Gov. Deal to sign several major bills Wednesday

Gov. Deal to sign several major bills Wednesday

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - On Wednesday, Governor Nathan Deal will travel across the state, making ceremonial stops to sign several bills into law.

Deal will make stops in Blue Ridge, Acworth, Statesboro, Tifton, and Atlanta.

The most significant bills Deal will sign include the FY 2019 budget and the Hands-Free Georgia Act.

FY 2019 Budget

The $26 billion budget is historic because it fully funds Georgia's K-12 education formula after over a decade of cutbacks. Fifty-four percent of the budget will fund education.

Also, $16 million in funding was allocated for school safety in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February.

Deal will sign the budget in Tifton around 3:30 p.m.

MORE: Huge budget bill brings changes to South Georgia

Hands-Free Georgia Act

House Bill 673, also known as the Hands-Free Georgia Act, will also be signed into law Wednesday. HB 673 would make it much easier for law enforcement to cite drivers in Georgia for distracted driving. The bill specifically lays out what drivers in Georgia cannot do while behind the wheel.

Drivers will no longer be able to:

  • hold or support a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device
  • write, send, or read any text-based communication, including a text message, instant message, e-mail or internet data while holding your device
  • watching a video or movie other than watching data related to the navigation of your vehicle
  • record or broadcast a video

The bill does allow the use of Bluetooth and hands-free cell phone usage.

WALB spoke with Dougherty County police on how they will be enforcing this new law.

"We will be enforcing this law just like we would any other law. With any infraction of the law we will take action on that. So the people need to know if they're seen using a phone driving, they can and will be pulled over and possibly cited," said Capt. Jason Hager.

Your first violation will result in a $50 fine, $100 for a second violation, and a $150 fine for a third and any subsequent violations.

Craig and Kathy Clark advocated for the bill after their daughter Emily was one of five Georgia Southern nursing students killed in a car accident by a distracted driver in April 2015.

Deal will sign the Hands-Free Georgia Act in Statesboro around 2 p.m.

The new law is expected to go into effect July 1.

You can read a copy of the bill here.

Other bills Deal will sign include HB 769 which would implement recommendations from the House Rural Development Council relating to health care issues, HB 951 which promotes rural economic development and innovation, and HB 85 (Forestland Protection Act) which provides for an ad valorem tax exemption for property primarily used for the good faith subsistence or commercial production of trees, timber, or other wood and wood fiber products.

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