New Laws Take Effect in 2020

Cindy Morley

Monday, January 6th, 2020

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In his first year as Georgia governor, Brian Kemp signed more than 300 bills into law. While many of the new laws have already taken effect, others will be in place Wednesday morning, Jan 1, when we ring in 2020.

One of the biggest is HB 239, which establishes the state’s first business court. While HB 239 actually took effect last May when Gov. Kemp signed the legislation, the court becomes operational on Jan 1.

The Governor’s nominee to head the court as its first Judge — Walter F. Davis — was confirmed by the state House and Senate Judiciary committees in August, and the court is now ready to begin operations. The new court will focus on complex business litigation that would otherwise end up in county courts. Davis has said he wants to model Georgia’s initiative after Delaware and others with similar courts.

At the time of his appointment of Davis, Kemp said, “With over seventeen years of private-sector experience, Walt Davis will bring invaluable business law expertise to this new state-wide court. By allowing companies to resolve their differences quickly and judiciously through the business court, businesses can get back to doing what they do best: creating jobs and opportunity for hardworking Georgians.”

Georgia voters first approved the business court in a constitutional amendment in 2018, but legislators passed a measure specifying how the new judicial post would operate during the 2019 session of the General Assembly. Under the law, the state court will launch in January but won’t start taking cases until August 2020.

HB 63 will give doctors the opportunity to seek exemptions to “step therapy” — when an insurance company requires the patient to try certain preferred medications first and have those drugs fail before receiving the drug prescribed by the doctor. The law will apply to any health insurance plan that takes effect or is renewed on or after Jan. 1.

HB 478 creates stricter requirements for listing offenders on Georgia’s child abuse registry. Under the new law, abusers must be at least 18 years old at the time the act was committed. This is up from the current age of 13. Also, those included on the list will have a right to a hearing to decide if their name should be removed — starting three years after being added to the list.

HB 266 doubles the state income tax deduction if you have a 529 Plan for college savings. The state tax deduction will double from $2,000 to $4,000 per child if you are a single taxpayer, and $4,000 to $8,000 per year if you file jointly.

The big story for 2020 might be the law that won’t be taking effect on January 1st. HB 481, the “Heartbeat bill” that banned abortions in Georgia after a fetal heartbeat has been detected, has been placed on hold after a ruling by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in federal court in October. Gov. Kemp had signed the bill into law in May.