2021 Law Changes in Georgia

As a new year approaches, it’s important for the residents of Georgia to stay up-to-date on all the latest state law changes. Depending on what you do and where you live, you could see new and changed laws impact your life. Let’s start by taking a look at some of the state law changes we could see in 2021.

Changes to Current Laws

While there are new laws being enacted for 2021, not every law change you’ll see in Georgia this year is an addition. On the November 3, 2020 ballot, Georgia voters found two constitutional amendments and one statewide referendum.

Amendment 1 – HR 164

This amendment requires revenue derived from fees or taxes to be used for the public purposes intended by the creation of those fees or taxes. Essentially, this prevents relocating dedicated funds. In the event of an emergency declaration by the Governor or General Assembly, however, a temporary suspension of the requirement on how to spend public funds would be allowable.

Amendment 2 – HR 1023

The second amendment asked voters to decide if state and local governments can be sued for violation of state laws and state and federal constitutions. If passed, the approval would allow citizens to sue Georgia, its departments and agencies, and its local governments in superior courts. Courts would then be allowed to order officers and employees to stop violating the Georgia Constitution, state laws, and the U.S. constitution beginning January 1, 2021.

Referendum 1 – HB 344

The only referendum on the ballot would exempt real property owned by a public charity that is exempt from federal taxes with a few requirements. The requirements include the property needing to be used for the charity to build or repair single-family homes that will be financed by the charity using zero-interest loans.

State Lien Law

On August 5, 2020, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 315. This new law changes the state’s lien law statute, now making it clear that lien waivers only waive lien or bond rights against property and do not waive the right to file a lawsuit for non-payment. It will be effective on January 1, 2021.

In addition to that, the statutory form language required for lien waivers will change. The new law establishes that waivers and releases signed in according to the updated lien law statute are limited to the release of lien and bond rights and should not affect any other rights or remedies of the lien claimant. The new law also extends the deadline to file an affidavit of non-payment from 60 days to 90 days.

Jury Trial Schedule

With the COVID-19 pandemic levels still high in Georgia as of late September 2020, the federal district announced it will hold no jury trials before 2021. This includes high-profile cases, like the $400 million kickbacks case against two former Tenet Healthcare Corp. executives.

The order does not apply to grand juries or state courts. In response to the decision, Judge Thrash wrote, “Georgia now ranks fourth in the United States in total cases behind only California, Florida, and Texas. While declining from the extreme highs experienced in July, the percentage of those tested for COVID-19 who test positive still exceeds eight percent, again among the highest positivity rates nationally.”

Potential Police Reform

As thousands of protesters led by the Georgia NAACP marched on the Gold Dome in June to demand an end to police brutality and policing reform, changes to the state’s citizen’s arrest law failed to pass in 2020, as did more than a dozen bills aimed at scaling back police tactics. As a result, potential police reform laws will not be revisited until 2021. The bills that will be revisited cover de-escalation training, required use of body cameras, banning the purchase of military equipment, racial profiling, and civil asset forfeiture.

In response to the potential future changes, caucus chair Rep. Karen Bennett, a Stone Mountain Democrat, released the following statement: “We are more than willing to work with the governor to craft new legislation that contributes to criminal justice reform and restoring public trust with law enforcement agencies. We are experiencing a moment in history where expectations for substantive change by elected officials are the norm. Let us grasp this moment to move Georgia forward as a ‘state too great to hate.’

To learn more about new and updated laws or to get information on personal injury law claims, contact Bey & Associates today. We’re prepared to answer your questions and guide you through any legal matters you’re facing.

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