ATLANTA - Gov. Roy Barnes put the finishing touches on his 2001 legislative agenda Monday, traveling to Waynesboro, Macon and Americus to sign legislation to speed up completion of a network of four-lane highways.
The bill, aimed at boosting industry in rural Georgia, was among the last the governor penned into law Monday, the constitutional deadline for him to sign measures from the 2001 General Assembly session.
Mr. Barnes had until midnight Monday, the 40th day since the end of the session, to sign bills. But with plans for the day's fly-around in place, he signed most of the bills last weekend, according to his staff.
"Instead of burning the midnight oil, he burned the weekend oil," said Stephanie Karijan, Mr. Barnes' deputy press secretary.
Any bill the governor does not sign and has not vetoed by the deadline becomes law by default.
This year, Mr. Barnes vetoed one Senate bill, six House bills and a handful of budget line items during the 40 days between the end of the General Assembly session and the signing deadline.
The most significant of the vetoes quashed measures loosening the state's motorcycle-helmet law and limiting the governor's discretion in appointing members of the Board of Natural Resources.
Under the helmet bill - sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell, D-Hartwell - failing to wear a motorcycle helmet would not have been considered a moving violation and could not have been used as a reason to assess points on a motorist's driving record.
The Department of Natural Resources board bill would have required governors to appoint a farmer to the board and asked Mr. Barnes to consider naming a forester or forest landowner and a physician with experience in environmental-health issues.
Both of those vetoes occurred late last week. On Monday, lawmakers showed little sense of drama.
"I may be missing one, but I don't remember a controversial one that he might be vetoing," said Senate Minority Leader Eric Johnson, R-Savannah. "I'm ... far away and trying to get work done."
The only veto issued by Mr. Barnes on Monday was a piece of local legislation affecting Appling County. Two of the governor's other vetoes also were local measures, one to create a charter-and-unification commission for Cusseta and Chattahoochee County, and the other to abolish the position of city manager in Fort Oglethorpe and make the mayor full time, subject to a voter referendum.
Each year, the majority of bills passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor prompt little controversy. Of the 389 bills from this session that Mr. Barnes signed, 48 percent were local items.
All three cities Mr. Barnes visited Monday lie along highways that are part of the Governor's Road Improvement Program, a 12-year-old effort to upgrade primarily rural roads so they can become a tool for business development.
The network includes such long-awaited projects as the Fall Line Freeway linking Augusta with Columbus via Macon, the Savannah River Parkway between Augusta and Savannah and the Golden Isles Parkway running from Brunswick into middle Georgia.
The road bill will allow the state to issue revenue bonds in anticipation of federal highway aid earmarked for Georgia in future years. Accelerating the funding will free up as much as $450 million a year, more than twice what the state has been spending on the program.
The influx of money will allow the state to finish the work within seven years.
Reach Dave Williams and Doug Gross at (404) 589-8424.
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