The new fiscal year begins July 1. Legislators will debate the budget in the coming weeks of a session that is expected to last until early or mid-April.
The Deal administration is backing proposals from a juvenile justice commission to increase financial support for and emphasis on community programs intended to divert minor offenders from imprisonment in the adult system. Deal said the plan tracks previous sentencing changes and other policy shifts in the adult criminal law system.
Meanwhile, he said, lawmakers should reduce the blood-alcohol level that triggers a citation for boat operators from 0.1 percent to .08 percent. "If you're too drunk to drive an automobile, then you're too drunk to drive a boat," he said. That policy proposal follows an increase in boating accidents and fatalities on Georgia waterways.
The governor reserved perhaps his most spirited tone to discuss ethics, though he offered no specific policy proposal. House and Senate leaders are embroiled in a back-and-forth over how to tighten regulations on who must register as a lobbyist and how much those registered individuals can spend on interactions with elected officials.
"There will always be those in the media and elsewhere who thrive on sowing the seeds of doubt and distrust and who will never recant their sinister innuendos and malicious accusations even when they are vanquished by truth," Deal said. "And while you will never silence those voices of discord, nor should you try to do so, you can bolster the confidence of the public that might be tempted to listen to them by simply establishing clear rules under which you and those who deal with you in your capacity as elected officials must operate."
Deal praised Georgia voters for approving a 2012 constitutional amendment that will result in more independent public charter schools. "The message they sent was this this: They are not satisfied with the status quo. And neither am I," he said.