What bills from the 2018 session will Nathan Deal sign into law?

Gov. Nathan Deal walks toward the elevator after speaking to the Senate and House during his final Sine Die.  PHOTO / JASON GETZ

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Gov. Nathan Deal walks toward the elevator after speaking to the Senate and House during his final Sine Die. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

The end of the legislative session triggers the start of another 40-day period for Gov. Nathan Deal to sign measures into law or veto them. And while some of the biggest debates are off the table, he still has some weighty decisions to make during the stretch that started Friday.

The Republican, in his final year in office, has shown little aversion to the red pen. He vetoed nine bills last year, including a foster care measure that had widespread legislative support. And he nixed the two most consequential bills of the 2016 session: A "campus carry" measure and a "religious liberty" bill.

This year, some of the highest-profile bills are already in the books. He signed a measure to update the state's decades-old adoption law after it was stripped of a controversial provision. And he inked a tax-cut measure that didn't include a lucrative tax break for Delta Air Lines.

But there are still dozens of other proposals waiting on his desk. Here’s a rundown of where the biggest bills stand:


It went down to the wire, but the Legislature agreed to a compromise that could lead to a dramatic expansion of mass transit in metro Atlanta.

It paves the way for transit expansions in Gwinnett, Cobb and Fulton counties and much of the rest of metro Atlanta by allowing 13 metro Atlanta counties to impose a sales tax of up to 1 percent for mass transit.

And it creates a regional board to oversee transit funding and construction, though it doesn’t include a new dedicated stream of state revenue for projects.

Will he sign it? Most likely. He earlier told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he hoped lawmakers would "reconcile the differences" and hash out a compromise. And he called the "evolving attitude" among conservatives about transit a "good thing."

Criminal justice

After fierce early opposition, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Deal's proposal to loosen requirements for cash bail and gives local authorities more leeway to issue citations for non-violent crimes. It's the final phase of Deal's years-long effort to overhaul the state's criminal justice system by diverting more low-level offenders from costly prison beds.

The state now gives judges little flexibility in setting bail for most defendants. The law now allows judges to forgo bond for some defendants facing felonies, but requires judges to set bail for those facing misdemeanor charges.

The legislation takes aim at a bail system that has come under increasing scrutiny in Georgia and across the nation. Civil rights groups claim jailing poor people simply because they lack money for bond is unconstitutional, and several lawsuits in Atlanta and elsewhere have challenged the practice.

Will he sign it? Yes. Aside from the budget, it's his top priority this legislative session. And he calls the measure crucial to keeping the state's focus on "the most serious and violent offenders" while saving counties more taxpayer dollars.


Georgia lawmakers made a bit of history when they approved a $26.2 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. A growing state economy that's brought a record tax revenue allowed lawmakers to fully fund the K-12 school funding formula for the first time since 2002.

The new budget deal also includes $100 million in bonds for transit projects and $16 million in grants to bolster school safety after last month's shooting at a Florida high school. Most of the rest of the new spending will go to schools, colleges, health programs and the teacher retirement pension system.

Will he sign it? No doubt. It's the only piece of legislation lawmakers are required to approve each year, and Deal secured virtually every one of his priorities in the spending blueprint. And the governor has taken special pride in the $166 million pumped into the school system. "That is a great achievement," he said.

Brunch bill

It’s been called the brunch bill and the mimosa mandate. Whatever the name, the measure to allow Georgia restaurants to serve morning cocktails on Sundays has been dead in the water the last few years at the Legislature. That’s because it’s been tied up in the Senate each year by some powerful opponents.

But this year, the logjam broke. Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to approve Senate Bill 17, which lets restaurants and wineries that serve food to begin alcohol sales at 11 a.m. – 90 minutes earlier than the law now allows. It comes with an important caveat: Local voters would have to first approve the time change.

Will he sign it? The governor hasn't said much publicly about the legislation, but it would be a surprise if he didn't. In 2011, shortly after Deal took office, he signed a similar measure that allowed local governments to ask voters whether they wanted to allow Sunday sales of alcohol at stores.

Medical marijuana

Georgians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will be covered by the state's growing medical marijuana program under legislation that passed in the final hour of the legislative session.

The expansion passed after state Rep. Allen Peake, the architect of the program, brokered a compromise with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle after he was accused of blocking the measure by another House Republican.

Will he sign it? Probably. The governor hasn't specifically said he would support the measure, he approved the bill creating the program and others that have since expanded it.

Internet sales tax

The state's coffers could a hefty boost under a measure that's aimed at making sure Georgians who buy goods from online retailers pay sales taxes on what they purchase. The legislation would require online retailers who make at least $250,000 or 200 sales a year to collect state sales taxes – or send "tax due" notices to customers who shell out $500 or more on their sites.

Will he sign it? Maybe. A Supreme Court case is pending that could influence his decision. Its passage could mean an extra $500 million to $600 million a year in sales tax collections for the state and local governments, according to state estimates.

Distracted driving

Georgia already prohibits texting while driving and bans drivers under 18 from using wireless devices behind the wheel. But public safety advocates say the restrictions are largely unenforceable and that stiffer penalties are needed to stem a surge in traffic fatalities.

Enter the Georgia Legislature. After months of fraught debate and emotional testimony from victims of motorists killed by distracted drivers, lawmakers adopted a measure that would ban drivers from handling their cellphones or other electronic devices while behind the wheel.

Will he sign it? Yep. The governor has repeatedly endorsed the measure, saying that the "safety of our citizens" demands a new crackdown. Besides, he said, technology improvements make it easier for drivers to abandon holding their phones.

He also disclosed his own fears about hitting the roads again after about eight years of being whisked around by a security detail.

“Just watch out, Sandra and I are going to be on the roads before too terribly long,” he said with a chuckle. “If you see us coming, you might want to pull over to the side.”

Eagle’s Landing

This might be one of the most controversial measures adopted this year. Lawmakers voted largely on party lines to create a new city of Eagle’s Landing by carving out land taken from the 98-year-old city of Stockbridge.

The supporters contend that cityhood will bring them better police, parks and other government services they claim Stockbridge isn’t providing. Critics say it’s thinly veiled racism – Eagle’s Landing would take several affluent, majority-white neighborhoods from Stockbridge – and say it would be the first time a new city was created by taking land from an existing city.

Will he sign it? This one's a mystery. The governor hasn't publicly talked about the legislation, but he's under immense pressure to veto the measure. Protest groups have urged him to scrap it and state Sen. Emanuel Jones pleaded to Deal to nix the measure: "I don't know why this legislation has made it this far," he said.

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