Updates: Nathan Deal to sign a crush of bills as deadline approaches

Gov. Nathan Deal faces a Tuesday deadline to sign or veto bills.
Gov. Nathan Deal faces a Tuesday deadline to sign or veto bills.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Gov. Nathan Deal is poised to sign dozens of pieces of legislation on Monday, the second-to-last day of Georgia's annual bill-signing period.

The governor has waited a bit longer than in past years to sign off on the crush of legislation awaiting his approval, but top aide Chris Riley said the delay was part of a new strategy from the governor’s office.

Deal approved the highest-profile piece of legislation on his desk - the campus gun measure - late Thursday with little fanfare. And he signed the state’s budget – usually one of the last measures he signs – a week ago. But other noteworthy measures remain pending.

Riley said the decision to wait until just before the deadline to sign many of them came from Julia Ayers, Deal’s deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs. He said it was a “great tactic for 2017” because it spared proposals that might meet his veto pen on Tuesday - the deadline to sign or veto proposals - of additional attention and pressure.

“This late date for bill signings with the governor has certainly kept members a little curious, I am sure,” said Riley. “But more importantly it’s what it has accomplished on the other side of the argument: The bills that may not make it have not been singled out with a spotlight for additional pressure from the authors and the stakeholders.”

More than 50 measures are set to be signed Monday at ceremonies in Deal’s office. Here are a few that received his signature:

Beer: Senate Bill 85 would allow craft beer brewers and liquor distilleries to sell directly to consumers. It is seen as a final compromise between manufacturers and alcohol wholesalers who currently hold exclusive rights to purchase beer or liquor from those who make it. He signed the measure on Monday morning.

Sick leave: Senate Bill 201 would require some large employers to let their employees use sick leave to care for immediate family members. The debate over the measure split Republicans, with some casting it as a common-sense measure and others critical of a new mandate.

Autonomous vehicles: Senate Bill 219 clears the road for autonomous vehicles to roam Georgia's streets. The legislation would require the operators of self-driving cars to adhere to certain insurance requirements and to register such vehicles with the state.

Spaceport: House Bill 1 would give operators of commercial spaceports the same legal protections that other states offer to commercial rocket launches. It was long sought by developers in Camden County on Georgia's coast, where there are plans for a sprawling spaceport.

Rural hospitals: Senate Bill 180 increases the value of the state's rural hospital tax credit from 70 percent to 90 percent, which sponsors said would help bolster the state's struggling network of hospitals. Lawmakers originally passed the 70 percent measure last year, but supporters said a bigger incentive was needed because so few people had agreed to donate.

Here are two others that are still pending:

Medical marijuana: Senate Bill 16 would expand the list of disorders eligible for treatment under the state's medical marijuana program. The bill expands the program to cover patients suffering from severe forms of autism, AIDS, Alzheimer's disease and Tourette's syndrome. Patients in hospice programs, no matter their diagnosis, would also be allowed access cannabis oil.

Tax credits: Senate Bill 133 would provide $60 million in tax credits for investing in rural Georgia. Supporters say rural Georgia companies need access to capital, critics say it's a give-away to a few giant national capital companies. A similar proposal was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2015 after it passed the General Assembly.

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