Governor signs Rep. Shaw’s metal theft enforcement bill into law
On Monday, April 16, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law legislation I introduced that will crack down on the growing problem of metal theft in our state. HB 872 was written and is being enacted as a response to the rapidly increasing number of metal thefts in Georgia, especially copper and aluminum.
The new law will require metal sellers to show a valid ID and a work order or receipt to prove the metal was not stolen, as well as ensuring that metal recyclers maintain a record of all purchases, so that law enforcement may more easily investigate metal theft incidents.
Those attempting to sell scrap metal will be required to show a valid identification card. The new law also establishes a statewide database of buyers and sellers that will be available to law enforcement agencies. The growing number of thefts of copper wire, air conditioning coils, manhole covers and even church bells and grave markers, along with rising prices for scrap metal, necessitated tighter regulation and stronger enforcement.
Thanks to the support of a broad coalition of advocacy groups affected by the metal theft problem and resulting public safety issues, including utility companies, railroads, city and county governments, law enforcement agencies, the insurance business and more, HB 872 passed the House 159-8 and the Senate 50-0 in its final form. This new law will serve as a model for the rest of the country as other states deal with metal theft.
Gov. Deal has until May 8 to sign or veto legislation approved by the General Assembly during the 2012, session, which ended March 29. He had already signed another bill I introduced and passed, HB 477, which will allow insurance agents to renew their state licenses every two years rather than every year.
Here is a list of the other major legislation that passed the House and Senate and either has been signed or is awaiting the governor’s signature:
• HB 100 would create a special tax court to hear disputes between taxpayers and the Georgia Department of Revenue.
• HB 347, in its amended form, would reduce the payment of unemployment benefits in Georgia from the current maximum of 26 weeks to a period ranging from 14 to 20 weeks.
• HB 397 would increase penalties for government officials who break Georgia’s “sunshine” laws and clarifies the definition of open meetings and what activities are allowed in closed meetings. The bill also allows the state Department of Economic Development to withhold information on incentives the state offers to attract large development projects until after the company commits to locating in Georgia.
• HB 456 would set up a legislative committee to review all state agencies and programs and could recommend abolishing those the committee finds outdated, redundant or otherwise unnecessary.
• HB 675 corrects a provision in the state’s licensing laws that prevented military nurses from obtaining state licenses. The governor has already signed the bill.
• HB 685 would strengthen Georgia’s dangerous dog laws.
• HB 706 would delete obsolete or unused public school regulations and funding requirements.
• HB 711, signed into law, eliminates the spousal privilege against testifying in domestic abuse cases.
• HB 785 and SB 337 would prohibit the state from requiring physicians and dentists to accept insurance such as Medicare or Medicaid as a condition of being licensed by the state.
• HB 824 would revise the state formula for determining equalization grants to school systems and would also reduce the money allocated for those grants by more than $400 million.
• HB 861, signed into law, requires drug screening tests for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Family benefits.
• HB 868 would provide more funding for job tax credits to businesses that increase the number of employees on their payroll.
• HB 898 establishes a new category of banking entity in Georgia, authorizing companies that validate credit and debit card transactions to set up what are called “merchant acquirer limited purpose banks” that can charge higher fees for debit cards. The bill has already been signed into law.
• HB 954 would criminalize abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy in most cases. The bill was amended to include an exception for “medically futile” cases when conditions are “incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”
• HB 1114 would make it a felony to assist someone in committing suicide.
• HB 1166 would require Georgia health insurers to offer children’s health insurance coverage, providing an option for families that do not qualify for Medicaid or PeachCare coverage.
• HR 1162 will put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November that asks voters to decide whether to authorize the state to set up charter schools that have been rejected by their local school boards.
• SB 302 would increase the revenues bond cap for the Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority from $300 million to $500 million, enabling construction of more dormitories, parking decks and student centers on the campuses of Georgia’s colleges and universities.
• SB 346 would provide more protections for persons who obtain prescription drugs by mail.
• SB 402, signed into law, authorizes the Employees Retirement System to invest up to 5 percent of its assets in such alternative investments as leveraged buyout funds, venture capital investments, mezzanine debt investments, distressed debt and derivatives. The bill exempts the Teachers Retirement System.
Among the proposals that failed to reach final approval by both the House and Senate are:
• HB 641 would have comprehensively revised the juvenile justice code in Georgia.
• HB 679 would have allowed a gun owner to carry that firearm without having to obtain a permit from a local probate judge.
HB 730 would have prohibited state and local government agencies from requiring that bidders for a public works project have union workers on the payroll.
• HB 798 and SB 391 would have put a $100 limit on lobbyists’ gifts to and entertainment of legislators.
• HB 811 would have ended the legislative practice of diverting fees collected for specific purposes, such as the disposal of discarded tires, and using the revenues for other purposes.
• HB 875, in its amended form, would have allowed the state ethics commission to keep information regarding some ethics complaints against elected officials sealed from public disclosure.
• HB 972 would have given the Georgia Composite Medical Board the authority to license and regulate pain management clinics, part of the state’s efforts to crack down on the operation of “pill mills.”
• HB 981 would have expanded the locations where concealed weapons can be legally carried to include the State Capitol, schools, polling places and bars.
• SB 87 would have authorized tax-paid vouchers for students to attend private schools.
• SB 269 would have reduced the penalties for water pollution by allowing the Environmental Protection Division to authorize a voluntary response to problems.
• SB 288 would have authorized pharmacists to administer certain vaccines without a doctor’s prescription.
• SB 301 would have allowed hunting with silencers.
• SB 312 would have required food stamp recipients to take high school courses or “self-development classes.”
• SB 362 would have authorized the retrieval and sale of “deadhead logs” that have been submerged in South Georgia’s rivers for more than 100 years.
• SB 401 would have paved the way for more widespread use of solar energy panels for the generation of electricity by homeowners and small businesses.
• SB 438 would have prohibited the State Health Benefits Plan from providing insurance coverage for abortions.
• SB 448 would have enabled developers to avoid having to pay off loans they personally guaranteed if those loans were sold by the bank to a successor creditor.
• SB 458 would have prohibited undocumented students from attending the state’s public colleges.
• SB 460 would have exempted “religious employers” from being required to include contraceptive prescriptions in the healthcare coverage they provide to employees.
• SB 469 would have prohibited mass picketing near private residences and would have required workers to provide written authorization every year for union dues to be deducted from their paychecks.
• SR 20 would have amended the Constitution to put a cap on state government spending.
Thank you for the privilege of representing you at the State Capitol. As always, please contact me with your views on the issues or whenever I can be of service.