Drug dealers, drag racers and squatters, beware: New Georgia laws are gunning for you

(Design: Joy Walstrum)

Jun 10, 2024
Key Points
  • New legislation clamps down on drug dealers, drag racers and squatters
  • New laws taking effect July 1 also gives parents school choices while students school kids get new buses
  • HOAs must provide owners with time to fix covenant breaches

Those squatters in your neighborhood could soon get the boot. Homeowners associations must now give you time to fix a covenant breach — such as painting your house the wrong color — before taking legal action. Georgia schoolchildren will be riding much-needed new school buses in the coming school year. 

And shrimp is now Georgia’s official crustacean.

These are just some of the new laws and budgetary measures taking effect July 1 —Gov. Brian Kemp signed 709 bills into law. The state’s $36.1 billion fiscal year budget, packed with raises and extra benefits for state and local government workers, also kicks in.

The new laws, while generous, also crack down on crimes. Spurred by rising fentanyl deaths, illegal drag racing and housing-related abuses, Georgia’s new laws cast a wide net of punishments.

Drug dealers indirectly responsible for a person’s death due to fentanyl overdose face felony aggravated involuntary manslaughter and the possibility of life in prison. 

Planning to host or attend an illegal drag racing event? Repeat offenders run the risk of a felony charge, temporary loss of their license, hundreds to thousands of dollars in fines and spending a few months to 10 years in prison.

Here’s a rundown on the new laws.

Fiscal year 2025 state budget benefits 

Lawmakers passed the $36.1 billion fiscal year 2025 state budget, which includes more money for school buses and raises for law enforcement and other benefits for state and local government workers. 

  • $205 million to increase the recurring Pupil Transportation Grant to cover nearly a third — 31% — of total student transportation costs, up from about 17% in 2023.
  • Law enforcement and child welfare workers will get a $3,000 annual raise via $50 million earmarked in the budget. State employees, including public university workers making less than $70,000, will get a 4% raise. K-12 certified teachers will receive a $2,500 raise from $382.1 million allocated in the budget.

Help for kids and parents 

Help with housing issues — and those pesky telemarketers

  • Homeowners and condo associations must give property owners time to fix a covenant breach before taking legal action.
  • The Safe at Home Act requires rental units to be fit to live in and the properties to meet local and state housing codes as well as health and safety standards.
  • Consumers will be able to hold companies liable for illegal telemarketing calls made by third-party contractors. Consumers can also pursue class-action lawsuits against telemarketers. Violators could face up to a $1,000 penalty.

Crime and immigration

  • Squatters living in other people’s homes without their consent are looking at criminal misdemeanor trespassing charges and fines for back rent. They also can be evicted within three days of being notified by police that they’re squatting.
  • Anyone stealing livestock faces a felony charge, a $10,000 fine and the possibility of two to 15 years in prison.
  • The Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act requires state law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials in reporting and, in some cases, detaining suspected illegal immigrants charged with crimes. Failure of sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies to comply with the law could result in the loss of state and federal funds as well as misdemeanor charges.

Cutting red tape for workers

Find information on other new Georgia laws here.

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Have questions? Contact Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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