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Monday, May 2, 2011 - 11:46am

Heavy Bill-Signing Schedule for Deal This Week

Gov. Nathan Deal will sign at least one bill every day this week, making stops in Milledgeville, Augusta and Tifton to do so. He is steadily addressing the nearly 300 bills the legislature passed this year, and soon he'll have to act on the session’s most important legislation.

Gov. Deal signed a bill today that will allow public-private partnerships to pursue reservoir and other water conservation projects. This week, he will sign a bill that stiffens penalties for sex traffickers. He will also sign other bills that pertain to emergency response, agriculture and natural resources.

He has not yet signed the 2012 budget or the controversial immigration control bill. Deal says he'll sign the immigration bill towards the end of the 40-day bill-signing period. He's said he wants to handle the less provocative bills first.

Spokesman Brian Robinson says the Governor will try to finish signing bills by mid-May, when he heads to England and Germany.

“Basically we have to get everything done in the next two weeks," Robinson said. "He is going on an economic development trip. While technically he can probably sign bills while he’s out of the country, he’s going to try to get it all done in the next two weeks.”

Deal has the power to veto line items in the $18.3 billion 2012 budget. Robinson declined to say whether the Governor will veto any parts of the budget, but said he's taking the time to review the spending plan very carefully.

Deal has already signed some of the session's most publicized bills, including legislation that overhauled the state's college scholarship program, known as HOPE. He also signed a bill that will allow cities and towns to hold votes on whether to allow grocery stores and other retailers to sell alcohol on Sundays.

On Monday, Deal said the public-private reservoir bill is "particularly useful at times such as these when budget cutbacks hinder our ability to invest in new infrastructure."

"This stretches public dollars by attracting partners to move forward with public works projects that will benefit the citizens of the state for generations," he said. "The lack of funding has hampered progress, even with a punishing drought in recent memory. This legislation will help us get projects moving before the next drought.