With July Fourth memories still fresh in our minds, it is important to note that this is a very important time for the citizens of Georgia. Most of the bills that received final passage during the 2019 session and were signed by Gov. Brian P. Kemp have now gone into effect.

One of the most publicized changes that went into effect on July 1 is the $3,000 pay increase for all Georgia certified educators and other school system staff. This bump in pay is well deserved and I am proud of our governor, lieutenant governor and entire legislature for ensuring this commitment to our teachers and staff within the education system was met.

Along with supporting this appropriation within the fiscal 2020 budget, I sponsored and carried several pieces of legislation during the 2019 session. Some of these were signed into law after the session while others became effective on July 1 or will do so early next year.

♦ Senate Bill 77 creates protections for all monuments located on private or public property. This legislation prohibits removing or concealing any monument located on private or public property and provides that anyone who violates this law would be guilty of a misdemeanor and required to pay damages triple the amount of financial losses suffered. This bill became law on April 26.

♦ Senate Bill 83 will allow high schools to offer courses on Hebrew scriptures as well as the Old and New Testaments. Additionally, under SB 83 the Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen (REACH) Scholarship program will allow students who meet certain requirements to qualify for the scholarship. This bill went into effect on July 1.

♦ Senate Bill 216 addresses ad valorem tax payments and will allow taxpayers to enter into an agreement with the appropriate governing body or authority to prepay ad valorem taxes. This bill went into effect on July 1.

♦ House Bill 242 requires the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy to regulate the practice of massage therapy through an expansion of its functions. Under HB 242, applicants must maintain professional, bodily injury and property damage liability insurance coverage and provide evidence of it to the board to ensure proper coverage. This bill became law on May 6.

♦ House Bill 323 will prohibit pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) from restricting dispensers from sharing drug cost information and will require PBMs to notify their clients of rebates they receive that they do not pass on to the client. This bill will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

♦ House Bill 387 will allow private, nonprofit volunteer fire departments to file a lien on a property if services rendered go unpaid. This bill went into effect on July 1.

♦ House Bill 551 prohibits selling kratom to people under the age of 18 and provides packaging and labeling requirements for kratom products. This bill became law on April 26.

♦ These are just a few of the measures that have become law or will go into effect soon. For a full list of all of the bills Governor Kemp signed into law, please follow this link: https://gov.georgia.gov/signed-legislation/2019.

While our work for the 2019 session is done, our office remains available to address any of your questions, concerns or needs within the district. Please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance. We are always willing to help.

Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis is chairman of the Rules Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate District, which includes Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Chattooga County. He can be reached by email at jeff.mullis@senate.ga.gov.