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New state laws went into effect July 1

As July 1 rolls around each year, typically, new laws in Georgia go into effect. This year is no different and the new laws range from drug tests for welfare applicants to tougher penalties for owners of dogs who attack and are deemed dangerous.
Retiring State Representative Eugene Maddox, a retired veterinarian, sponsored the tougher dangerous dog bill in the Georgia House of Representatives and fought for its passage.
July 1 also marks the beginning of the state’s new fiscal year. This year, Governor Nathan Deal persuaded legislators to do some reorganizing of state government.
As of Monday, the State Personnel Administration and the Georgia Aviation Authority have been abolished. Child Care Services is no longer part of the Department of Human Services, but is now under the Department of Early Care and Learning.
Three programs previously managed under the Georgia Department of Labor, including vocational rehabilitation, inspections and workforce investment, have been shifted to other agencies.
Effective Sunday, all Georgia driver’s license renewals must be done in person at a Department of Driver Services office. Certain documents must be presented for applicants to prove their identification and citizenship.
The changes that went into effect this week are the latest steps required for the state to meet the Federal Real ID Act of 2005, which followed recommendations of the 9-11 Commission.
Anyone renewing a driver’s license or state ID card or obtaining a new license must bring the following items with them to the DDS office:
• proof of identity, which can be an original or certified copy of a birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or a valid passport;
• proof of Social Security, which can be an original Social Security card, or a W-2 form or pay stub with your name and complete Social Security number on it;
• two proofs of residency, which can be a utility bill, within the last 60 days, bank statement, within the last 60 days, valid rental contract and/or rental payment receipts from the last 60 days, mortgage bills and others approved by DDS.
Additional documentation may be required if you are a noncitizen.
Applicants who have changed their name, through marriage or divorce, will have to provide additional paperwork, according to state officials.
Copies of court records, divorce decrees or marriage licenses may be required.
Other significant law changes going into effect Sunday include:
Criminal justice reform: in an attempt to save on prison expenses, the state has reduced the sentences for nonviolent crimes. The law expands statewide “accountability courts” that focus more on treatment of addicts than punishment.
Welfare: applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program will have to pass a drug test. Names of those who do not pass are not shared with law enforcement and benefits to children can continue as long as the checks go to another family member.
Unemployment: employer premiums will increase slightly and the maximum benefit period drops from 26 weeks to 14 and 20 weeks. As the state’s unemployment rate rises the actual length of the benefit period increases.
Elder abuse: all staff and administrators must undergo a background check, and it becomes a crime for a caregiver or guardian to neglect a senior citizen or someone disabled. A second conviction of operating an unlicensed personal care home is now a felony and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation now has jurisdiction over elder-abuse cases.
Vicious dogs: the new law, backed by Rep. Maddox, outlines new procedures for a judge to determine if an attack qualifies a dog to be labeled vicious. Owners of vicious dogs must post a $50,000 bond and may own only one dog considered vicious.
Scrap metal: to combat theft of copper wire and scrap metal the General Assembly placed new requirements on companies that buy scrap. Payouts cannot be made on the spot.
Alcohol: one of three new laws related to alcohol permits free samples to be served to those touring Georgia distilleries.
Live-Aboards: new Georgia law triples the days boaters may live on their boats when in a saltwater marina or mooring field.
Game and fish: anyone under 21 who is suffering a terminal illness can get a hunting license for free. A one-day saltwater fishing license is available for $5 to benefit tourism.
Weapons: it is illegal in Georgia now to point a laser at an aircraft or law officer. Local governments can no longer enact ordinances limiting the possession, sale or making of knives that are more stringent than is state law.
Car tags: stickers in place of the county name reading “In God We Trust” are now free and so are specialty tags for anyone serving in the military.
Sales tax: the law requires more public reports about local sales tax spending.
Tax court: taxpayers unhappy with a  ruling from the Department of Revenue can appeal to a special tax tribunal for a hearing before a judge.

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