Gov. Brian Kemp has been busy exercising his veto pen.
The Republican governor has vetoed 14 bills the General Assembly passed during this year’s legislative session, not including nine vetoes of line items in the $32.4 billion fiscal 2024 state budget he signed late last week.
The 14 vetoes were highlighted by legislation sponsored by several GOP legislative leaders to establish a needs-based program of tuition grants for Georgia technical college students.
Legislative Democrats have long argued the state should feature needs-based scholarships along with the popular HOPE program, which awards scholarships based on merit. But in his veto message, Kemp wrote that the legislature didn’t put up the money in House Bill 249 to fund the program.
“The proposals in this bill are subject to appropriations and the General Assembly failed to fully fund these educational incentives,” the governor wrote.
Other bills Kemp vetoed include:
— House Bill 193 increasing the value of local government public works contracts subject to competitive bidding requirements from $100,000 to $250,000. Kemp argued state contracts worth more than $100,000 must be competitively bid, and he saw no reason to be more lenient with local contracts.
— House Bill 541 expanding Georgia’s “move over” law to apply to any stationary vehicle displaying flashing hazard lights. Kemp argued applying the requirement to such a broad group of emergency vehicles would pose a safety and enforcement hazard.
— Senate Bill 199 allowing the Employee Benefit Plan Council to offer health savings accounts to all eligible state employees to be funded through automatic salary deductions. Kemp wrote the fiscal ramifications of such a step have not been fully explored.
The nine budget line-item vetoes include several projects on Georgia’s public university and technical college campuses to be financed through bonds. In each case, Kemp wrote the projects had not been requested by the University System of Georgia or the Technical College System of Georgia.
The projects include:
— $6 million for a dental school building at Georgia Southern University.
— $6 million to expand a medical building at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia.
— $4 million for land acquisition for Georgia Piedmont Technical College in DeKalb County.
— $2 million to build a new student services and academic support center at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.
Kemp also vetoed $4 million in bond funding to expand the medical examiner’s office in Bibb County, arguing the project already has received funding.