By Cindy Morley –
Governor Nathan Deal kept many in suspense as long as he could before vetoing 15 bills Tuesday, including the controversial “campus carry bill,” that would have allowed anyone over 21 with a gun permit to carry their weapons on college campuses across the state.
“If the intent of HB 859 is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result,” said Deal in a press release issued late Tuesday.
“However, I understand the concerns of the authors of this legislation and the parents and students who want it to become law. They apparently believe that the colleges are not providing adequate security on their campuses and that civilian police are not doing so on the sidewalks, streets and parking lots students use as they go to and come from classes.”
Deal followed this veto by issuing an Executive Order directed to the Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia and the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, requesting that they submit a report to him, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston by August 1, 2016, regarding the security measures that each college has in place. Deal also called on the leaders of the cities and counties in which these colleges are located, along with their law enforcement agencies “to review and improve, if necessary, their security measures in areas surrounding these colleges. Since each of these municipalities and counties receive significant revenue by virtue of the location of these colleges in their jurisdictions, I believe it is appropriate that they be afforded extra protections.”
The Governor also called on the General Assembly to consider making the unauthorized possession and/or use of a firearm on a college campus an act that carries an increased penalty or an enhanced sentence for the underlying crime.
Deal also vetoed HB 659 which requires requires greater public transparency of financial information on both the local system and individual school levels. However, he said would include the fiscal transparency measures of this bill in his 2017 legislative agenda, in addition to the recommendations from his Education Reform Commission.
Deal opposed a portion of the bill which authorized the Georgia Department of Education to conduct a pilot program where local school systems could spend and report federal, state, and local funds in a consolidated manner.
“I strongly believe that the majority of decisions should remain in the hands of those closest to our state’s students, and I have made it a priority to promote this type of flexibility,” sad Deal. “But with increased flexibility, must come increased transparency. While I support the consolidated spending of funds, which is currently allowed by law, I cannot support legislation that would allow districts to not disclose how such funds are spent.”
Deal vetoed another major education bill that would allow parents to opt their children out of testing.
Other bills vetoed by Deal:
HB 216 would have expanded the eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits to firefighters diagnosed with cancer, allowing such benefits for any firefighter in Georgia if a medical expert can prove that the cancer was caused from exposure to any risk factor while performing work related duties.
“Firefighters play an integral role in keeping Georgians safe, their unselfish everyday sacrifice does not go unnoticed by this office and they will continue to have my support,” said Deal. “However, while the authors’ intent of this bill is respected, I am concerned that codifying an exception for one occupation at this relatively low standard of proof with no time limitation on diagnosis or restriction on eligible types of cancer is a broad solution for a problem not yet abundantly demonstrated in Georgia.”
HB 370 would waive all fines, fees, and penalties in association with the failure to file, filing late, or filing incomplete campaign contribution disclosure reports and personal financial disclosure statements by locally elected officials and candidates from January 1, 2010 – January 10, 2014. In announcing his veto, Deal said, “This retroactive measure amounts to amnesty for individuals who failed to follow correct procedure for the filing of these documents.”
HB 779 involves the use of unmanned aircraft technology or “drones” which raises a unique concern requiring careful research.
HB 959 originally sought to eliminate duplicative testing requirements for dually enrolled, AP, and IB students, encourage inter-agency cooperation, and clean-up other portions of Title 20. “During the legislative process, language was added to the bill that mirrored the language found in Senate Bill 329, which I have vetoed,” said Deal. “As research has demonstrated time and again, high school students with rigorous course loads are more likely to succeed in college, and considering the rich tradition of the HOPE Scholarship as a merit-based program.”
Senate Bill 329 adjusts the established coursework rigor requirements of the HOPE Scholarship, and allows the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia to identify strategic workforce needs for the purpose of updating technical college certificate program requirements.
“What concerns me about Senate Bill 329, which would allow students who achieve their high school diploma by obtaining a technical college diploma or two technical college certificates to become eligible for the HOPE Scholarship, is that these students will likely not meet the rigor requirements put into place by our reform efforts,” said Deal.