Gatto Bill one step form becoming law

Nadia Dreid

The bill known as Michael’s Law, crafted by legislators with the help of the Gatto family after the death of their son last year, passed the Georgia Senate earlier this month.

Michael Gatto, 18, was a Georgia Southern University freshman in August of last year, when he died as a result of an assault that occurred outside a local bar.

Katherine Gatto, the mother of Michael Gatto, said that all that remains for the bill to become law is Governor Nathan Deal’s signature.

“They changed and added a little bit, and it has passed in both legislative bodies so it just needs the signature, which we anticipate getting,” Gatto said. “We don’t foresee a problem there.”

The original bill would have required all businesses that sell or serve alcohol to carry liability insurance. It also would have required all bouncers, bartenders and servers in establishments that serve alcohol to be over the age of 21 and to attend training. Business managers and alcohol license holders would have been required to complete this training as well.

However, on the bill’s way through the committees, the insurance requirements were cut, as well as those for employee training. In its final incarnation, the bill requires any employee or patron of a bar to be 21 years of age or older, and defines a bar as a business where 75 percent of more of its revenue is from alcohol sales that are consumed on-premise.

The bill would also require both business and city authorities to report any alcohol-related infractions to the Department of Revenue within 45 days.

“It’s dual-blind reporting – if one reports and the other doesn’t, one of those entities is in trouble and it gives the department the power to penalize a municipality for not reporting and this is new,” Gatto said.

The bill would also make it illegal to produce, sell or possess powdered alcohol in the state of Georgia, which is a powdered substance that makes an alcoholic drink when mixed with liquid.

“It’s sold in a little pouch, it can be smuggled in anywhere by any teen and each pouch is the equivalent of one drink. You can see the many problems that would come up with this substance,” Gatto said. “So the fact that that was added to our bill, we were delighted with.”

Gatto said that her family will continue to push for the reforms that were cut out of the original bill, such as insurance and training requirements.

“Obviously, the training is not in there yet, and that’s something we look to add in the future as well as some kind of insurance,” Gatto said. “We still will continue to crusade for that.”