ATLANTA — During the most recent legislative session, state lawmakers proposed 615 pieces of legislation. Of those, 305 bills passed with Gov. Nathan Deal signing the vast majority of them into law. Some became law upon the governor’s signature, while a large number take effect on July 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year. A summary of some of the major bills set to take effect July 1:
The Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act, criticized by one group as the “guns everywhere” bill, expands where licensed carriers can take their weapons and includes varying rules affecting bars, churches, schools and government buildings. Under House Bill 60, licensed carries can bring their guns into government buildings that don’t have metal detectors or security guards screening visitors. School districts are now able, if they so choose, to allow some employees to carry a firearm on school grounds under certain conditions. Lawmakers removed any mention of bars from this section of law, which means guns are permitted unless a bar owner posts a sign saying otherwise. For places of worship, the assumption is still that guns aren’t allowed but lawmakers gave religious leaders the ability to say they are OK.
House Bill 990 limits the governor’s ability to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law, something the governor has already said he doesn’t want to do. The legislation forbids state government from changing the income eligibility rules and thereby enabling more people to join the program without legislative approval.
House Bill 697 establishes the Zell Miller Grant for technical college students. It provides full tuition coverage for those technical college students eligible for the HOPE Grant who maintain a 3.5 grade-point average, with the goal of attracting students back to the system. The technical college system’s enrollment had dropped after changes were made in 2011 to the overall HOPE program. Republicans had argued the changes were needed to keep the program afloat for future generations.