ATLANTA— Gov. Brian Kemp Wednesday vetoed four bills the General Assembly passed during the 2020 session, signed a fifth bill reluctantly and hinted he will call a special session of the legislature later this year.
The most significant of the vetoed bills called for the creation of an oversight committee to review the performance and conduct of all contractors and subcontractors working for the insurance plan that covers Georgia teachers and state employees.
In a veto message issued late Wednesday, Kemp argued the committee would violate the separation of powers provision of the Georgia Constitution.
“Two-thirds of the proposed committee’s members would be members of the General Assembly,” the governor wrote. “Further, the powers prescribed to the proposed committee largely supplant the planning, policy making, and oversight powers exercised by the [state] Board of Public Health.
“Since such boards are considered creatures of the executive branch of state government, it is possible that service by members of the General Assembly on the Healthcare Transparency and Accountability Oversight Committee could violate the separation of powers.”
Kemp also vetoed legislation calling for a nonbinding referendum asking voters in Glynn County whether the local police department should be abolished and its functions transferred to the Glynn County Sheriff. He pointed out that the General Assembly also passed legislation this year providing a binding referendum on that issue, and there can’t be two laws on the books on the same subject.
A third vetoed bill would have authorized Georgia to enter into a compact with other states to regulate the audiology and speech-language pathology professions. Kemp wrote the measure was not put before a state council that reviews occupational regulations.
Finally, Kemp nixed a local bill for Gwinnett County at the request of its sponsor, Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, that would have added senior judges to the county Recorder’s Court.
Kemp also issued a statement explaining that he signed House Bill 105 only because it will provide a critical income tax exemption for Georgia farmers who received state and/or federal disaster relief to help offset losses from Hurricane Michael, which ripped through South Georgia in October 2018.
The governor pointed to a technicality in a late amendment to the bill unrelated to the tax exemption that could render the entire measure open to a legal challenge.
“If the bill is ever challenged, the measure may not withstand judicial scrutiny, resulting in the unraveling of the tax structures it created,” Kemp wrote. “Our farmers, especially, cannot afford further economic hardship.”
As a result, Kemp indicated he plans to call lawmakers back to the Gold Dome for a special session to pass the tax exemption as a separate measure to make sure farmers are protected.
Importantly, he also hinted the special session might include adjustments to the $25.9 billion fiscal 2021 state budget the General Assembly passed in late June. As the economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, more business closures and job losses could drive state tax revenues even lower, which might force Kemp and the legislature to make additional spending cuts.