July 1 means new Georgia laws take effect

July 1 will go down in Georgia history as a good day for white-tail deer, children with autism and the state’s largest transit system.

But raccoons, motorists and Georgia-based airlines will probably wish it was still June.

Wednesday marks the effective date for hundreds of bills and resolutions the General Assembly adopted this year. Here is a look at some of the more important new laws, as well as some of the odder ones:

Autism: Children ages 6 and younger who suffer from autism-related disorders will now be eligible for up to $30,000 a year in insurance coverage for treatment, thanks to the passage of House Bill 429.

Victims of sexual abuse and trafficking: House Bill 17 greatly extends the statute of limitations for adults to sue a person who they claim molested, raped or otherwise sexually abused them as a minor. Senate Bill 8 and a companion Senate Resolution 7 require convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders and pay into a new Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to help victims with housing, health care and other services.

SR 7, which will be put to voters in 2016, would pay for those services through a new $2,500 fine levied on convicted traffickers, as well as an annual $5,000 fee on adult entertainment establishments.

Pardons and parole: House Bill 71 requires the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to notify a victim whenever an offender has petitioned for a pardon or parole. Prosecutors would only have to be notified for the most egregious crimes. The bill was a direct result of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's reporting in 2014 that the board's decision-making and deliberations are done in secret and that the agency often grants offenders' freedoms without notifying victims.

MARTA: The Atlanta-based transit system finally succeeded in persuading lawmakers to permanently end the requirement that 50 percent of its revenue be spent on operations and 50 percent on capital projects and maintenance. Now, under House Bill 213, MARTA can allocate its resources as it sees fit. The system could also see a bump in infrastructure funding from the state, thanks to $75 million in borrowing for transit included in the state budget for the new fiscal year, which also takes effect July 1.

Transportation: The $900 million transportation bill, House Bill 170, goes into effect July 1, and motorists could immediately notice an increase in gas prices. The state's complicated system of taxing motor fuels will change, although it's still complicated. Bottom line: The average driver of a gas-powered car should expect to pay about 6 cents a gallon more in taxes. The bill also eliminates the $5,000 state tax credit for buyers of electric vehicles and slaps those who do own electric cars with a new $200-a-year registration fee.

Under Georgia’s old tax structure for gasoline, an excise tax of 7.5 cents per gallon and a 4 percent sales tax brought the combined motor fuel tax rate to about 19.3 cents per gallon. Under the new bill, the state eliminated the 4 percent sales tax and converted it to a straight 26 cents-per-gallon excise tax (29 cents for diesel). The motor fuel tax will likely increase over time because it is tied to inflation and fuel-efficiency standards.

The bill also creates a new tax on hotel rooms and strips local airlines of a valuable tax break.

Beer: Georgia's growing cadre of craft breweries can finally get more beer into the hands of customers, albeit in a roundabout way. Senate Bill 63 allows breweries to charge for a tour, and depending on how much someone pays, the tour could include the beer as a free souvenir — up to limits set into the new law. That includes 36 ounces of beer to be consumed "on-premise" of a brewery and up to 72 ounces of beer — the equivalent of a six-pack — to be taken home.

SB 63 also gives a nod to distillers: Patrons will be able to take home up to 750 milliliters of liquor from a local distillery.

State budget: Lawmakers in House Bill 76 approved spending just under $22 billion for fiscal 2016. Included in the funding plan is nearly $6 million to pay for raises for state judges, prosecutors and public defenders. Supreme Court justices and Appeals Court judges will get 5 percent raises, boosting their pay to $175,600 and $174,500, respectively. In addition, those officials in circuits with accountability courts — a majority of the circuits — will see an additional $6,000.

Fireworks: Georgians can legally buy consumer fireworks without traveling to Alabama, Florida, South Carolina or Tennessee, thanks to House Bill 110. The new law, which has led to the opening of several fireworks stores in the metro area, comes just in time for the Fourth of July.

Critters: The state has a new state mammal: the white-tail deer. Originally suggested by students from a Columbus school, House Bill 70 at first called for the gray fox to enjoy the designation. But, after consulting with state wildlife officials, the deer won the honor. Two other bills, however, give an entirely different type of designation to animals. House Bill 160 strikes down a ban on trapping raccoons in much of North Georgia, and House Bill 475 makes it easier and legal to hunt and kill feral hogs.