New laws take hold in Georgia; 2 stem from Savannah area

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The first day in July means more than the halfway point in the year, it’s a day when dozens of new laws take effect.

Many of them focus on public safety in the Peach State, but two of them made their way into the books from situations that originated in the Coastal Empire.

The tragic deaths of Mary Crocker and her older brother Elwyn, Jr. in Guyton last year highlighted the need for child protection follow-ups by state social workers when parents — who may be suspected of child abuse — pull their children out of public school to homeschool them.

That’s what allegedly happened to Mary and Elwyn. Both were found buried in the backyard of their home. Five adults have been charged in the murders, including their father and step-mother.

This law was debated in Atlanta during the session because homeschool supporters thought it curbed their rights. Representative Ron Stephens from Georgia’s 164th District says nothing could be further from the truth and the purpose of House Bill 530, which he co-sponsored.

“That’s not what this was about at all. But the idea is to follow-up to make sure that if these parents aren’t gonna take care of their kids, and if there is abuse, that somebody looks and follows-up with that,” he said, adding, “If people want to homeschool their kids, they have the right to do that and they should. But if there is abuse there, there’s no one else but us to go in and make sure these kids are, are safe.”

“Mary & Elwyn’s Law” will require the Georgia Department of Education to provide a declaration of homeschooling to local school districts. Under HB 530, if a child is withdrawn from school without filing a declaration and the student stops attending school for 45 days, the school would be required to inform the Department of Family and Children Services.

As of July 1, “Margie’s Law” is also in effect. It comes from House Bill 62.

Under this law, any health care facilities that conduct mammograms will be required to notify the patient when their results show dense breast tissue. It’s named “Margie’s Law” after Savannah resident Margie Singleton.

Georgia is now the 37th state to pass a mandate that patients must be informed if they have dense breast tissue, what it means, and how they can protect themselves.

Some other new laws of note in Georgia include two that address sexual assault crime. One requires police to keep DNA evidence for up to 50 years. The other eliminates the consent defense when the person accused of assault is in a position of authority.

Human trafficking laws have also been strengthened. DFCS must now provide care and supervision to children who are victims of human trafficking and expands prohibition against trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude.

The minimum age that a person can get married is moving up from 16 to 17 years old in the Peach State.

There are also new protections from slumlords for renters. That new law will protect renters from eviction when they complain about unhealthy conditions.

Supporters of the measure said it will help stop landlords from evicting tenants rather than fixing problems. The law makes it easier for renters to win court cases and remain in their homes. Landlords who wrongfully try to evict tenants would have to pay them one month’s rent, plus $500 and legal costs.

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