I'm proud of our state.
ATLANTA - In a week the Ten Commandments will be allowed to hang in Georgia courthouses, and lottery winnings may be taken to pay back child support.
Dozens of new state laws will go into effect July 1st, ranging from banning protests at funerals to jury duty exemption for those who teach home school.
Various officials have been preparing for the deadline since the General Assembly wrapped up its business three months ago.
"Unfortunately for the sheriffs, we've had two major issues thrust upon us at the same time," said Terry Norris, executive vice president of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association.
Not only are law enforcement authorities warning sex offenders about strict new residence requirements that are about to take effect but sheriffs also have been pulling together judge-approved security plans for their local courthouses.
One of the leading issues of this year's legislative session, a law cracking down on sex offenders, is proving problematic in some counties because of new rules about where they can live.
The law will mandate that offenders cannot live, work or loiter within 1,000 feet of areas where children gather, including school bus stops. A lawsuit filed this month in federal court is challenging that provision, claiming that it is too restrictive.
Despite concerns about the needed manpower, Norris said sheriffs are prepared to enforce the law after July 1. Anyone found in violation can be charged with a felony and sentenced to at least 10 years in jail.
"They're going to enforce the law, and they're going to do it at whatever pace they can manage with the resources that they have," he said.
Another law that could face a lawsuit is a measure allowing local governments to post the Ten Commandments, along with several historic documents, in public buildings. A provision that would have required the state to foot the bill for any litigation was stripped from the proposal before it passed.
"You never know the impact of a law until somebody tries it for the first time," said Rep. Terry England, an Auburn Republican who co-sponsored the measure.
England said the American Civil Liberties Union had already threatened to sue any county that tries to post the Ten Commandments, something he said could make cities and counties nervous about proceeding.
Opponents contend the measure blurs the line of separation between church and state.
But England said he'd heard "a few rumblings" that some governments might try the law anyway.
In other law enforcement areas, police will be able to stop protests within 500 feet of a funeral - a measure passed in response to members of a Topeka, Kan., church who regularly protest military funerals around the country.
A new crime also will be added that creates penalties for injuring or causing the death of an unborn child when attacking the pregnant mother.
After more than a decade of trying, advanced-practice nurses finally won their battle to write out prescriptions for patients.
Georgia had been the last state in the country to hold off on that power until the law passed this year. In the past, an advanced-practice nurse could only call in a prescription directly to a pharmacy.
Besides allowing patients to take the prescription with them and get it filled where they want, the new law also should improve medical access in rural areas, said Linda Easterly, president of the Georgia Nurses Association.
"In areas where there (are) limited health-care providers ... physicians will start to move in," she said. "It'll make a major change in the health care in Georgia over a long period of time."
In order to write the prescriptions, advanced-practice nurses and the physicians they work with must have an agreement in place about the type of patients to treat and the standards to follow.
Meanwhile, some education-related measures technically take effect July 1, even if the impacts won't be felt until the school year begins, or later.
One measure requires school districts to spend 65 percent of their funds on expenses deemed "inside the classroom" by the state.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, who pushed the measure, said it will help boost student achievement by focusing the state's education dollars where teaching actually takes place. Opponents say the law ties the hands of local school districts, and they question the way spending is classified.
But districts will be given time to bring their budgets into line with the state's expectations.
And a law allowing schools to teach secular courses on the historical and literary impact of the Bible also takes effect July 1, but the measure doesn't require the State Board of Education to approve a curriculum until Feb. 1, 2007.
NEW STATE LAWS
Here are some of the new laws taking effect July 1:
SB 419 - Retailers can withhold lottery prizes of $2,500 or more if the winner has a claim against him or her for not paying child support.
SB 480 - Advanced-practice nurses can start writing prescriptions for patients.
HB 941 - The Ten Commandments will be permitted to be displayed in courthouses as long as they are hung with copies of eight historical documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
HB 1497 - Owners of vicious dogs that have bitten or endangered someone will have to keep the animals in an enclosed area or on a leash at all times when it is outside - or face misdemeanor charges.