Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks to legislators during the Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, hosted by The University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, in Athens, Ga., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. (John Roark/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Veto day: Georgia signs Stockbridge bill, nixes hacking crackdown

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a measure Tuesday that would carve out a chunk out of Stockbridge to create a more affluent city and vetoed a hacking crackdown that has infuriated cybersecurity experts.  

Read more: Deal signs bill that would split Stockbridge into two cities

In the final hours of the 40-day signing period for legislation, the governor nixed 21 pieces of legislation overall - the most he’s ever vetoed. 

RELATED: See which bills Gov. Deal is considering

The two-term Republican has already signed the most consequential measures of the year into law, including a $26.2 billion budget, a measure that cuts the state’s income tax, a bill that allows for a significant expansion of mass transit and an update of the state’s decades-old adoption rules

Here’s a look at several of his most difficult decisions: 

SIGNED: Stockbridge

Stockbridge officials have threatened litigation if Deal signs Senate Bill 262, which would de-annex parts of the Henry County city to create a new municipality called Eagles Landing. And the fight has taken on economic and racial undertones.

The bill’s supporters say Stockbridge has long neglected to provide services such as parks and roads and that forming a new city would help the more affluent area to attract higher-end retail and restaurants. 

The opponents say the changes would rob the city of its most lucrative properties and set a worrisome new precedent by cannibalizing an existing city. They also contend the move is racially motivated, as the new city will be whiter and wealthier than Stockbridge. 

The governor signed the measure Tuesday, offering no immediate comment on the proposal. 

VETOED: Hacking

A proposal that would create a new crime of “unauthorized computer access” has drawn the scorn of tech giants and cybersecurity experts around the nation.

The measure, Senate Bill 315, was backed by Attorney General Chris Carr and other Republicans to give law enforcement officials new powers to pursue hackers who probe computer systems but don’t swipe any data. 

It was spurred in part by a security researcher who alerted Georgia election officials of a vulnerability at Kennesaw State University’s elections center, which was handling the data for the secretary of state’s office. 

But critics worried it could outlaw so-called “white hat” hacking by benevolent researchers who then report security weaknesses to those operating the computer system. And a group of security experts and tech firms warned Deal it would “chill security research” and debilitate the state’s growing cybersecurity industry.

In his veto statement, Deal said the measure may “inadvertently hinder the ability of government and private industries” to protect against online breaches and urged security officials and lawmakers to go back to the drawing board.

SIGNED: Brunch Bill

Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday signed legislation that allows voters to decide whether restaurants and wineries can sell alcohol earlier on Sundays. 

The “brunch bill,” Senate Bill 17, lets cities and counties ask local residents if alcohol should be sold at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Current law prohibits alcohol sales before 12:30 p.m. on Sundays.

VETOED: Healthcare 

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has high hopes for Senate Bill 357, which would create a new healthcare council composed of public health directors around the state – along with a director of policy and planning to report directly to the governor.

The measure was cast as a way to help Georgia grapple with the opioid crisis and plan for other epidemics. And it would create an 18-member Health Coordination and Innovation Council to help hash out strategy. 

The governor, however, said he was concerned that Senate Bill 357 created a new government body to coordinate health policy when several state agencies already have similar missions. He said in his veto message that it should be left up to his successor to shape his or her executive team.

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