2021 New Year ushers in new Georgia state laws
Georgian laws targeting hate crimes, human trafficking, unexpected medical charges and employment will go into effect on January 1, 2021
Laws to protect the safety of Georgians and their paperbacks apply on New Year’s Day, among other things.
Two opposing laws were born out of the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020. Spurred on by the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, Georgian lawmakers finally passed a hate crime law in June. House Bill 426, composed primarily by Rep. Chuck Efstration of Dacula, imposes additional penalties for crimes motivated by, among other things, prejudice against a victim’s race, gender, or sexual orientation.
“This bipartisan legislation is a big step forward. It’s a sign of progress, ”said Governor Brian Kemp at a press conference, as reported by USA Today at the time. “To be honest, it’s the silver lining in these difficult times.” Georgia had been one of the few countries to have passed laws against hate crimes.
In response, Georgia Republicans enforced House Bill 838, which gave police officers additional legal protection not specified in the new hate crime law. The bill criminalizes “biased intimidation” relating to the death or serious injury of a police officer, firefighter or paramedic.
“While some denigrate, assault, and assault our men and women in uniform for personal or political gain, this legislation is a clear reminder that Georgia is a state that supports the blue without apology,” Kemp said in a statement published at was published after the bill was signed.
Two new laws target human trafficking. Senate Bill 435, known as The Debbie Vance Act, allows those convicted of human trafficking to overturn their convictions if they can prove they were victims too. And House Bill 823 prohibits truck drivers convicted of human trafficking from ever holding a Georgia commercial driver’s license.
Another law aims to protect Georgians from unexpected financial influences. One of them is House Bill 1039, which aims to reiterate service charges. Starting January 1st, providers of auto-renewing services will be required to give their customers at least 30 days in advance clear written notification of what will happen, with the option for customers to opt out. Another new law comes from Senate Act 303, which is intended to prevent surprise bills from doctors by requiring price transparency for non-emergency medical services.
Two bills help with employment. Senate Bill 288 allows Georgians to try to restrict their record keeping for certain non-violent crimes, such as shoplifting, that have not had a problem for a period of time. This gives them a better chance of getting hired for jobs that require background checks. House Bill 914 also helps: If you are a member of the military moving to Georgia, this law allows your spouse to get a temporary employment license so that you can have two incomes.
Other new laws that come into effect on January 1st are:
House Bill 1037 was passed to tighten tax credits for the Georgian film industry. According to the new law, production companies who want to use Georgia’s generous tax credits for films would have to be examined. That bill came after a government study suggested the tax credit benefit to Georgia may have been overstated. Georgia is home to a large number of blockbuster movies and popular TV shows being shot in Georgia thanks to the tax credit.
Senate Bill 927 came in response to toxic gases released from medical sterilization facilities in Smyrna and Covington. Beginning January 1, Georgia Environmental Protection Department must be notified in writing within 24 hours of the improper release of ethylene oxide gas. The information must then be published on the EPD website. The release of the toxic gas beyond the legal limits has been linked to an increase in cancer reports near facilities that violate the regulations.
House Bill 417 sets the standard for businesses cleaning up after crime, trauma, and death scenes. Numerous complaints about unethical practices – including illegal dumping of human remains and theft from homes – prompted the governor to put this into law in August. The new law requires business owners to take out liability insurance and undergo fingerprints, background checks and drug tests.