Now that Georgia’s General Assembly has concluded its 2018 legislative session, Gov. Nathan Deal has 40 days to decide whether to sign a bill into law or veto it. He’s never been shy about rejecting legislation he doesn’t like. Last year, he vetoed nine bills. (DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Legislature is done, but Georgia’s governor has decisions to make

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.

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 gun measure and a “religious liberty” bill.

The 2018 Georgia legislative session is now in the books as the clock hit midnight or slightly passed it on the 40th day. The day — known as Sine Die — usually features grueling debates, dealmaking and occasionally some shenanigans.

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. 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:

Transit

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

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.

Criminal justice

After fierce early opposition, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Deal’s proposal to loosen requirements for cash bail and give local authorities more leeway to issue citations for nonviolent crimes. It’s the final phase of Deal’s efforts to overhaul the state’s criminal justice system by diverting more low-level offenders from prison.

Will he sign it? Yes. Aside from the budget, it’s his top priority this session.

Budget

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 record tax revenue would allow lawmakers to fully fund the k-12 school funding formula for the first time since at least 2002.

Will he sign it? No doubt. It’s the only piece of legislation lawmakers are required to approve each year.

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 past few years at the Legislature. That’s because it’s been tied up in the Senate each year by some powerful opponents, but the logjam broke this year.

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 Sunday sales of alcohol at stores.

Medical marijuana

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

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

Internet sales tax

The state’s coffers could see 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.

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.

After months of debate, 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.

Eagle’s Landing

Lawmakers voted largely along party lines to create a new city of Eagle’s Landing by carving out land taken from the 98-year-old city of Stockbridge.

Supporters say 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.

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.

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