Governor Sonny Perdue Vetoes Twenty-One Bills
|Wednesday, June 4, 2003||
Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774
Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue today vetoed 21 bills. At the conclusion of the 2003 legislative session, 443 bills were presented to Governor Perdue for review.
The following House Bills were vetoed: HB26, HB 56, HB147, HB 290, HB 314, HB 424, HB445, HB 497, HB 503, HB 544, HB 619, HB 638 and HB 673.
The following Senate Bills were vetoed: SB 81, SB 88, SB 178, SB 187, SB 202, SB 206, SB 221 and SB265.
Summary messages for each vetoed bill are provided below.
VETO NUMBER 1 - House Bill 619
House Bill 619 would create a new hybrid form of group accident and sickness insurance known as "franchise group plan[s]" offered through "franchise associations." Although this legislation appears to establish a type of group health insurance plan, it does not. Regardless of association membership, applicants would be individually underwritten and the health insurer would be allowed to determine who would be eligible for coverage. These provisions create a perception that group health plan coverage may be available when it is not. Other States are taking action to limit the marketing of these association health plan policies. To protect consumers and ensure the stability of the small group market, I VETO House Bill 619.
VETO NUMBER 2 - House Bill 26
In an effort to facilitate exploration, discovery, and recording of archaeological artifacts and to provide some oversight by the State, House Bill 26 was introduced to establish "zones" along the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers; only in these zones would "the collecting of isolated submerged finds of chipped tools or edged weapons" be permissible by persons 16 years-old or older pursuant to a license issued by the Department of Natural Resources for such purpose. In addition to required licensure, this bill establishes barriers to collecting, by limiting these activities to zones established by the Department of Natural Resources at locations where river access may be obtained through State owned or controlled real property adjoining the river and by setting annual periods during which collecting in such zones may occur. It is not clear that this bill adequately addresses the needs of those that support regulation or those being regulated.
The Department of Natural Resources estimates that the required surveying of the rivers would cost approximately $170,000 for the Flint River and $420,000 for the Chattahoochee River. These costs would be in addition to the first year start-up and operating costs of $325,000 and an annual on-going cost of $180,000. Given the enormous fiscal pressures currently facing the State, I VETO House Bill 26.
VETO NUMBER 3 - House Bill 56
House Bill 56 would change the attachment of the State Medical Education Board and the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce from the Department of Community Health to the Board of Regents. In addition to moving the boards' administrative attachments, it expands the authority of the boards and designates them as "independent agencies," divorcing them entirely from the Department of Community Health. Because of the importance of the budgetary oversight function the Department of Community Health currently exercises over these boards, I VETO House Bill 56.
VETO NUMBER 4 - House Bill 147
House Bill 147 would allow the Board of Community Health to include the employees and retiring employees of agricultural commodity commissions in State health insurance plans. A version of this legislation was introduced in the 2002 session (House Bill 1494). As my predecessor noted in vetoing that bill, the inclusion of such groups would change the plans' risk pool in unpredictable ways and may put the State's exemption from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) at risk. 2002 Ga. Laws CDXXXIII. To continue to protect against both these risks, I VETO House Bill 147.
VETO NUMBER 5 - House Bill 290
Section 2 of House Bill 290 would exempt from the two percent cap on local option sales taxes "any specific excise taxes on prepared food and beverages." The effect of this change to the sales tax law is unclear. It could allow some local governmental entities to raise the percentage at which the sales of prepared food and beverages are taxed without a voter referendum-in some cases to a total sales tax rate of nine percent or greater. Therefore, I VETO House Bill 290.
VETO NUMBER 6 - House Bill 314
This bill would allow the State general fund to capture interest earned on the Georgia Greenspace Trust Fund. Interest earned on monies appropriated or otherwise provided for greenspace should remain in the fund for its intended use. Therefore, I VETO House Bill 314.
VETO NUMBER 7 - House Bill 424
The original version of House Bill 424 allowed payroll deductions for State employees enrolled in the Georgia Higher Education Savings Plan. An amendment to this bill would allow "public employees of any critical access hospital authority or federally qualified health center" to join the State's deferred compensation plans.
The State's deferred compensation plans are subject to specific exemptions from federal tax rules. There is concern that adding these additional employees without a specific ruling from the Internal Revenue Service approving of their addition could jeopardize these exemptions. In order to ensure that the State's benefit plans do not run afoul of federal law, I will encourage the State Merit System of Personnel Administration to obtain rulings by the appropriate federal authorities to determine the permissibility of adding these employees to the plans in anticipation of similar legislation in the future. Without such rulings, however, the potential negative effects of this amendment render this bill impossible to sign. Therefore, I reluctantly VETO House Bill 424 and encourage the General Assembly to pass the payroll deduction portion of this bill next year as a stand-alone measure, and the remaining portions if it is conclusively determined that they will not jeopardize the State's benefit plans under federal law.
VETO NUMBER 8 - House Bill 497
House Bill 497 would create the East Central Georgia Railroad Excursion Authority, a new authority with the power to borrow, lend, tax, contract, bond, and receive state appropriations. Given the current fiscal challenges facing this state, I VETO House Bill 497.
VETO NUMBER 9 - House Bill 503
House Bill 503 would exempt residents of Glynn County from paying the toll on the F.J. Torras Causeway leading from U.S. 17 to Saint Simons Island, Georgia. As Chairman of the State Road and Tollway Authority, I am announcing that the Authority will eliminate altogether the toll on this causeway by year's end. Currently, funds from the toll total $8.3 million, with total debt on the project of only $1.7 million. The 1980 agreement between the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration initially setting up the toll provided that "[n]o toll shall be charged for the use of the Torras Causeway after the Department has been repaid for its share of the construction costs. After the date of the final repayment [of debt on the causeway], the Torras causeway shall be maintained or operated as toll free facility." By ending the toll this year, the State will honor this agreement. Based on this announcement, I VETO House Bill 503.
VETO NUMBER 10 - House Bill 544
House Bill 544 provides for governmental entities to enter into hedge contracts in connection with the issuance of revenue bonds. The State's Deputy Chief Financial Officer has expressed concerns that this bill does not provide adequate safeguards against the risks inherent in derivative financing. Therefore, I VETO House Bill 544 and encourage the General Assembly to revisit this issue with an improved bill that appropriately balances the rewards of hedge contracts with their risks.
VETO NUMBER 11 - House Bill 638
House Bill 638 would allow "public employees of any critical access hospital authority or federally qualified health center" to join the State's deferred compensation plans. It further allows the addition of employees of "federally qualified health center[s]" to the state health benefit plan. The inclusion of such groups would change the plan's risk pool in unpredictable ways. In addition, the State Merit System of Personnel Administration has raised the concern that absent favorable determinations by the appropriate federal regulatory agencies on the effect of adding such employees to the plans, their addition could jeopardize the plans' exemptions from certain federal tax rules and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). In order to ensure that the State's benefit plans do not run afoul of federal law, I will encourage the State Merit System of Personnel Administration to obtain rulings by the appropriate federal authorities to determine the permissibility of adding these employees to the plans in anticipation of similar legislation in the future. Out of deference to the Merit System's current concerns, however, I VETO House Bill 638.
VETO NUMBER 12 - House Bill 445
House Bill 445 would change the number of magistrates authorized for the Magistrate Court of Fulton County. The Chief Judge of the State Court of Fulton County has requested that I veto this bill. Therefore, I VETO House Bill 445.
VETO NUMBER 13 - House Bill 673
House Bill 673 would create the City of LaGrange Gas Authority. I have already signed Senate Bill 158, which also creates the City of LaGrange Gas Authority; therefore, I VETO House Bill 673.
VETO NUMBER 14 - Senate Bill 81
Senate Bill 81 would create the "Georgia Emergency Medical Services Medical Directors Advisory Council." A similar, informal committee has been meeting under the auspices of the Department of Human Resources for some time, and this legislation seeks to codify the committee. No case has been made that the informal committee is in need of codification. Therefore, I VETO Senate Bill 81.VETO NUMBER 15 - Senate Bill 88
Senate Bill 88 would change the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Authority from an authority to a division of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
This bill also changes the DCA Board composition. By adding two new members-chairpersons of the sports and music advisory committees-the bill makes a significant change to an important statewide board. As members of the DCA board, chairpersons of the advisory committees would need to be knowledgeable not only about sports or music, but also about the wide range of other issues before the board. Additionally, there are several other entities or organizations similar to the halls of fame in their relationship with DCA, but which would not have membership on the DCA board. These prescriptive appointments on the DCA Board are unprecedented. Therefore, I VETO Senate Bill 88.
VETO NUMBER 16 - Senate Bill 178
Senate Bill 178 would provide a ten percent increase annually in state salary for school counselors and school social workers for each year in which such a professional holds national certification. Our school counselors and school social workers perform very valuable services under tough circumstances. In the future, the Department of Education will need to review the research-supported effects of national certification to determine whether such certification improves employee performance and advances student achievement. In the current budget environment and in the fiscal landscape for the near future, however, I cannot commit the State to this new expenditure; therefore, I VETO Senate Bill 178.
VETO NUMBER 17 - Senate Bill 187
Senate Bill 187 would create a State-level training program for airport managers. Currently, a national certification program for airport managers already exists. This legislation would create a duplicative program at a projected cost of over $250,000. I, therefore, VETO Senate Bill 187.
VETO NUMBER 18 - Senate Bill 221
Section 3 of Senate Bill 221 restricts the use of excess tollway dollars specifically to "any project physically or operationally connected with and bearing the same state highway system route number as [the] toll project." Under this provision the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) could be precluded from using funds for connecting intersection improvements and other operationally related mobility-enhancing projects within the tollway corridor.
This legislation is a result of the attempted diversion of State Route 400 toll dollars to projects that have no impact or relevance to State Route 400. The State Route 400 corridor is one of our State's most important economic centers, and with pressing transportation needs in this area, we need the flexibility to fund improvements on State Route 400 itself, its connecting roads and other improvements that provide mobility-enhancing benefits to State Route 400. This bill, although well intended, could limit road improvements that are beneficial to State Route 400 commuters. I remain strongly committed to ensuring that State Route 400 toll dollars are used expressly for improvements within this corridor.Today I am issuing an Order, as Chairman of the SRTA, directing SRTA to prepare immediately operating rules and regulations that will require that all toll dollars collected from the State Route 400 project remain within the corridor in which they are collected. These new rules and regulations will be for adoption at the next meeting of the Authority. This Order protects State Route 400 toll dollars while providing the flexibility Georgia needs to meet the specific transportation needs within the 400 corridor. Therefore, I hereby VETO Senate Bill 221.
VETO NUMBER 19 - Senate Bill 265
Senate Bill 265 would create a state registry of automated external defibrillators and allow the Emergency Health Section of the Division of Public Health of the Department of Human Resources to promulgate rules and regulations for their placement and registry. Defibrillators are registered and tracked by local 911 systems. As a result, additional regulatory requirements are duplicative, therefore I VETO Senate Bill 265.
VETO NUMBER 20 - Senate Bill 202
Senate Bill 202 would create the Cartersville Building Authority. I have already signed House Bill 694, which also creates the Cartersville Building Authority; therefore, I VETO Senate Bill 202.
VETO NUMBER 21 - Senate Bill 206
Senate Bill 206 would create a board of elections and registration for Butts County. The Butts County Board of Commissioners has requested that I veto this bill. Therefore, I VETO Senate Bill 206.