license renewals. Judges who become aware of a conviction that makes the   maintenance of a weapons carry license unlawful shall now notify the issuing probate  judge.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Renee Unterman (R Buford)

Any civil actions for the recovery of  damages suffered as result of childhood sexual abuse committed before July 1, 2015 shall be commenced on or before the date the plaintiff reaches 23 years of age. A new paragraph (b)(1) is added to O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.1   to provide that any civil action for the recovery of damages suffered as a result of   childhood sexual abuse committed on or after July 1, 2015, shall be commenced on or  before the date that the plaintiff reaches 25 years of age; additionally, this new provision  includes violations for trafficking a person for sexual servitude, as prohibited in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-46. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-90, relating to individuals who are legally incompetent, is amended to provide the same statute of limitations as prescribed in O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.1 for those persons who are less than 18 years of age when a cause of action accrues.

Chapter 21 of Title 15 is amended to provide for additional penalties for certain sexual crimes, and provides for fees levied on certain businesses, namely adult entertainment  establishments. It provides for an additional fine of $2,500 for trafficking a person for  sexual servitude in violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-5-46, or any violations of O.C.G.A. §§ 16-6-10; 16-6-11; 16-6-12 or 16-6-14, along with changes to O.C.G.A. §42-1-12 through the addition of a new subparagraph to paragraph 10 of subsection (a) so as to include  individuals convicted of trafficking a person for sexual servitude in violation of Code  Section 16-5-46 within the State Sexual Offender Registry.

The bill amends Chapter 21 of Title 15 to create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund as a separate fund in the state treasury to be overseen by the Safe  Harbor   for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission, which will be assigned to the  Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Services for administrative purposes only. The Commission may disburse funds for purposes of providing care, rehabilitative services, residential housing, health services, and social  services, including establishing safe  houses, to sexually exploited children. The commission will be tasked with making recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly concerning changes in state programs, budgets, policies, and standards concerning the care and rehabilitation of sexually exploited children, changes to improve  coordination among state agencies that provide care and services to sexually exploited children, and changes to improve the condition of sexually exploited children who are in  need of rehabilitative and social services. As amended, SB 8 also contains language  which does not provide safe harbor protections for individuals who are under the age of 18 years old who are charged with the trafficking of children for sex.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Jeff Mullis (R Chickamauga)

SB 72, known as "Tanja's Law," revises the penalties for harming a law enforcement animal (“animal”) in the performance of its duties by creating four tiers of offenses, defining terms, and providing for exceptions. A fourth-degree offense occurs when a person intentionally causes physical harm to these animals. This offense is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, punishable by 12 months in prison and a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both. A third-degree offense occurs when a person intentionally causes physical injury to an animal through the use of a deadly weapon  likely to cause harm. This offense is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, punishable by not less than six and not more than 12 months in prison and a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both. A second-degree offense occurs when a person knowingly or  intentionally shoots an animal with a firearm or causes a debilitating physical injury. This is punishable by at least one year but not more than five years in prison, and a fine not  exceeding $25,000, or both. A first-degree offense occurs when a person knowingly or intentionally causes the death of an animal. Frist degree offenders are guilty of a felony punishable by at least 18 months but not more than five years in prison, and a fine not   exceeding $50,000, or both. The bill also requires offenders to pay restitution to the agency that was the owner of the animal. When a law enforcement animal dies in the line  of duty, the GBI must perform a necropsy on the animal.

SB 72 amends O.C.G.A. § 16-11-39.1, relating to harassing phone calls, to create the misdemeanor offense of harassing communications. Current law prohibits harassing phone calls and legislation prohibits harassing, threatening or intimidating “telecommunication, e-mail, text messaging, or any other form of electronic communication.”

SB 72 amends O.C.G.A. §16-6-22, relating to incest, by changing the offense to include half-blood relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, and aunts/uncles and nieces/nephews. Current law only prohibits sexual intercourse and sodomy between grandparents and grandchildren of the whole blood, and aunt/uncles and nieces/nephews of the whole blood.

Signed by Governor: May 1, 2015
Effective Date: May 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. John F. Kennedy (R Macon)

SB 99 amends O.C.G.A. Code Section 17-8-57, which prohibits judges, , from express to the jury the judge's opinion as to whether a fact has or has not been proved, or as to the guilt of the accused. The bill requires a party who alleges a violation of this statute to make a timely objection, and inform the court of the specific objection and the grounds   for such objection. If sustained, the court may give a curative instruction to the jury or declare a mistrial.

Failure to make a timely objection when a judge expresses an opinion as to whether a fact  has been proved shall preclude appellate review, unless such violation constitutes plain  error which affects substantive rights of the parties. When a judge expresses an opinion   as to the guilt of the accused, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals or the trial court shall    grant a new trial, despite the lack of a timely objection.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Michael Williams (R Cumming)

SB 160 amends O.C.G.A. Article 2 of Chapter 3 of Title 3, relating to prohibited acts regarding alcoholic beverages, by revising subsections (d) and (e) of Code Section 3-3-23.1, relating to procedure and penalties upon violation of O.C.G.A. § 3-3-23. The bill makes minor in possession of alcohol offenses (MIPs) punishable by citation only, and not arrest. This is to prevent minors who are caught in possession of alcohol but not violating any other law, from being arrested, fingerprinted and having a criminal record.

SB 160 also amends Article 2 of Chapter 11 of Title 16, relating to offenses against public order. It prohibits intentionally causing a minor to be identified as the individual in an obscene depiction in such a manner that a reasonable person would  conclude that the image depicted was the minor. Any person found in violation shall  be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Renee Unterman (R – Buford)

SR 7 offers and amendment to Article III, Section IX, Paragraph VI of the Constitution  which would a paragraph that would allow the General Assembly to impose additional  penalties or fees for prostitution, keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering,  pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, sexual exploitation of children, and sodomy. The funds collected by these penalties will be allocated to the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited  Children Fund for the purpose of providing rehabilitative and social services for sexually exploited children.

This resolution is the companion constitutional amendment for SB 8. It would authorize state funds dedicated to helping trafficking victims.               

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015

Compensation/Retirement

Sponsor: Rep. Jay Powell (R – Camilla)

HB 279 provides for a state salary increase for justices of the Supreme Court, judges of     the Court of Appeals, and judges of the Superior Courts. The superior court base salary becomes $126,265. Court of Appeals, 174,500.00. Supreme Court, 175,600.00.   Effective January 1, 2016.

An additional state supplement is provided for each superior court judge in a circuit with   an accountability court of $ 6,000. Effective January 1, 2016.

Similar increases are granted for district attorneys and circuit public defenders.

A daily expense allowance is authorized for up to 30 days per term of court for justices of   the Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Appeals who live 50 miles or more from the state judicial building. Effective January 1, 2016.

HB 279 creates an additional superior court judgeship in the Western Judicial Circuit.  First term begins April 1, 2016.

The additional panel of the Court of Appeals becomes effective July 1, 2015 for purposes  of making the initial appointments.

The bill creates the Judicial, District Attorney and Circuit Public Defender Compensation   Commission. In addition to studying the compensation structure of judges, district attorneys and circuit public defenders, the seven-member Commission is charged with  evaluating caseload and the distribution/allocation of such officers and jurisdictions.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015

Fines and Fees

Sponsor: Darlene K. Taylor (R – Thomasville)

The Magistrate Court of Grady County may impose and collect a fee for county law  libraries in order to fund the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 36-15-7. The fee shall not exceed the sum authorized in O.C.G.A. § 36-15-9. The act will be effective on the first day of the month following the month in which this bill becomes law.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: June 1, 2015
See also Local General
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Barry Fleming (R – Harlem)

HB 524 amends O.C.G.A. § 10-1-490 by requiring (beginning July 1, 2015) registration    of trade names with the clerk of superior court. The bill also establishes a trade name registry. The bill maintains the cost of registering a trade name at $15.00 and adds a $22    fee to cancel an existing trade name registration. It also adds a $20 fee to reregister an existing trade name.

Governor Nathan Deal’s Veto Message: This legislation would create a statewide  registry of business trade names to be housed and maintained by the Georgia Superior Court   Clerks’ Cooperative Authority. This legislation would require those who have already lawfully registered their trade names in the appropriate superior court, and paid  that court’s fee for doing so, to pay an additional fee to take advantage of the  proposed online registry. I also have significant concerns about language in the bill attempting to dedicate a portion these new fees for a specific purpose. For these reasons, I hereby VETO House Bill 524.

 

HB 580 - Columbus, City of; Recorder's Court; increase amount of technology fee    

Sponsor: Rep. Calvin Smyre (D – Columbus)

HB 580 amends the act authorizing the Recorder's Court of Columbus, Georgia, to impose and collect a technology fee for each fine imposed by the chief judge, who demonstrates that a need exists for the imposition and collection of a technology fee. The clerk of court shall be entitled to charge and collect a technology fee to be set by the court, not to exceed $25.00, as a surcharge to each fine imposed. Technology fees shall be used exclusively to provide for the technological needs of the court. The funds  collected shall be maintained by the clerk of court.

Governor Nathan Deal’s Veto Message: House Bill 580 authorizes the Recorder’s   Court   of Columbus to levy up to a $25 technology fee to each fine imposed. In 2013, I signed legislation authorizing the Recorder’s Court of Columbus to levy up to a $15  technology fee. A $25 fee is excessive compared to similar court fees across the state,   and I am concerned that such a fee increase would set an unacceptable precedent for other similar courts. Additionally, this legislation removes the sunset provision placed upon the technology fee. I have previously vetoed this legislation (HB 858) in 2014.  For these reasons, I hereby VETO House Bill 580.          
See also Local General
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Michael Williams (R – Cumming)

SB 195 amends Chapter 6 of Title 17 of the O.C.G.A. relating to bonds and recognizances by revising subsection (b) of O.C.G.A. § 17-6-50.1, relating to continuing education for professional bondsman and fees, by changing the fee for continuing education programs so that it shall not exceed $250 annually. It contains a  provision  within the revised subsection (a) of O.C.G.A. § 17-6-71, relating to conditions not warranting forfeiture of bond for failure to appear. It requires judges to issue a bench  warrant for the principal’s arrest upon the failure of an individual to appear in court.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015

General

Sponsor: Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R – Gainesville)

HB 160 repeals the raccoon trapping prohibition in Carroll, Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Barrow, Jackson, Madison, and Elbert counties.

Signed by Governor: April 29, 2015
Effective Date: April 29, 2015
See also Local General
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R – Dalton)            

HB 211 is the annual controlled substance update. It amends Chapter 13 of Title 16 of the  O.C.G.A., relating to controlled substances by adding certain elements to Schedules I, III,  and IV controlled substances.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Alan Powell (R – Hartwell)

HB 310 is the enabling legislation for a new Department of Community Supervision (Department), which will be governed by a nine member Board of  Community Supervision. The powers, functions, and duties of the Board of Corrections, State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Board of Juvenile Justice,  Department of Juvenile Justice, and the County and Municipal Probation Advisory Council will all be transferred to the Board. Although the Board will  have rule making authority, all rules of the superseded agencies shall remain in  effect unless and until the Department issues new rules and regulations.

The Board sets guidelines for the imposition of community service as a condition of probation, particularly for traffic offenses, ordinance offenses, and minor  traffic offense. Felony pretrial release and diversion programs may be established by the Department, which will also set standards for pretrial release and diversion   programs. Administrative sanctions, including electronic monitoring, probation  bootcamp, and community service may be imposed by the Department for probationers who violate the terms and conditions of their sentence. Any   probationer arrested on a warrant for an alleged violation of probation will be granted an informal preliminary hearing within fifteen days unless they sign a waiver. The probationer will have rights to appeal.

The Governor's Office of Transition, Support, and Reentry, is also now given  statutory recognition and administratively assigned to the new department. HB 310 asserts that it is the policy of the State to provide transition and re-entry services to help reduce recidivism and support criminal justice reforms.

Community service of 20 to 250 hours is now specifically authorized as a  punishment for misdemeanors. The bill sets forth a regulatory framework for  the imposition of community service and how work is assigned. It authorizes counties to establish diversion centers under the supervision of the sheriff.

Article 6 of Section 1 creates a “Probation Management Act” allowing    administrative adjustment of punishments and probation revocation of felony  sentences, while a judge still retains the authority to modify the probation  sentence or revoke an offender. This alternative has been referred to as   "probation options management".

Section 2-1.

Repeals Article 1 of Chapter 8, relating to the Advisory Council for Probation.

Section 3-1.

The bill makes clear that the General Assembly did not intend to restrict the powers of judges to impose, suspend, toll, revoke, or otherwise manage the probation of misdemeanor sentences or to treat private probation providers any differently than state probations supervisors.

This section contains an intent statement of the General Assembly recollecting that the authorization for county and municipal probation offices and private probation services was granted to provide cost savings to the state. The General Assembly intended to allow city probation providers to supervise misdemeanor probationers in the same manner as judges of the superior courts.             

 Section 3-2.

This section amends definitions relating to private probation and penal institutions   by clarifying that private probation officers supervise defendants placed on probation for misdemeanor or ordinance violations. The statute governing contracts between cities and private probation providers is amended, so that the termination of any such contract will be initiated by the judge of the municipal   court but will be subject to approval by the governing authority of the city.

The municipal court judge will have the ability to suspend the execution of sentences if he or she determines that the defendant is not likely to cause any   problems in the future. The new law focuses on the ability of offenders to pay not just the fine, but the probation fee. The judge will be able to convert any fines or fees to community service. The judge cannot revoke a probationary sentence  for failure to pay without first holding a hearing inquiring into the failure to abide  by the terms of the probation. Defendants may have their probation supervision    transferred to the county of municipality in which they reside when specifically  ordered by the court. “Pay only probation” is a new provision that allows a court   to impose probation for up to three months, but which terminates upon full  payment of fines and fees. Terms and conditions for the probationer may be   provided and may include electronic monitoring, drug and alcohol screenings,  requirements to complete substance abuse programs, and many other potential    requirements.

Importantly, this section of the proposed legislation allows a court to toll a probated sentence upon the failure of a probationer to appear in court for a   probation revocation hearing or to report as directed to the probation officer.  FTAs will be required to be evidenced by an affidavit from   the probation officer  setting forth such failure and stating efforts made by the officer to contact the  probationer. The affidavit must contain statutorily mandated requirements, including a statement that the officer attempted to contact the probationer at least twice, that the officer sent a letter to the last known address, and that the officer  checked local jails for the probationer. The tolling order issued by a court will continue until the probationer reports or is taken into custody.

This section of the legislation will also strike language creating the County and Municipal Probation Advisory Council from the Code. However, it requires that the Board seek input from a newly-established advisory council, which will be mandated to include one superior court judge, one state court judge, one municipal court judge, one probate judge and one magistrate judge. The advisory   council will also include one criminal defense attorney, one probation officer, and  one individual with expertise in private probation. Certain records maintained by  private probation providers will be required to create quarterly reports summarizing certain information, including  probation supervision fees, electronic monitoring fees, the number of community  service hours performed. The information in the quarterly report will be required to be submitted annually to the city governing authority and will be subject to state open records laws.  Probationers will also have access to other records relating to their own case,  which otherwise would be required to be kept confidential.

Section 4-1.

This section creates a state-wide probation system for felony offenders which will  be administered by the Department. The Department will only have authority over misdemeanors when the sentence is concurrent to a probated felony sentence. The section creates standards for felony probation officers and provides  a list of their duties. If a defendant is seeking to enter a drug court, mental health  court, or veterans court they may voluntarily agree to an extension of their sentence, not to exceed three years, so that they may complete the program.                        

Part 5.

Part 5 of this legislation amends numerous cross references in current law to conform to changes made in other parts of this legislation. The term community supervision officer in this proposed legislation typically means a probation officer    of felony probationers and often substitutes for the currently used term of  "probation supervisor".

Part 5 assigns the Commission on Family Violence to the Department for  administrative purposes. Currently the Administrative Office of the Courts provides support to the Commission under an agreement with the Department of Corrections. The commissioner of the Department and chair of the Board are  added as members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The commissioner is added to the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training  Council and the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council.

The bill grandfathers in the Department of Corrections probation employees and   their spouses who own or work at a driver employment clinic as of July 1, 2015, allowing them to continue their interest in the clinic.

The bill requires the Department to maintain records of sexually violent predators and collect costs from those on the sex offender list. Courts and attorneys have new obligations to inform defendants of the option to seek first offender treatment.

Part 6.

The effective date of July 1, 2015.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Chuck Efstration (R – Dacula)

HB 328 enacts reforms recommended by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice  Reform by revising Part 2 of Article 15 of Chapter 1 of Title 10, Code Sections 17-10-7  and 42-9-45, Chapter 1 of Title 43, and Code Section 49-4-15 of the Official Code of   Georgia Annotated, relating to the "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975," repeat offenders and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles general rule-making authority,  general provisions for professions and businesses, and fraud in obtaining public assistance, food stamps, or Medicaid.

It amends O.C.G.A § 42-9-45, relating to the state Board of Pardons and Parole, so that inmates serving misdemeanor sentences shall only be eligible for consideration of parole after serving six months of his or her sentence or one-third of the time of his or her  sentence, whichever is greater. Inmates serving felony sentences shall only be eligible  for consideration for parole after the expiration of nine months of his or her sentence or    one-third of the time of the sentences, whichever is greater.

In addition, HB 328 allows for inmates sentenced to a term of 12 years to   life to become eligible for consideration of parole if he or she has never been convicted of: a serious violent felony as defined in O.C.G.A § 17-10-6.1; an offense for which he or she would  have been required to register pursuant to O.C.G.A § 42-1-12; a violation of paragraph   (1) or (2) of subsection (b) of O.C.G.A § 16-5-21; a violation of O.C.G.A § 16-11-106; or  violation of O.C.G.A § 16-11-131. Additionally, these inmates must have: 1) completed  at least 12 years of his or her sentence; 2) obtained a low-risk for recidivism rating as determined by a validated risk assessment instrument approved by the Department 3) been classified as a medium or less than medium security risk for institutional housing  classification purposes by the Department of Corrections; 3) completed all criminogenic programming requirements as determined by a validated risk assessment instrument  approved by the Department of Corrections; 3) in the 12 months preceding consideration,  not been found guilty of any serious disciplinary infractions and 4) obtained a high school  diploma or general education development (GED) diploma.. If the inmate is incapable of   obtaining such education, he or she shall have completed a job skills training program, a  literacy program, an adult basic education program, or a faith-based program.

HB 328 amends Title 15 of the O.C.G.A., relating to courts, so as to create the Council of Accountability Court Judges of Georgia. It provides for membership, duties,  and responsibilities of the Council. The bill changes responsibilities for establishing   standards and practices for drug court divisions, mental health court divisions, and veterans’ court divisions from the Judicial Council of Georgia to the Council of Accountability Court Judges of Georgia. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC)       shall provide the Council with office space and administrative support, including staff for           record keeping, reporting, and related administrative and clerical functions.  Appropriations to the AOC for functions transferred to the Criminal Justice  Coordinating Council shall be transferred in accordance with § 45-12-90. Personnel previously employed by the AOC and equipment and facilities of the AOC shall also be   transferred to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, as determined by the director of  the AOC.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015, excluding Part 2, which shall become effective May 5, 2015
See also Criminal
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Dustin Hightower (R – Carrollton)

HB 347 provides that all monetary awards, court orders, decrees, or judgments rendered  pursuant to Title 19 expressed in monetary amounts shall accrue interest at the rate of  7 percent per annum commencing 30 days from the date the award, court order, decree,  or judgment is due.

HB 347 grants courts the discretion to modify the date on which interest begins to accrue. When an award, court order, decree or judgment for alimony or equitable division    of assets and liabilities is payable in installments, interest is not to begin accruing until an installment is 30 days past due, unless otherwise ordered by the court.

Signed by Governor: April 4, 2015
Effective Date: April 4, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Mandi L. Ballinger (R – Canton)

HB 452 provides for pretrial release orders that prohibit contact with others to be   included in the protective orders registry. This applies to orders issued in this state and in foreign courts. It adds no contact provisions included in pretrial release and sentencing  orders to the protective order registry. A protective order is now defined as an ex parte, temporary, six-month, permanent restraining, pretrial release, or sentencing order issued        by a judge in this state that prohibits contact and foreign protective orders.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Tom McCall (R – Elberton)

HB 475 revises subsection (b) of O.C.G.A. § 27-1-33, relating to the offense of  criminal trespass as follows: “any person who enters upon or who hunts, traps, or  fishes on any public hunting or fishing area, fish hatchery, or natural area, or any game  management area owned or operated, by the Department of Natural Resources in violation of this Code section commits the offense of criminal trespass.”

HB 475 also amends the provisions relating to feral hogs by revising O.C.G.A § 27-2- 31, relating to wildlife control permits by enumerating the conditions under which  a wildlife control permit for feral hogs can be used to hunt and trap feral hogs. Wildlife permits will expire five years from the issue date unless the individual hunting the feral    hogs has a lease on the hunting property, whereby the permit shall expire upon the   termination of the lease.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Tyler Harper (R Ocilla)

SB 62 amends O.C.G.A. §15-9-30.3 relating to jurisdiction over Game and Fish Code  misdemeanor violations. The legislation removes certain limitations on the jurisdiction of  the probate courts over these violations, including first violations of hunting deer with the  aid of a light at night.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Renee Unterman (R Buford)

SB 79 amends Chapter 15 of Title 17 of the O.C.G.A., relating to victim compensation. It  revises subparagraph (a)(1)(E) and paragraph (1) of subsection (b) of Code Section 17- 15-7, relating to persons eligible for awards, to add dependent step-parents and step-  children as eligible recipients of victim compensation awards. Section 3 of the bill amends O.C.G.A. § 17-15-8 to increase the maximum allowable award for funeral  expenses from $3,000 to $6,000. It also adds step-parents, step-children and step-siblings  as eligible recipients of awards for costs of psychological counseling related to a criminal incident that resulted in death.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Charlie Bethel (R Dalton)

SB 94 adds Chapter 20 to Title 17 of the O.C.G.A. New Code Section 17-20-2  requires law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies and minimum requirements for eye witness identification procedures by July 1, 2016. It attempts to codify the best practices principles taught to law enforcement, including: in a live lineup, have the procedure conducted by an individual who does not know the identity of the suspect; instruct witnesses the alleged perpetrator of the crime may or may not be in the live  or photo lineup; compose live and photo lineups using fillers who resemble the witness’s description of the perpetrator; and record the confidence statement of the witness. The bill provides for public disclosure and inspection of such policies.

SB 94 also amends Article 3 of Chapter 11 of Title 16, relating to invasions of privacy, so as to repeal previously existing provisions related to wiretapping and surveillance. It allows  videotaping of the execution of search warrants in private places, so that body cameras can continue taping when law enforcement enters a home. It explicitly authorizes the use of body cameras by law enforcement. The bill does not change the “good faith” exception for improperly executed search warrants, and does not change the law on the use of thermal imaging by law enforcement.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015. Section 4 of this Act shall become effective on July 1, 2016.
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Tyler Harper (R Ocilla)

SB 112 amends Part 1 of Article 1 of Chapter 3 of Title 27 of the O.C.G.A., relating to general hunting provisions, so as to prohibit the removal, transportation, storage, or processing of game animal or game bird carcasses except in compliance with applicable  harvest recording and reporting laws and regulations of the Board of Natural Resources.

SB 112 also amends Part 2 of Article 1 of Chapter 3 of Title 27 of the O.C.G.A., relating  to deer hunting, by repealing O.C.G.A. § 27-3-45, which pertains to information required before removal of a carcass from the place of killing, and O.C.G.A. § 27-3-   46, related to the failure to affix a deer tag prior to storage or processing.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Charlie Bethel (R Dalton)

SB 135 amends Article 2 of Chapter 6 of Title 15 of the O.C.G.A., to designate the clerk of superior court as the sole custodian of original records filed with the court, regardless of the method or systems used to store or archive the records. It also authorizes the clerk of superior court to contract with any entity for the maintenance and storage of such records. All requests for access to or copies of records shall go through the clerk. The bill   requires two back up methods for records, and provides that public disclosure not be required for records that are held by the Georgia Superior Court Clerks Cooperative Authority or held by any other entity on behalf of a clerk of superior court. However, records may be obtained from the clerk of superior court unless otherwise  exempted from disclosure.

SB 135 includes language repealing the sunset provision in subsection (k) of   O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4.1, relating to certified process servers.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015, excluding Section 2, which shall become effective July 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Butch Miller (R Gainesville)

SB 138 amends Title 49 of the O.C.G.A., so as to provide for various reforms regarding the state's child welfare system based on a comprehensive review by the Governor's Child Welfare Reform Council. Section 1 provides that the director of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) of the Department of Human Services (DHS) is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Additionally, it establishes a DFCS State Advisory Board consisting of 20 members appointed by the Governor.  The purpose  of the Advisory Board will be to review and recommend proposed rules and regulations   for DFCS.

Section 2 provides for the requirements for members appointed to county boards of family and children services, including the term limits of the office members of the board  and the conditions for the appointments necessary to fill any vacancies on the county board. Section 3 defines the purposes and functions of county or district DFCS. The section also clarifies the manner in which DFCS shall perform under court supervision the role of probation officer or agent of the court in any welfare matters   which arise.

Section 4 establishes in each region a DFCS Regional Advisory Board and outlines the purpose of the board and the minimum length of time the regional advisory boards must meet. Section 5 amends Chapter 5, relating to the protection of youth and children by  adding a new code section that provides DHS work with other agencies to establish a statewide data sharing system and an interagency data protocol so that each agency  can effectively share information with the other.

Section 6 revises subsections (c) and (d) by providing guidelines for when it will be  acceptable for agencies to release information concerning child abuse to outside parties  and stipulates the type of information to be included within the disclosure. Section 7  provides revisions relating to the central child abuse registry. Section 9 amends O.C.G.A. § 15-11-215, to provide that a temporary absence from a child's ongoing     foster care placement shall not be considered a placement change in relation to placement hearings. Section 10 provides that DHS or DFCS may enter into   contracts for the purchase of, or may purchase placements for, children in care without competitive bidding.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015

Juvenile

Sponsor: Rep. Christian Coomer (R – Cartersville)

HB 263 amends Chapter 6A of Title 35, Chapter 11 of Title 15, and Title 49 of the  O.C.G.A., relating to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the Juvenile Code, and social services. HB 263 provides for an advisory board to the council for juvenile justice issues, and the membership of the board. The board will consist of at least 15 but no more than 33 members appointed by the Governor. The legislation adds to the   duties of the advisory board: supervising the preparation, administration, and implementation of the three-year juvenile justice plan.

 In addition, HB 263 stipulates which entities and agencies in the state will be required to share information with the Council, and allows it access to data relating to juveniles.

HB 263 also amends Article 2 of Chapter 13 of Title 19 of the O.C.G.A relating to family  violence shelters, so as to transfer the responsibility and duties for the shelters from the Department of Human Resources to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Mandi L. Ballinger (R – Canton)

HB 268 amends O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5, relating to mandated reporting of child abuse. It   requires certain individuals (the hospital, school, agency or facility) report to the person in charge of whenever they receive reliable information that child abuse has occurred. The individual in charge of the institution, or the person delegated to receive the report,  may not exercise control over the person writing the report or make any change to the   information that is provided to them. Prior to receiving the report, they may be consulted and may provide additional relevant information.

The bill also allows reports to be filed by telephone, email, or facsimile. 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.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Andrew J. Welch (R – McDonough)

HB 361 amends Chapter 11 of Title 15 of the O.C.G.A., to enact reforms recommended by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform  with respect to juveniles. The bill cleans up language to clarify that 17-year-old drivers will be treated as adults for traffic   offenses. It also clarifies that district attorneys and police department general counsels may file petitions in juvenile court for children in need of services (CHINS). It provides superior court judges with explicit factors to consider when determining whether to  transfer a case to juvenile court.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Katie M. Dempsey (R – Rome)

HB 568 mandates genetic testing for child support cases involving the Department of  Human Services (DHS) when the paternity of a child has not been established or when  the individual receiving services alleges that paternity rests in a person other than the  previously established father. The bill restricts DHS from genetic testing in cases involving adopted children, or cases where the child was conceived through artificial insemination.

HB 568 requires DHS to be reimbursed paternity testing fees, where the genetic test excludes the possibility of such person being the biological father, by the applicant for    services who names an alleged father. The bill also provides for possible sanctions   against those who fail to respond to mailed notices of paternity test requests (for either  themselves or children); and permits DHS to bring a petition for contempt against any  individual deemed to be non-cooperative with court orders regarding paternity testing. The bill requires all genetic testing results meet the standards set by the American  Association of Blood Banks in order to be admitted as evidence in a court of law.

O.C.G.A. § 19-7-54 is revised so that party may request a genetic test from DHS which shall then be contingent on advanced payment of the genetic test by the party. The results shall be relevant to any case where the underlying child support order was issued by a     court of this state or by DHS.

The bill permits a court, granting the motion to set aside a determination of paternity, to    relieve the obligor of responsibility for any future or past due amounts (or both) owed to the state or other obligor. The court also has the ability to relieve the obligor of that    which is owed to any other person or entity as well, provided the obligor adds that person or entity to the underlying motion and provides that person or entity with   notice of the action. All motions must make the state a party if any amount is owed to the state.      Failure to include DHS as a party will prevent the waiver of any amount owed to the   state.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015

Local Compensation

Sponsor: Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D – Decatur)

HB 302 increases the salary of the Chief Magistrate of DeKalb County to 85 percent of the Superior Court judge's salary. It establishes salaries of the associate judges of the traffic division of the State Court of DeKalb County and establishes the salary of the Clerk of the State Court of DeKalb County.

Signed by Governor: March 3, 2015  
Effective Date: March 3, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Stacey Evans (D – Smyrna)

HB 410 changes the compensation of the judges of the State Court of Cobb County. The   salary of the judges of Division 1 of the State Court of Cobb County shall be increased from $166,511.00 to $171,506.00 per annum. The chief judge’s additional annual compensation is increased from $3,952.00 to $4,071.00.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Stacey Evans (D – Smyrna)

HB 589 changes the compensation of the clerk of the Superior Court, the sheriff, and the  judge of the Probate Court of Cobb County from the fee system to the salary system. The judge of the Probate Court of Cobb County will be paid $133,055.02 annually and the  clerk of the probate court shall be paid $88,484.12 per year.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R – Powder Springs)

HB 600 revises the compensation of the solicitor-general of Cobb County to provide that  the solicitor-general of Cobb County receive the same compensation as the chief judge  of the State Court of Cobb County. 

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. John Carson (R – Marietta)

HB 617 raises the compensation of the chief deputy clerk and the clerk of the State Court  of Cobb County. It also raises the minimum and maximum allowable compensation for the chief assistant, each deputy chief assistant, each assistant, and each intake assistant  solicitor of Cobb County. The bill grants the solicitor-general the authority to appoint two assistant solicitors for each judge of Division I and Division II of the State Court of Cobb County, and the same number of additional assistant solicitors as the number of full-time magistrates of the Magistrate Court of Cobb County, plus four additional assistant solicitors, one of whom shall be the chief assistant solicitor, two of whom may be deputy assistant solicitors, and one of whom may serve as an intake attorney at the Cobb County  Adult Detention Center.

The bill sets the salary of the clerk of the State Court of Cobb County at $112,503.  The salary of the chief deputy clerk shall be $101,253. The compensation of the chief assistant solicitor shall be between $76,632 and $124,527. The compensation of any deputy assistant solicitor shall be between $63,036 and $101,043. The compensation of the assistant solicitors shall be between $49,337 and $86,932. The compensation of the intake assistant solicitor shall be between $49,337 and $78,795.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Trey Rhodes (R – Greensboro)

HB 642 revises the number, manner of selection, and compensation of the judges of the magistrate court. The number of magistrates authorized for the Magistrate Court of Putnam County will be one magistrate, who shall be the chief magistrate.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: January 1, 2019
 
Sponsor: Rep. Ron Stephens (R – Savannah)

HB 669 amends the Act providing for the compensation of certain officials in Chatham County. It provides for an increase for the judge of the probate court, the chief judge of the state court, the chief magistrate, the full-time magistrates, and the presiding judge   of the juvenile court of Chatham County.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R – Marietta)

SB 171 is an Act changing the compensation of the clerk of the superior court, the sheriff, and the judge of the Probate Court of Cobb County from the fee system to the salary system. The sheriff of Cobb County shall have one chief deputy, whose salary shall be $130,869.19 per annum, the salary of the assistant chief deputy shall be $118,745.24 per annum. Finally, the bill allows an executive assistant to be appointed by the sheriff. Thesalary of the executive assistant shall be $71,347.41 per annum.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R – Marietta)

SB 172 is an Act changing the compensation of the clerk of the superior court, the sheriff,  and the judge of the Probate Court of Cobb County from the fee system to the salary  system. The clerk of the superior court shall receive an annual salary of $128,104.74 and be allowed a deputy clerk whose annual salary shall be $101,252.71. Finally, the clerk  of the superior court shall be allowed an executive assistant and an executive secretary appointed by the clerk, whose salaries will be $62,330.99 each.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015

Local Elections

Sponsor: Rep. Mack Jackson (D – Sandersville)

HB 403 creates a board of elections and registration for Washington County. The board shall have the powers, duties, and responsibilities of the superintendent of elections of Washington County currently being exercised by the judge of the Probate Court of   Washington County.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: June 1, 2015 for the purposes of making initial appointments to the board. For all other purposes, this Act shall become effective July 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Dean Burke (R Bainbridge)

Elections for the office of probate judge of Seminole County shall be nonpartisan.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015

Local General

Sponsor: Darlene K. Taylor (R – Thomasville)

HB 38 allows the Magistrate Court of Grady County to impose and collect a fee for  county law libraries in order to fund the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 36-15-7. The fee shall not exceed the sum authorized in O.C.G.A. § 36-15-9. The act will be effective on   the first day of the month following the month in which this bill becomes law.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: June 1, 2015
See also Fines and Fees
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Cheokas (R – Americus)

HB 102 provides that the judge of the Probate Court of Schley County shall also serve as   the judge of the Magistrate Court of Schley County beginning January 1, 2017. The bill establishes that no more elections be held for the office of Magistrate Court judge of Schley County starting in 2016. The term of office for magistrate and probate court  judge shall be concurrent. The judge of the Magistrate Court of Schley County who was serving on January 1, 2015, shall continue to serve until the office expires on  December 31, 2016.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R – Gainesville)

HB 160 repeals the raccoon trapping prohibition in Carroll, Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett,  Barrow, Jackson, Madison, and Elbert counties.

Signed by Governor: April 29, 2015
 Effective Date: April 29, 2015
See also General
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Chuck Williams (R – Watkinsville)

HB 203 provides a new charter for the Town of Bishop, Georgia. It grants the mayor and city council authority to make an agreement with other governments for assistance with a municipal court system, judges, jurisdiction and powers, and related matters.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. John Corbett (R – Lake Park)

HB 254 renames the police court of the City of Waycross as the municipal court and provides new provisions for the operation of that court.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D – Decatur)

HB 300 establishes the traffic division of the State Court of DeKalb County. It provides  for the initial selection of the judges and their duties.

Signed by Governor: March 3, 2015
Effective Date: March 3, 2015
 See also Local Traffic
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D – Decatur)

HB 301 repeals the Act creating and establishing the Recorder's Court of DeKalb County. All pending traffic offenses shall be immediately transferred to the traffic division of the  State Court of DeKalb County. All other pending actions shall be transferred to the Magistrate Court of DeKalb County. All records shall be transferred to the clerk of the State Court of DeKalb County. The solicitor general of the State Court of DeKalb County shall be the solicitor in the Magistrate Court of DeKalb County for all cases involving violations of county ordinances and regulations.            

Signed by Governor: March 3, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015

HB 388 - Wilcox County; Probate Court; judge serves as chief magistrate of Magistrate Court on or after June 1, 2015; provisions

Sponsor: Rep. Buddy Harden (R – Cordele)

The judge of the Probate Court of Wilcox County will also serve as the chief  magistrate of the Magistrate Court of Wilcox County on or after June 1, 2015, or upon vacancy of the office of chief magistrate.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Susan Holmes (R – Monticello)

HB 398 dissolves the municipal court of the City of Monticello. All matters pending in  the municipal court of the City of Monticello, on July 1, 2015, which are within the jurisdiction of the Probate Court of Jasper County in the absence of a municipal court, will be granted to the Probate Court of Jasper County. All matters pending in the municipal court of the City of Monticello, which are not within the jurisdiction of  the Probate Court of Jasper County in the absence of a municipal court, will be granted to the Magistrate Court of Jasper County. All fines, fees, and forfeitures collected in the cases transferred to either the Probate Court of Jasper County or the Magistrate Court of Jasper County shall be paid to the respective court and remitted to  Jasper County.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Lee Hawkins (R – Gainesville)

HB 400 reincorporates the Town of Clermont in Hall County. It provides for a municipal court and judge or judges and all matters relative to those judges including the court’s  jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures. All judges shall be appointed by the town council and may be removed for any reason by a majority vote of the town council.          

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: January 1, 2016; excluding Article III of this Act relating to municipal  elections in November, 2015, which shall become effective May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Cooke (R – Carrollton)

HB 468 provides a new charter for the City of Mount Zion. It provides for a municipal  court and judge or judges and all matters relative to those judges including the court's   jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures. The method of selection and terms of the judges shall be provided by ordinance. Judges will serve at the pleasure of the mayor and council, without the need for periodic reappointment, and may be removed from office by   majority vote of the mayor and council with all members present.

 Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
 Effective Date: January 1, 2018; with the exception to municipal elections in November, 2015, and November, 2017, this shall become effective May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Mandi L. Ballinger (R – Canton)

HB 489 authorizes the governing authority of Cherokee County to provide for the appointment of investigators by the solicitor-general, including a chief investigator. The bill establishes the qualifications and powers of the investigators.           

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Mack Jackson (D – Sandersville)

 HB 490 authorizes the governing authority of Cherokee County to provide for the appointment of district attorney investigators in the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit. The bill  establishes the qualifications and powers of the investigators. It also provides for a chief   investigator.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Billy Mitchell (D – Stone Mountain)

HB 515 provides a charter for the new city of Tucker, Georgia in DeKalb County. It  grants the city council authority to establish, by ordinance, a court to be known as the Municipal Court of the City of Tucker. The bill provides for judge or judges and all matters relative to those judges including the court’s jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures. The judge or judges shall be nominated by the mayor, subject to approval by the city council, and shall serve for a term of four years but may be removed from the  position by a two-thirds' vote of the entire membership of the city council. They may also be removed upon action by the State Judicial Qualifications Commission for: (1) Willful  misconduct in office; (2) Willful and persistent failure to perform duties; (3) Habitual  intemperance; (4) Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute; or (5) Disability seriously interfering with the performance of duties, which is, or is likely to become, of a permanent character.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Taylor (R – Dunwoody)

HB 520 is a bill to incorporate and provide for a charter for the City of LaVista Hills in DeKalb County. It provides for a municipal court and judge and all matters relative to the  judge including the court’s jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures. In the absence or disqualification of the judge, the judge pro tempore shall preside and shall exercise the  same powers and duties as the judge when so acting. The judges shall be nominated by the mayor subject to approval by the city council. The judge or judge pro tempore shall serve for a term of four years but may be removed from the position by a two-thirds' vote of the entire membership of the city council. They may also be removed upon  action by the State Judicial Qualifications Commission for: (1) Willful misconduct in  office; (2) Willful and persistent failure to perform duties; (3) Habitual intemperance;  (4) Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute; or (5) Disability seriously interfering with the performance  of duties, which is, or is likely to become, of a permanent character.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Debbie Buckner (D – Junction City)

HB 526 reincorporates and provides for a new charter for the City of Talbotton in Talbot County. It establishes the City of Talbotton Municipal Court, the judge or judges and all matters relative to those judges including the court’s jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures. All judges shall be appointed by resolution by the city council and shall serve  for a term of one year. The position of judge shall not be a full-time position, and the   person serving in this position may engage in the practice of law; provided, however, a judge may not appear and represent a client before the court.

A judge of the municipal court shall serve for the designated term but may be removed    from the position by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the city council or  upon action taken by the State Judicial Qualifications Commission for: (1) Willful  misconduct in office; (2) Willful and persistent failure to perform duties; (3) Habitual   intemperance; (4) Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the  judicial office into disrepute; or (5) Disability seriously interfering with the performance  of duties, which is, or is likely to become, of a permanent character.

Effective Date: May 16, 2015
Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Robert Dickey (R – Musella)

HB 553 creates a new charter for the City of Forsyth. It establishes the City of Forsyth Municipal Court, the judge or judges and all matters relative to those judges including the court’s jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures. The court shall be presided over by a chief judge and such part-time, full-time, or stand-by judges as shall be provided by  ordinance. All judges shall be appointed by the city council and shall serve until a successor is appointed and qualified. Judges serve at-will and may be removed from office at any time by the city council unless otherwise provided by ordinance.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Calvin Smyre (D – Columbus)

HB 580 amends the act authorizing the Recorder's Court of Columbus, Georgia, to  impose and collect a technology fee for each fine imposed by the chief judge, who demonstrates that a need exists for the imposition and collection of a technology fee. The clerk of court shall be entitled to charge and collect a technology fee to be set by the court, not to exceed $25.00, as a surcharge to each fine imposed. Technology fees shall be used exclusively to provide for the technological needs of the court. The funds collected shall be maintained by the clerk of court.

Governor Nathan Deal’s Veto Message: House Bill 580 authorizes the Recorder’s  Court of Columbus to levy up to a $25 technology fee to each fine imposed. In 2013, I signed    legislation authorizing the Recorder’s Court of Columbus to levy up to a $15 technology fee. A $25 fee is excessive compared to similar court fees across the state, and I am concerned that such a fee increase would set an unacceptable precedent for other similar courts. Additionally, this legislation removes the sunset provision placed upon the technology fee. I have previously vetoed this legislation (HB 858) in 2014. For these reasons, I hereby VETO House Bill 580. 
 See also Fines and Fees
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Jason Shaw (R – Lakeland)             

HB 626 reincorporates and provides a new charter for the City of Lakeland. It establishes the City of Lakeland Municipal Court, the judge or judges and all matters relative to  those judges including the court’s jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures. The court shall be presided over by a chief judge and such part-time, full-time, or stand-by  judges as shall be provided by ordinance. All judges shall be appointed by the city council and shall serve until a successor is appointed and qualified. Judges serve at- will and may be removed from office at any time by the city council unless otherwise provided by ordinance.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Greg Morris (R – Vidalia)

HB 637 provides a new charter for the City of Hazlehurst. It provides for a municipal  court and judge or judges, as well as related matters, including the court's   jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures.

The municipal court shall be presided over by a judge of the municipal court and such part-time, full-time, or stand-by judges may be provided by ordinance. However, should the city council not appoint a stand-by judge, the appointed judge of the municipal  court shall have the authority to appoint a judge pro hac vice to serve in the judge of the  municipal court's absence. The judge of the municipal court shall be appointed by the city council and shall serve until a successor is appointed and qualified. The city council, in  its discretion, may appoint the city attorney to serve as judge of the municipal court as authorized in O.C.G.A. § 15-1-8. Judges serve until a successor is appointed but may be removed from office for good cause at any time by a majority vote of a quorum of the  city council in a public meeting giving the judge written notice at least ten days' notice of  such meeting.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Jasperse (R – Jasper)

HB 639 allows for the clerk of the Magistrate Court of Pickens County to be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the chief magistrate, but only if allowed by general law  passed in 2015.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015

 

Sponsor: Wendell Willard (R Sandy Springs)

HB 655 establishes the court administrator of the Magistrate Court of Fulton County as the chief magistrate or his or her designee. It grants the court administrator oversight of the budget of the Magistrate Court of Fulton County. The Fulton County Finance Department shall make all payroll adjustments related to  appointment, transfer, termination, or other personnel action requiring payroll adjustment   upon written notification by the court administrator. Any unexpended county appropriated funds remaining with the court at the end of a fiscal year shall lapse to the general fund of Fulton County.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Tom Weldon (R – Ringgold)

HB 674 creates the State Court of Catoosa County effective July 1, 2016, and all matters    related to its creation. All misdemeanors in Catoose County probate and magistrate courts will transfer on this date.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015
Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Greg Kirk (R Americus)

SB 212 provides a new charter for the City of Leslie. The bill creates a Municipal Court  of the City of Leslie, the judge or judges and all matters relative to those judges including the court’s jurisdiction, powers, practices, and procedures. The municipal court shall be presided over by a chief judge and such part-time, full-time, or standby judges as shall be provided by ordinance. All judges shall be appointed by the city council and shall serve until a successor is appointed and qualified. Judges serve at will and may be removed  from office at any time by the city council unless otherwise provided by ordinance.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015

Traffic

Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Tanner (R – Dawsonville)

HB 118 is the annual housekeeping bill for the Department of Driver Services, which aligns Georgia laws with the Federal Motor Carrier Statute and retains eligibility for federal highway funds. It amends Chapter 5 of Title 40 of the O.C.G.A., relating to  drivers' licenses, and Chapter 6 of Title 40, relating to uniform rules of the road.

O.C.G.A. § 40-5-125, relating to false statements in a driver's license application is  revised. The revision provides that any person found using a false or fictitious name or  giving a false or fictitious address in an application for a driver's license shall be guilty of  a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than one nor more than ten   years, a fine not to exceed $10,000.00, or both. Any person who knowingly makes any false statement, conceals a material fact, or otherwise commits a fraud during the  driver's license examination for a driver's license, including a commercial driver's  license   or commercial driver's instruction permit, shall receive the same punishment.

HB 118 amends O.C.G.A. § 40-5-151, relating to disqualification from driving. Any person is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for a period of not less than 60 days if convicted of a first violation of knowingly making a false statement in an   application for a driver's license

The bill further amends O.C.G.A. § 40-5-159, relating to violations of commercial  drivers' licenses provisions, by adding a new subsection (f), proving that any person who  drives a commercial motor vehicle while in violation of the provisions mandated under     O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.2 (texting and driving) shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $2,750.00 in addition to any criminal fines applicable to the violation. Any employer who knowingly allows, requires, permits, or authorizes a driver to drive a  commercial motor vehicle in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.2 shall be subject to a  civil penalty not to exceed $11,000.00.

HB 118 revises O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.2, and establishes that no person shall operate a  commercial motor vehicle on any public road or highway of this state while:(A) holding a wireless telecommunications device to conduct a voice communication; (B) using more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a  voice communication; or (C) reaching for a wireless telecommunications device in such a manner that requires the driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position properly restrained by a safety belt.

Signed by Governor: May 12, 2015
Effective Date: May 12, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Brett Harrell (R – Snellville)    

Unsafe passing of a sanitation vehicle is now subject to a $250 fine.

Signed by Governor: May 5, 2015   
 Effective Date: May 5, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D – Decatur)

HB 300 establishes the traffic division of the State Court of DeKalb County. It provides for the initial selection of the judges and their duties.

Signed by Governor: March 3, 2015
Effective Date: March 3, 2015
See also Local General
 
 
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Hitchens (R – Rincon)            

HB 325 changes the definition of passenger vehicle from meaning vehicles  transporting 10 or fewer passengers to vehicles transporting 15 or fewer passengers.   This change was made so that more vehicles would be subject to seat belt requirements,  including childcare vans. The bill does provide an exemption for seat belt requirements   for motor vehicles designed to carry 11 to 15 passengers which were manufactured  prior to July 1, 2015, and which, as of such date, did not have manufacturer installed   seat safety belts.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Tyler Harper (R Ocilla)

SB 100 contains several provisions intended to limit the number of drivers’ license suspensions for nontraffic matters. License suspension is removed as a penalty for  violation of O.C.G.A. § 3-3-23, related to the furnishing or purchase of alcohol by or for  someone under 21 years of age, and for attendance and school behavior problems.  Suspension for drug offenses is also affected. The bill adds definitions of “for-hire  intrastate motor carrier” and “intrastate motor carrier” and provides for their regulation.  Allows the county tag office to issue 30-day temporary registrations for the purpose of obtaining a successful emissions inspection. O.C.G.A. § 40-5-63 has been amended so that fraudulent use of identification documents or a drivers’ license is no longer a  suspendable offense under this Code Section. A nolo plea is treated as a conviction under  O.C.G.A. § 40-5-57.1 (under 21, convicted of serious traffic offense) and license suspension is automatic after the court requires the surrender of the defendant’s license.  O.C.G.A. § 40-5-64 would be broadened to encompass the need to use a vehicle in an occupation beyond just to and from a place of employment as a justification for a limited  driving permit. The first nolo plea to driving without a valid registration is now not  treated as a conviction, though any subsequent plea within the next five years will be  treated as a conviction (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-15).

Signed by Governor: April 16, 2015
Effective Date: July 1, 2015; excluding Section 4-9 of Part IV which shall become effective January 1, 2016
 
 
Sponsor: Sen. Jesse Stone (R Waynesboro)

SB 134 Reduces the threshold for fine revenue from speeding violations to 35 percent of  a law enforcement agency's budget that creates a rebuttable presumption that a local government is using traffic enforcement for purposes other than public health and safety.  O.C.G.A. § 40-14-11. Fines collected for citations issued for violations of Code Section 40-6-180 shall be included when calculating total speeding fine revenue for the agency; provided, however, that fines for speeding violations exceeding 20 miles per hour over  the established speed limit shall not be considered when calculating total speeding fine revenue for the agency. Current law excludes fines for violations exceeding 17 mph.

Signed by Governor: May 6, 2015
Effective Date: May 6, 2015