Pay raises for Georgia teachers are among a series of new laws that take effect July 1 • Georgia Recorder

Shortly after the end of the Georgia legislative session, in the last days of winter, bills passed by legislators become law. However, many of these laws do not take effect until the hot summer on July 1.

This Monday's new laws include major changes to bail requirements, as well as pay raises for teachers, police officers and other public employees and longer parental leave.

July 1 also marks the beginning of the state's new fiscal year, in which $36 billion will be spent primarily on education and health care for millions of Georgians.

Not all new laws will go into effect without a fight. The U.S. District Court in Atlanta on Friday temporarily blocked a new law that would require nonprofit bail bond organizations to follow the same rules as private bail bond companies if they donate bail funds more than three times a year.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and Georgetown University Law Center filed the lawsuit last week on behalf of the Atlanta-based Barred Business Foundation and two Athens residents.

The new bail law would also result in people being prosecuted for violations. The Republican-backed bill was introduced after nonprofits like the Atlanta Solidarity Fund used donations to bail out “Stop Cop City” protesters fighting the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.

The bail law also contains a long list of crimes that are considered minor, such as trespassing, where bail must be posted in order to be released from prison.

In his State of the State address in January, Governor Brian Kemp stressed the importance of paying higher wages to educators, police officers and other government workers who may be tempted to move out of Georgia for better-paying jobs.

More money for teachers and other civil servants

The 12-month budget cycle that began Monday includes a $2,500 pay raise for K-12 teachers and 4% for other state employees.

New criminal law reform comes into force on Monday

People convicted of calling police on false alarms claiming there was an emergency at a home or business now face felony charges rather than misdemeanors. Lawmakers increased the penalty after several officers in Georgia were targeted by swatting at their homes.

Law enforcement agencies in Georgia are under increasing pressure to check the immigration status of detainees and notify federal authorities of the arrest of illegal immigrants.

Local governments risk losing federal funding if they ignore protection laws that require police to identify, arrest and detain illegal immigrants.

The new law was triggered by the arrest of Venezuelan immigrant Jose Ibarra, who authorities say had entered the country illegally. He is accused of murdering 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley. The woman died on February 22 while jogging on a track at the University of Georgia.

Other new laws that come into force on Monday:

  • Starting Monday, eligible government employees can take up to 240 hours of paid parental leave within one year of the birth of their child or within one year of adopting or fostering a minor child. The new rule doubles the paid leave for state and public school employees from three to six weeks.
  • A new law designed to protect telephone customers aims to stop spam calls by prohibiting companies from making telemarketing calls on their behalf.
  • Under Georgia's new squatting reform law, people who live in another person's home without that person's consent may be more easily evicted from the property.
  • Tenants must now comply with local and state housing codes, and homeowners and homeowner associations must give property owners adequate time to correct any breaches of contract.

Meanwhile, a controversial school voucher program that will not be implemented until the 2025 school year will allow parents of students in grades K-12 to receive $6,500 in state funds to cover the cost of private and home schooling.

A six-year battle over school vouchers was won by Republican lawmakers this year. Starting in the 2025 school year, the state will invest up to 1% of the state's quality basic education budget, currently equivalent to $141 million annually, in public elementary and secondary education to cover tuition for about 21,500 students.

Critics of the voucher law complain that $6,500 is not enough for cash-strapped families to pay tuition at the state's better private schools. Proponents of education vouchers argue that they give parents the opportunity to send their children to higher-performing schools than those offered by the local government.

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