ATLANTA (AP) — Several pieces of legislation continue to wait on the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal, as the May 3 deadline looms for Deal to sign, veto or opt to not take action on the measures.
Deal received both praise and criticism for his veto of the "Religious Freedom" bill, but critics and supporters alike are still waiting for his decision on some of the most hotly contested pieces of legislation introduced this session.
WEAPONS ON CAMPUS
Despite statewide opposition from university and college administrators and their police chiefs, it's not certain how Deal will act on a bill to allow anyone age 21 and up to carry a concealed handgun on campus with the proper permit.
If signed into law, permit holders would be allowed to carry handguns into classrooms, with the only exemptions being placed on student housing, which includes fraternity and sorority houses, athletic facilities and disciplinary hearings.
Those in opposition of the bill have cited increased security costs, a potential rise in campus gun violence and the lack of inclusion of dually enrolled high school students who may be taking university courses.
Supporters of the bill say putting more guns in the hands of responsible citizens on campus will work to deter increased gun violence.
A similar bill would allow electroshock weapons, often referred to as "stun guns," on campus. While this measure has seen more positive reception from different campus communities than the concealed handguns bill, it's still unclear which way Deal will move.
SUPREME COURT EXPANSION
Deal has yet to act on a measure he backed to expand the Georgia Supreme Court by two members, both appointed by the governor. The move would increase the court's size from seven to nine under state law. Georgia's constitution already permitted up to nine justices.
Supporters of the change argue the state's growing population requires more justices. Opponents in the Legislature say Deal's appointments will shape the court politically for years to come.
Deal is also expected to replace two sitting justices before the end of his final term in office. Georgia's constitution requires justices to retire by age 75 or risk retirement benefits.
All justices run in nonpartisan elections for six-year terms but rarely lose.
Education was a hot-button issue during the last legislative session, and one bill would bring major changes to the structure of public school education in Georgia.
The governor is currently considering a bill to lower the number of standardized tests given to Georgia students, in addition to changing the time window when the tests can be given. This is aimed at providing teachers more time to focus on core curriculum and student development as opposed to teaching test material.
The bill has received substantial backing from a majority of the state's education associations, but some detractors feel the bill reduces teacher accountability.
THE STATE BUDGET
Deal is expected to sign the state budget into law next week, and will travel the state on Monday for various budget signings in different Georgia communities.
The state budget is the only piece of legislation that is constitutionally required to be passed by the Legislature and signed into law.
The new budget could increase salaries for thousands of state employees and teachers and give state retirees a one-time boost. State employees would see 3 percent salary increases, and money would be allocated to local school districts to give the same raise to teachers.
Pay increases would also be provided for nurses in an effort to combat high-turnover for those at the state's public health agency or working with local public health entities.
Also included in the budget is new funding for more than $1 billion in road and bridge projects around the state.