New year means new laws on Georgia’s books

The Georgia Capitol. Bob Andres /

The Georgia Capitol. Bob Andres /

The start of the new year means a handful of new laws will go into effect in Georgia, including additional regulations for mental health insurance, the implementation of streamlined policies for parents to challenge “offensive materials” in schools and several tax credits.

While most new laws signed by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year took effect July 1, sometimes lawmakers allow a little more time for stakeholders to prepare for changes.

Here are some of the laws taking effect Sunday.

Mental health

An overhaul aimed at increasing access to Georgia’s mental health system and substance abuse care includes several new programs at an estimated cost between $63 million and $94 million a year. But some regulatory changes were given until the end of the year to take effect..

For example, the Department of Community Health had until New Year’s Eve to submit a comparison study of the insurance programs managed by the agency for things such as reimbursement rates for mental health and adolescent behavioral services that were denied for not being “medically necessary.” Services managed by the DCH include public health programs that provide care to the poor and disabled — Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids — and the State Health Benefit Plan that covers teachers, state workers and retirees.

Informed Consumer Act

Starting Sunday, large third-party retailers who work with shopping websites are required to share contact information with customers. Third-party retailers, those who make at least 300 sales through online shopping sites such as eBay or Amazon, are also required to share their tax information with the shopping website it uses.

The law was aimed at efforts to scam shoppers by either never delivering the product or providing subpar merchandise.

‘Offensive materials’

Local education boards had until Sunday to approve new policies that expedite the process schools follow when parents file complaints about content they say is inappropriate for students. The policy must specify who receives the complaints filed by parents or guardians — a principal or someone the principal has designated to handle challenges to school materials.

The new law requires principals to decide whether to remove contested works within seven business days and then inform the complainant of the decision within 10 business days. The local school board has 30 calendar days to decide any appeals.

Tax credits

The Legislature also approved new tax credits for Georgians who make charitable contributions to help police and organizations that assist young adults who’ve “aged out” of foster care. Lawmakers increased the limit of tax credits that can be granted to those who contribute to rural hospitals.

Georgians and corporations can now apply tax credits up to $2,500 to match their donations to qualified organizations that assist those who have left foster care after turning 18 and legally becoming an adult. Married couples filing jointly will receive up to $5,000 in tax credits. The state can give up to $20 million per year in qualified tax credits.

Lawmakers also created a credit allowing Georgians and corporations to target taxes they would normally pay into the state treasury to support local law enforcement. The credits would be capped at $5,000 per individual ($10,000 per married couple) and 75% of a corporation’s tax liability. The law made $75 million a year available in state income tax credits to Georgians who donate to local law enforcement foundations.

Both measures were modeled after a similar credit that took effect in 2017 to pump money into struggling rural hospitals. Lawmakers amended that law in 2022, increasing the total amount the state can give in credits from $60 million to $75 million.