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2015 Passed Bills Highlights

April 14, 2015
Two legislators talking at their desks

Over 300 bills passed the Georgia State Senate and the Georgia House of Representatives (known as the Georgia General Assembly) this year, respectively. Of those, more than 200 bills passed both chambers and were sent to Governor Deal’s desk. Governor Deal has 40 days after session to sign, veto or do nothing to each bill.

If Governor Deal signs a bill, it will most likely go into effect on July 1, 2015.

The main job the General Assembly has is the budget. Learn more about the budgeting process from the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget. Governor Deal signed the 2016 budget into law on May 11, 2015.

A major topic of the 2015 Legislative Session revolved around transportation. In the end, both chambers decided to pass HB 170, a $1 billion funding plan. They reworked the fuel tax as an excise tax for 26 cents/gallon on gasoline (29 cents for diesel). This alone is expected to raise $700 million. They also added hotel and electric vehicle fees, and they discontinued a commercial aviation fuel tax break. More than $900 million is estimated to come from all of this. The plan is for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to focus on basic maintenance first (potholes, bridges, etc.). Then they will move to expand roads and our infrastructure to ease traffic congestion. Governor Deal signed HB 170  into law on May 4, 2015.

With the budget and transportation taken care of, the General Assembly focused on other parts of state government. Here are a few bills passed by both houses:

Education

  • HB 91: Eliminate graduation exams. Currently, to get a high school diploma in Georgia, you must meet certain academic requirements, one of which is passing an exam to graduate. HB 91 circumvents this test. Students who have all the other graduation requirements but were not able to pass the graduation exam can still get their diplomas. Governor Deal signed HB 91 into law on March 30, 2015.
  • HB 131: End to Cyberbullying Act. Aimed at prohibiting cyberbullying in public schools, this bill passed both chambers on Day 40. Governor Deal signed HB 131 into law on May 6, 2015.
  • SB 89: Digital Classroom Act. A bill that requires all textbooks, instructional materials and certain content for elementary and secondary education to have a digital or electronic format. Local boards of education should provide wireless electronic devices for students so everyone can have access. Governor Deal signed SB 89 into law on May 6, 2015.
  • SB 132: Give college credit to high schoolers. Dubbed the “Move on when Ready” bill, this allows high school students to enroll in college classes for credit. Governor Deal signed SB 132 on April 30, 2015.
  • SB 133: Helps failing schools. Known as Governor Deal’s school recovery plan, this bill proposes the Opportunity School District. This new district would be able to intervene in public schools that are struggling. This requires a change to the state constitution, resulting in SR 287. Georgia voters will vote on this in fall 2016. Governor Deal signed SB 133 on April 21, 2015.

Environment

Miscellaneous

  • HB 1: Use of medical cannabis oil for 8 medical conditions. Also known as Haleigh’s Hope Act, this bill allows use of cannabis oil with low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for those with cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, ALS, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, mitochondrial and sickle cell diseases. Governor Deal signed HB 1 into law on April 16, 2015.
  • HB 110: Allows the sale and regulation of consumer fireworks in Georgia. In the past, Georgians have been crossing state borders to buy fireworks. Now we’ll get to partake in that fireworks revenue too. The Senate estimates about 1,000 new jobs will be created in Georgia through fireworks stores. Governor Deal signed HB 110 on May 5, 2015.
  • SB 8: Create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission. Senator Renee Unterman sponsored this bill to assist children who have been sexually exploited. It will help police and prosecutors, create a fund for victims, increase penalties for those convicted as sex traffickers and much more. To learn more, read the blog Senator Unterman wrote for Georgia.gov. Governor Deal signed SB 8 on May 5, 2015.
  • SB 63: Alcohol consumption on breweries and distilleries. This bill allows you to drink 36 ounces of beer at a brewery while also being able to take home up to 72 ounces of beer (aka a 6-pack). In regards to distilleries, you can take home up to 750 milliliters of liquor. However, this does not include direct sales. The alcohol is classified as a “free souvenir” depending on what type of ticket you buy for a brewery/distillery tour. Governor Deal signed SB 63 on May 5, 2015.

Bills Not Passed

  • HB 100: Allow children who are 5 by August 1 to enroll in school
  • SB 129: Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act
  • SB 152: Transfer membership between Employees' Retirement System of Georgia and the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia
  • SR 6: Legalization and regulation of marijuana
  • SR 80: Changes to the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam

Governor Deal has until May 12 to sign, veto or do nothing to these bills and 200 more. To see a list of bills Governor Deal has signed, check out his website.

About the Author

Bethany McDaniel is the Editorial Director for GeorgiaGov. She graduated from Berry College in Rome, Ga., with degrees in Visual Communication and History.

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