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Many new Georgia laws took effect on July 1
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Just a couple of weeks ago, more than 400 bills passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Perdue became new state laws.


Many of you have heard about the more prominent laws from the 2008 session, but there are also important new laws that have not been detailed in the papers. This week, I’d like to take a quick look at some of the laws that have taken effect as of July 1.

Gun Bill


Of all the new laws, House Bill 89 has received the most attention. Known simply as the “gun bill,” the law expands the right to bear arms for those who possess a concealed carry permit in our state. Those who lawfully possess a concealed weapon can now carry it in a public park, on public transportation, or in a historic site or recreation area under certain circumstances.


Along with the recent Heller decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the gun law is being heralded as a victory by those who cherish the Second Amendment right to bear arms. If an individual has met the stringent requirements set forth by Georgia law to hold a concealed weapons permit, he/she is responsible enough to safely carry that firearm with them wherever the law permits. The government should not be in a position to place additional restrictions upon a citizen’s right to bear arms, and this was confirmed by the

Heller decision.


Credit freeze


House Bill 130 allows consumers to place or remove an immediate security freeze on their credit report for a $3 fee. Under this law, each major consumer credit reporting agency — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — must offer this service to allow consumers to prohibit the release of their credit report or credit score to third parties. On Aug. 1, consumers will be able to request a freeze electronically through Internet systems that each credit reporting agency is required to develop. Once submitted electronically, requests will be fulfilled within 15 minutes. In addition, consumers who are 65 years of age or older, and those who are documented victims of identity fraud, will not be charged the $3 fee for placing or removing a freeze. Identity theft is a rampant problem across the country, and I am pleased that we can offer citizens added protection to keep their finances safe.


Reservoir bill


I have spoken in many of my previous columns about the reservoir bill, Senate Bill 342. I worked hard to ensure the passage of SB 342 this year. Along with the Statewide Water Plan, SB 342 was the most significant bill dealing with our water issues in the 2008 session. The legislation allows communities to apply for state funding to enlarge existing reservoirs and obtain permits to construct new ones.


Additionally, the FY 08 and FY 09 budgets provide $70 million in reservoir funding, and $1 million in funding for repairs to existing reservoirs and local water/sewer upgrades.


With lake levels again falling, it is a critical time for us to increase our water capacity.


The reservoir law is a key step in increasing capacity, which will help our local communities greatly.


Other new laws


The new provisions of SB 529, the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, took effect July 1. Now, all companies with 100 or less employees must verify the lawful presence of a potential employee, using the federal E-Verify system.


SB 388 creates a new GBI task force that will investigate alleged identity theft, educate the public on how to protect themselves, support victims and train local law enforcement to combat identity theft.


SB 1 revises Georgia’s sexual predator law to exempt the 1,000-foot prohibited zone if the registered offender owns the property where he/she lives.  The offender must register this exemption with the local sheriff. The law also prohibits offenders from photographing minors without parental consent.


SB 417 requires the Department of Transportation to establish and report on attainment benchmarks on transportation projects of $10 million or more, and requires a report of savings achieved by value engineering studies.


SB 421 increases the existing penalties for those who knowingly manufacture, sell or distribute false IDs and documents. The new penalties would be based upon the age of the individual found to be in possession of a false ID, incorporating a certain amount of leniency for underage citizens. I sponsored this legislation in an effort to curtail the spread of fake documents in our state.


HB 881 creates the Charter School Commission and allows charter systems recognized by the Commission to receive QBE funding from the state for operations.


HB 1019 establishes the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank to finance transportation projects in the state. In addition, the FY 09 budget includes $28 million for the STIB.


As always, please contact me in my office on the issues that are affecting you and your area.


Sen. Chip Pearson can be reached at his office in Atlanta at (404) 656-9221 or by e-mail at