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Governor’s vetoes limited in 2014

POSTED: May 5, 2014 4:46 p.m.

Governor Deal’s 40-day time limit to sign or veto legislation passed by the 2014 session of the General Assembly ran out April 29, and he issued a short list of 10 vetoes, including four that vetoed local bills.

Veto No. 1 — SB 281 — Required the state to offer as part of the State Health Benefit plan a high deductible plan with a health savings account. Gov. Deal’s veto message stated that the Department of Community Health already has announced that it will include additional options in the future that will mirror the intent of this legislation, but felt the language of the bill was too specific and could complicate the procurement process.

Veto No. 2 — SB 326 — The original bill allowed for attendance at meetings of the Private Colleges and Universities Authority meetings by phone or teleconference. But the bill was amended to change the board compensation of members of the State Personnel Board, Transportation Board, Veterans Board, Natural Resources Board and Board of Education from a set present fee for all boards of $105 per day to the same rate as General Assembly members, now $172 daily. Gov. Deal’s message objected to the 67 percent increase and vetoed the bill.

Veto Number 3 — HB 670 — Allowed the Superior Court Clerks Cooperative Authority to create a statewide registry of business trade names that would raise fees and add new fees. Gov. Deal’s veto message raised concerns about the cost of new and raised fees on small businesses.

Veto No. 4 — HB 729 — Affected the title tag fee “TAVT.” The bill was intended to eliminate a loophole allowing “gaming” of vehicle trade-in valuations. Gov. Deal objected to language in the bill that allowed for a trade-in deduction of a leased vehicle. He stated that the cumulative effects of the bill reduced revenue to the state at a point in time when payments to local governments replacing vehicle advalorem taxes are slated to begin in 2016. Recalibration of these provisions is already scheduled for July 1, 2015, which will address those concerns.

Veto No. 5 — HB 769 — This was a local bill affecting Schley County. The author requested the veto because qualifying has already occurred for the board of education seats in the affected districts. To change school districts now would expose the county to large costs.

Veto No. 6 — HB 837 — Expanded the role of private companies in the administration of probation services. Gov. Deal objected to provisions of the bill which would have exempted some records of private probation companies from the Open Records Act. Additionally, Gov. Deal noted that the state Supreme Court is poised to rule on an appeal which would address the role of these private probation companies. Allowing this legislation to go into effect would preempt this upcoming opinion.

Veto No. 7 — HB 858 — Local bill that would have allowed the Recorder’s Court in Columbus to increase a recently authorized technology fee to $25 which would be out of line with other similar courts around the state.

Veto No. 8 and 9 — HB 905 and HB 906 — Local bills that changed territorial boundaries of Brookhaven and Chamblee. Gov. Deal noted pending litigation on the properties and expressed concern that the legislation could preempt the process.

Veto No. 10 — HB 1146 — Local bill that would have provided a raise for Effingham County Board of Education members. Language in the bill referred to the use of “state and local” funds sources. Gov. Deal noted that only local funds can be used for compensation under present law and precedent. Local legislators will reintroduce a corrected bill in the 2015 session.

Shorter session reduces legislation
Information on Senate action during the 2014 General Assembly shows that the shortest session in weeks since 1991, produced less legislation. There were only 154 bills introduced in 2014, a reduction of 45 percent over 2013. Seven constitutional amendments were introduced in the Senate, of which two were adopted by the Senate and only one by both chambers. Sixty-eight Senate bills passed both chambers, which is 24 percent less than 2013.

Shorter session reduces cost to taxpayers
Apparently, the eight-day shorter session of the General Assembly in 2014 led to another result—savings to the taxpayers. The Legislature has to budget each year not knowing how long a session will be nor if a special session will be required for unforeseen contingencies.

Although there is not an accounting system tracking each session’s expenses, using the same timely reporting of pay-outs gives a pretty good assessment of costs. Information from the Legislative Fiscal Office showed that total costs associated with the 2014 session, as of the middle of April, showed savings of $305,000 compared to the same period in 2013. These savings came from part-time staff whose employment ends with the end of the session ($85,000) and committee expense since days not in session were not paid out in member per diems ($187,000).

Since each member gets one round-trip mileage payment for each week in session, a shorter session by two weeks saved $34,000. A lot of factors affect the length of each session, but this proves that where possible, a shorter session costs substantially less.

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly Web site at http://www.legis.ga.gov/.  The state budget is also online at www.legis.ga.gov, then “Senate” and then select “Budget and Evaluation Office.”

I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7092 (fax)
E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

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