New laws take effect

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A number of new Georgia laws took effect on Monday, July 1.

One new requirement is that pain clinics have to be licensed by the state’s medical board and any new clinics have to be owned by physicians, in an attempt to crack down on so-called “pill mills” that illegally provide people with prescription drugs, including painkillers.

There are currently about 85 pain clinics operating in the state, down from a high of 140 in 2010, according to state officials.

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A new law related to workers’ compensation will increase the maximum amount of benefits that people injured on the job can receive each week. However, it will also place a 400-week time limit on benefits, unless injured persons suffer paralysis, amputation blindness or burns on more than 25 percent of their bodies.

District attorneys and Sam Olens, the state’s attorney general, now have more authority to investigate and prosecute cases involving elder abuse. The law also places tougher penalties for physical, mental or financial abuse or cruelty to elderly or handicapped persons.

More people who want to attend technical colleges can become eligible to receive HOPE grants, now that the eligibility is lowered from a 3.0 cumulative grade point average to a 2.0.

It is now illegal for parents or guardians of a child to allow them to send lewd photographs of themselves to others by a computer or cell phone. But punishment for so-called “sexting” by minors themselves is reduced in some cases.

More businesses and government contractors — including local and state government agencies — are required to verify their employees’ citizenship through a free online program. The new expansion of the state’s immigration laws makes it harder for people who have illegally immigrated here to obtain driver’s licenses, public housing, tax credits or exempetions, retirement benefits and grants.

Habitual DUI offenders will now be required to give breath samples in order to start their vehicles for a full year, instead of eight months as was previously required.