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E-Verify This in Your Road Cart

The new year brings new laws on immigration, cellphone fees and the rules of the road.

The new year brings the next phase in Georgia’s anti-immigration law, a new fee for prepaid cellphone service and the prospect for golf carts rolling through city streets statewide.

Most laws in Georgia go into effect when they are signed by the governor or July 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year, but Jan. 1 has some legislative significance—particularly if you’re a doctor with a 7-year-old child and you want to drive your golf cart to the hospital where you employ more than 500 people in a drought-stricken area that hopes for a tech-driven economic revival.

Read Patch’s rundown of the legal meaning of today, and it will all make sense (click on each bill number to read the full legislation).

Immigration Crackdown Continues

H.B. 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, is the big one today, the one everyone is talking about and waiting to see whether it causes employmageddon.

A Competitive Enterprise Institute blogger for The Huffington Post even labeled the law “anti-capitalist.”

While much of the law went into effect six months ago, today is when companies with at least 500 employees must use the federal E-Verify system to confirm that new hires are legal. That requirement kicks in July 1 for companies with 100 to 499 employees and July 1, 2013, for companies with 11 to 99 workers.

What do you think of Georgia's newest laws?

Midtown law firm Arnall Golden Gregory explains the law’s effects on employers, and immigration lawyer Charles Kuck lays out the law’s impact on employees.

Another key aspect of the law now in effect requires people to present “secure and verifiable” documentation when they apply for a range of public benefits, from unemployment insurance to professional licenses.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has warned that the law could slow down the processing for professional licenses, and accountants, nurses and others are worried, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Golf Carts Galore

S.B. 240 creates a new class of motor vehicles called PTVs—personal transportation vehicles—built on golf cart chassis. Cities may allow the modified golf carts to roll through their streets as long as the carts have four wheels and certain safety equipment, go no faster than 20 mph, and carry no more than eight people.

The AltTransport blog praised the green (pun intended) concept of golf carts on the street. My Daily Slice took a humorous look at the cumulative effects of S.B. 240 and other laws passed in 2011, including the Sunday-sales law, S.B. 10.

It turns out that about 90 percent of the golf carts in the United States are made in Georgia, the AJC said, so this could be a job-creation law.

“This bill will allow Georgia families to stretch their transportation dollars and use green energy for miles of local driving,” Michael Alexander of Evans-based Club Car said in a  news release posted at MotorwayAmerica.

Scrap Vehicles and Car Seats

S.B. 240 is not the only new law affecting Georgia roads.

H.B. 269 tweaks a range of issues related to vehicle titles and licenses. Among them:

  • You can sell a 12-year-old car for scrap without a title if the vehicle is worth as much as $850, up from $750.
  • Any 14-year-old who gets a driver’s license because his or her parents are medically incapable of driving used to be restricted to driving with a parent. Now he or she also may drive with any licensed driver 21 or older.
  • Commit a felony involving identification documents and your license will be suspended. If you’re convicted of being a habitual offender, your license will be revoked.
  • After a second DUI conviction, you have to install an ignition interlock device for six months to get your license back unless you can’t afford the device.
  • Commercial drivers will have their licenses suspended if they’re caught texting while driving.

Meanwhile, S.B. 88 is the law that raised from 6 to 8 the age when kids may leave the car seat behind. It went into effect in mid-2011, but it had an exception built in: First-time offenders with children 6 or 7 could avoid the $50 fine by purchasing the required child restraint before they went to court.

That exception ends today.

The Right to Know

H.B. 147 revised the Patient Right to Know Act of 2001 by requiring the Georgia Composite Medical Board to include in doctors’ profiles whether they carry medical malpractice insurance. The law went into effect July 1, but today is when the board must have a report prepared for Gov. Nathan Deal and the General Assembly that compiles the data, including how many doctors carry malpractice insurance and whether those who don’t are seeing patients.

Prepaying for 911

H.B. 256 adds a 75-cent fee when you buy prepaid wireless service that costs more than $5 and lasts more than 10 minutes. The money will help pay for the 911 system.

As long as the city or county providing 911 service to you has passed the appropriate resolution, it will get its cut of that money once a year, probably in October. Otherwise, the state will keep the three quarters.

Here are the key provisions, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. The law is expected to boost the 911 revenue from prepaid wireless services from $8 million a year to $20 million, the ACCG said.

Goodbye, Commissions

It’s the end of the line for two special commissions created in 2011: the Joint Commission on Water Supply and the Science and Technology Strategic Initiative Study Commission.

S.R. 15 created the water commission. It officially ceased to exist at the stroke of midnight before submitting its report.

The report is coming soon, Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) told the Newnan Times-Herald. A separate state task force on water supply already came out with its report, which Gov. Nathan Deal approved Wednesday.

S.R. 68 created the science and technology commission the same day S.R. 15 launched the water commission, May 13, but for some reason the technology panel lives until Jan. 9, the first day of the 2012 legislative session.

The commission held its final meeting Dec. 15, according to its lightly used Facebook page. One of the commission members, Georgia Chief Information Officer Calvin Rhodes, listed the membership and explained the goals.

Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) and Rep. Barbara Sims (R-Augusta) are chairing the commission.

“It is vital for Georgia to develop a strategic vision that will bring quality jobs to Georgia,” Sims said in the announcement of her appointment. “Our state proudly hosts some of the top science and technology schools in the world. The commission will look at those existing assets and find ways to optimize their potential for bringing jobs to our state and growing our economy.”

Surely more legislation will follow.

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