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The Gist: Every year on July 1, new laws go into effect in Georgia. If you don’t actively pay attention to what your lawmakers are doing at the Capitol each year and if you don’t have time to follow every bill the governor signs into law, it can be difficult to keep up with what the state has decided is legal and illegal on a given year.
Of course, if a police officer pulls you over one hot July day for breaking a law you didn’t know was a law, the explanation that you weren’t aware you broke the law will be met with a response of “Ignorance is no excuse, take this ticket and call the courthouse in the morning.”
In case you haven’t been keeping up, and even if you have but may have missed some things, here are some of this year’s more noteworthy laws took effect this month.
You need both hands to drive
The hands-free driving bill is now officially a law. You’ll need to either use speaker phone or a bluetooth device to talk on the phone while driving. If a police officer sees you with a phone raised to your ear, you’re going to have to talk to a judge. If it is your first offense, you’ll need to show the judge a receipt for a hands-free device. If you don’t have one or it is your second offense, you’re going to pay a fine. You can touch your phone to make a call and use Waze, but otherwise it’s the hands-free life for you.
You won’t be taking MARTA anymore
This won’t happen immediately, but at some point in the near future, MARTA will be getting a new name. The transit system is going to be re-named The ATL. In addition, a regional transit commission that covers 13 metro-Atlanta counties will make decisions about regional transit options. If you have out-of-town guests, navigating metro Atlanta’s transit options should become a lot easier.
You won’t hear fireworks as much
Fireworks are still legal in Georgia, and anyone with small children or pets is well aware of that fact. However, effective this month, your city or county could decide to tighten the rules about fireworks. They could decide to limit their use only to holidays or they could allow them for a short window of time each evening.
Online buying will get more expensive
Right now, if you buy online, you don’t have to pay sales tax in Georgia. No more. You’ll now have to start ponying up the sales tax for online purchases. This law doesn’t actually start until January of 2019, so you may want to make those big online purchases before next year.
The Supreme Court weighed in on the online sales tax in a separate matter shortly after this law was signed. The online sales tax is here to stay and has the backing of the highest court in the land.
You can have a Mimosa on Sunday mornings now
The popular “brunch bill,” is also a reality now. Under this new law restaurants can start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays instead of 12:30 p.m. So, if you’re the type of person who needs a drink at a restaurant before noon on Sunday, this law will make that possible.
Your Child’s education is now fully funded
While this one isn’t technically a law, it is part of the state’s budget, which began July 1. It may come as no surprise to you, but Georgia’s public schools aren’t currently fully funded. Next school year they will be. The state uses a formula to allocate funding to schools, and the budget now meets the formula’s requirements. It isn’t a silver bullet that will solve all of the state’s education woes, but at least by the state’s own definition, the schools are no longer under-funded.
Tell us what you think of these proposed new laws in the comments section below.