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Here are some of the new laws taking effect July 1
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Customers walk into the Department of Driver Services on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Georgia’s legislative session closed at the end of March, and many of the laws passed will go into effect on Thursday, July 1. 

One change that will have an immediate effect on Gainesville and Hall County is HB 146, which will give state employees, including those working in public school districts or at public universities, three weeks paid parental leave when they have a birth, adopt a child or are placed with a foster child.

Currently, staff in both Hall County and Gainesville City school districts can take unpaid leave through the Family Medical Leave Act and can use accumulated paid sick leave during that time. New parents can get up to 12 weeks of time off. 

The new 15 days of paid leave mandated by the state will run concurrently with FMLA, said Brad Brown, assistant superintendent of human resources for Hall County Schools. This provides a safety net, Brown said, particularly for new employees who would not have the ability to accrue paid sick leave yet or might not be eligible for FMLA. Now, anyone, even if they just started working for the school district, would be eligible for 15 days of parental leave, Brown said. 

If both parents work for the district, they can also stack their days off, meaning the father could take his 15 days and then the mother could also take her 15 days separately, Brown said.

Gainesville already held a first reading of the new policy on June 7 and will vote to accept it at their next meeting, Superintendent Jeremy Williams said. 

Deputy Superintendent Priscilla Collins said this policy might help employee retention for the district. 

“I see it as an added perk or an added benefit for our employees,” Collins said. “It allows them now to feel less pressure especially in regards to finances when they’re taking that time to bond with their families.”


Joshua’s Law

A new law will affect young drivers who could previously wait until their 17th birthday to get their driver’s license in order to avoid driver school. 

With the passage of HB 466, driver training will be mandatory for drivers who get their license at 17 years old. Previously, those who waited until they were 17 or older to test for their driver’s license were exempt from 30 hours of classroom or virtual instruction and six hours of training on the road, which is part of Joshua’s Law. 

Now, no one under 18 can receive their Class D license without this instruction and training. Options for class and training can be found at the Georgia Department of Driver Services website.


Tax Relief Act of 2021

HB 593, or the Tax Relief Act of 2021, will provide an estimated total tax cut of about $140 million. The law raises the standard deduction for a person filing single by $800 and raises the deduction for a married couple filing jointly by $1,100. 


Campaign financing

Next year’s elections may be heavily influenced by SB 221, which establishes “leadership committees” that can raise and spend unlimited amounts for top state political races. The governor, lieutenant governor, candidates who win primaries for those positions, or leaders in the state House or Senate can set up leadership committees for the purpose of raising campaign funds. 

These committees can also operate during legislative sessions, which was previously prohibited. Currently, those running for these positions have strict limits on how much people can donate to their campaigns, but this new law would provide a way to circumvent those restrictions. 

Donations to these committees must be disclosed publicly.

 

Short-term rental tax

HB 317 establishes an excise tax of $5 per night for short-term rentals, meaning those of less than 30 days. This includes lodging through services like Airbnb. 

The tax is projected to raise $17 million for the state in the next fiscal year, according to a report by the Department of Audits and Accounts.


Other new laws include the prohibition on defunding police departments and providing sex trafficking victims the ability to legally change their name without publishing the information.