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Archive for June, 2012

HB 397 – Open Meetings Act Revision (Effective upon Governor’s signature)

House Bill 397
Open Meetings Act Revision
Effective Date: Became Effective Upon Governor’s Signature

This legislation simplifies the law regarding open meetings and open records by eliminating ambiguities and incorporating judicial interpretations of the law. This legislation clarifies the definition of a “meeting” and requires that all final votes be taken in an open session. If an action is taken during an illegal meeting, a suit to void that action may be brought within six months. The use of meetings by telephone for local governments is limited. Likewise, this legislation defines an “executive session” as a portion of meetings lawfully closed to the public.

Under the open records provisions, data and data fields are now considered to be “records.” An agency may designate an open records officer to whom requests should be directed. Fees for copying records are reduced from $.25 per page to $.10 per page. Requests for records may be oral or written, but only written requests are subject to criminal and civil enforcement proceedings and penalties.

The exemptions from disclosure are clarified. The time period during which records related to the hiring of a president of a unit of the University System of Georgia must be available to the public is shortened from 14 days to 5 days. The attorney-client privilege and work product is broadened. New exemptions include records pertaining to the rating plans or proprietary information used to administer liability insurance or self-insurance to any agency, as well as Department of Economic Development documents pertaining to economic development projects. The economic development projects are exempt only until the project is secured by a binding commitment. Finally, records related to a training program, disclosing an economic development project prior to a binding commitment having been secured, are exempt.

Civil and criminal penalties are imposed for violations of the open meetings and open records acts.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

SB432 – Local Government Prohibited from Further Constraining Knife Use (Effective 7/1/12)

Senate Bill 432
Local Government Prohibited from Further Constraining Knife Use
Effective Date: July 1, 2012

This legislation prohibits any county, municipality, or consolidated government from constraining the possession, manufacture, sale, or transfer of a knife more restrictively than is otherwise provided in the Code part regarding the carrying and possession of firearms. This restriction does not apply to the local government’s regulation of knives in courthouses or government buildings.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

SB431 – Gaming, Lottery, and Coin Operated Amusement Machines (Effective upon Governor’s signature)

Senate Bill 431
Gaming, Lottery, and Coin Operated Amusement Machines
Effective Date: Became Effective Upon Governor’s Signature
With limited exception, any promotion involving an element of chance during the playing of a game on a computer, mechanical device, or electronic device at a place of business is an unlawful lottery, as is the promotion of playing a game of no-skill on a computer, mechanical device, or electronic device at a place of business.

This bill expands the definition of “lottery” in the statute relating to offenses against public health and morals to include payments in cash or other consideration, and the option to play a no-skill game for prizes on a computer, mechanical, or electronic device. However, “lottery” does not mean a national or regional promotion or contest conducted by a corporation, if the corporation is registered under the federal Securities Exchange Act and has total assets of at least $100 million. This does not apply to games offered by the Georgia Lottery Corporation pursuant to the Georgia Lottery for Education Act.

The bill clarifies the definitions of Class A and B bona fide coin operated amusement machines, and it also authorizes counties and municipalities to enact and enforce ordinances regulating bona fide coin operated amusement machines outlined in the bill.

Note: It’s not illegal if the government does it.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

SB352 – Prosecuting Attorneys (Effective upon Governor’s signature)

Senate Bill 352
Prosecuting Attorneys
Effective Date: Became effective upon Governor’s signature

This bill establishes the procedure for establishing an office of prosecuting attorney; requirements to be appointed as a prosecuting attorney; duties, authority, and compensation of the attorney; provisions for additional assistant prosecuting attorneys; and the procedure in the event of a solicitor general’s death.

This legislation authorizes district attorneys and solicitors-general to bring actions to enforce the Code section related to vehicles overtaking school buses, and also grants jurisdiction of transactions in drug related objects to municipal courts, if the offense occurred within the corporate limits of the municipality.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

HB1166 – Child-only Health Insurance Policies (Effective January 1, 2013)

House Bill 1166
Child-only Health Insurance Policies
Effective date: January 1, 2013

This legislation requires insurers issuing individual health policies to offer at least one child-only policy. A “child-only policy” means individual health insurance coverage for children less than 19 years of age. The policy does not include dependent health insurance for a child under another person’s health insurance.
Insurers must offer guaranteed-issue coverage to primary subscribers under the age of 19 during open enrollment periods or during a special enrollment period within 30 days of a qualifying event. A “qualifying event” means the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance or the involuntary loss of other existing health insurance for any reason other than fraud, misrepresentation, or failure to pay a premium.

A special enrollment period must last 30 days from the date the insurer receives notice of loss of coverage if the notice is provided to the insurer no later than the sixtieth day after the loss of coverage and the loss of other coverage results from:

  • Birth or Adoption;
  • Marriage or Divorce;
  • Loss of employer sponsored insurance Medicaid, or PeachCare coverage;
  • Entry of a valid court or administrative order mandating the child be covered; or
  • Involuntary loss of other coverage for reasons other than fraud, misrepresentation, or failure to pay premium.

An insurance carrier may deny coverage to an applicant if the applicant is currently enrolled in a high-risk pool insurance policy. In the event that the applicant is a dependent on a policy with a primary subscriber who is over the age of 19, and the primary subscriber drops the policy, the child may apply for child-only policies during the open enrollment period or, in the case of a qualifying event, during a special enrollment period.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

HB879 – Care of Students with Diabetes while at School (Effective 7/1/12)

House Bill 879
Care of Students with Diabetes while at School
Effective date: July 1, 2012

This bill requires the Department of Education to develop guidelines by August 1, 2012, on the training of school employees in the care needed for students with diabetes. Such guidelines must include instruction on the recognition and treatment of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, the performance of certain blood glucose level monitoring tests and basic insulin pump functions, and recommended food intake, among other issues. Each local school board and state chartered special school must ensure that at least two employees of schools attended by a diabetic student undergo such training to become trained diabetes personnel. Schools must provide information on the recognition of diabetes related emergency situations to school bus drivers responsible for transporting diabetic students.

The parent or guardian of a diabetic student who seeks diabetes care while at school must submit to the school a diabetes medical management plan. In accordance with such a plan, the school nurse, or in the absence of a school nurse, trained diabetes personnel are to perform functions related to diabetes care. A school nurse or at least one trained diabetes personnel must be on site at school and available during school hours to provide care to students with a diabetes medical management plan, and a parent or guardian may accompany such a student on field trips. If authorized by the student’s diabetes medical management plan, a diabetic student may perform activities related to the monitoring and treatment of his or her diabetes in any area of the school or school grounds and at any school related activity, and he or she must be permitted to possess, on his or her person, necessary supplies and equipment.
A student’s school choice may not be restricted because the student has diabetes.

The bill provides immunity from civil damages or from professional disciplinary action to health care providers, school employees, local school systems, and state chartered special schools who carry out these provisions with reasonable prudence. A private school that complies with these provisions will also have such limited liability.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

SB181 – No Contengency Fees for Prosecutors in Criminal Forfeiture Actions (Effective 7/1/12)

Senate Bill 181
No Contingency Fees for Prosecutors in Criminal Forfeiture Actions
Effective date: July 1, 2012

Prosecuting attorneys and private attorneys will be prohibited from being compensated on a contingent basis based on a percentage of assets that arise from a forfeiture action. The bill also prohibits such attorneys from being compensated on an hourly, fixed fee or similar arrangement that is contingent on the successful prosecution of a criminal forfeiture case. This bill incorporates language from House Bill 64, which allows a party in a civil action to petition the court for a determination on the reasonableness of attorney’s fees if such fees exceed $20,000, although not in tort actions.

These types of fee arrangements had already been banned this year by the Georgia Court of Appeals in Greater Georgia Amusements v. State of Georgia.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

SB414 – Music Therapists (Effective 7/1/12)

Senate Bill 414
Music Therapists
Effective date: July 1, 2012

This bill defines a scope of practice for music therapists and provides that, after July 1, 2014, persons practicing as music therapists in Georgia must be licensed by the Secretary of State. The bill establishes criteria for receiving a license as a music therapist, including requirements for education, clinical training, and examination. It also creates the Music Therapy Advisory Group, which is to advise the Secretary of State on issues related to music therapy and analyze disciplinary actions taking against licensees, among other functions.

Is there anything the government doesn’t regulate?

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

SB293 – License Plates: “In God We Trust” (Effective 7/1/12)

License Plate God TrustSenate Bill 293
License Plates: “In God We Trust”
Effective Date: July 1, 2012

This legislation requires that all license plates, upon request, display the nation’s motto, “In God We Trust.”

Applicants may, upon request, receive a license plate that designates the county name of the applicant.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821

SB431 – Gaming, Lottery, and Coin Operated Amusement Machines (Effective upon Governor’s signature)

Senate Bill 431
Gaming, Lottery, and Coin Operated Amusement Machines
Effective date: Became effective upon Governor’s signature

With limited exception, any promotion involving an element of chance during the playing of a game on a computer, mechanical device, or electronic device at a place of business is an unlawful lottery, as is the promotion of playing a game of no-skill on a computer, mechanical device, or electronic device at a place of business.

This bill expands the definition of “lottery” in the statute relating to offenses against public health and morals to include payments in cash or other consideration, and the option to play a no-skill game for prizes on a computer, mechanical, or electronic device. However, “lottery” does not mean a national or regional promotion or contest conducted by a corporation, if the corporation is registered under the federal Securities Exchange Act and has total assets of at least $100 million. This does not apply to games offered by the Georgia Lottery Corporation pursuant to the Georgia Lottery for Education Act. (The government hates competition.)

The bill clarifies the definitions of Class A and B bona fide coin operated amusement machines, and it also authorizes counties and municipalities to enact and enforce ordinances regulating bona fide coin operated amusement machines outlined in the bill.

Crawford and Boyle, LLC
(678) 951-8821