Crime victim rights among new Georgia laws taking effect Jan. 1

The new year also brings in new Georgia laws that give greater rights to crime victims, impose sales taxes on internet purchases and expand insurance coverage for autism.

Several Georgia laws take effect Jan. 1 after they won approval from the Georgia General Assembly last spring and were signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Most bills in Georgia become law each year on July 1, but state legislators set later dates for several measures.

One of them is called Marsy's Law, an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that 81 percent of voters approved during the general election in November.

The law requires that crime victims receive notifications before hearings in cases involving defendants accused of harming them. State laws on the books already require notification for crime victims as their cases move through the legal process, but now those rights are enshrined in the Georgia Constitution.

Marsy’s Law is named for Marsy Nicholas, a University of California-Santa Barbara student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after Nicholas was killed, her mother and brother were confronted by the ex-boyfriend in a grocery store.

Also starting in 2019, many online retailers will start charging sales taxes on Georgia customers' purchases. While large companies such as Amazon have charged sales taxes for years, many other businesses haven't done so.

Now, almost everyone will have to pay the state's 4 percent state sales tax along with local sales taxes, whether they decide to shop with internet companies or brick-and-mortar stores. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Georgia and other states can collect sales taxes for online purchases, overturning a 25-year-old decision that prevented governments from enforcing sales taxes unless companies had a physical presence in a state.

Another law increases insurance coverage for autism beyond the age of 6.

The law requires insurance companies to provide up to $35,000 of behavioral therapy coverage a year to children up to 20 years old. The previous coverage limit was $30,000 a year.

Other laws taking effect include:

  • Allowing pharmacists licensed in Georgia to order drugs for patients from anywhere in the United States.
  • A tax cut for timberland owners approved by voters during November's election.
  • An exemption from sales taxes on equipment for data centers.

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