Gov. Nathan Deal signed multiple bills into law Tuesday and signaled he would sign more in the coming days.
Deal signed his eighth and final state budget, which includes money that will end years of state education funding cuts. The more than $26 billion budget also includes money to help expand public transit in the metro Atlanta region.
Deal said he is pleased with Georgia’s financial situation compared to when he first took office.
“I think we’re on a great path,” Deal said. “To be able to hand over the state government to the next governor, in the kind of financial shape that I believe we will be in, is satisfying to me.”
Deal also said he plans to sign the legislation that will rebrand MARTA as The ATL on Thursday. It will allow the 13 counties in the metro Atlanta region to vote on joining one transit system operated by a single governing body.
After signing the budget, Deal traveled to Statesboro to sign the “Hands-Free Georgia Act.” That will make it illegal to hold your cellphone while driving except using one button to answer or end a call.
Deal said he believes the new law will save lives.
“If you listen to the stories of families who have lost loved ones or who were seriously injured as a result of collisions from drivers who were not watching the road because they were using their handheld device, you were pretty well convinced that there is a need to do something,” Deal said,
Texting while driving is already illegal in Georgia, but Deal said that law is hard to enforce.
“It’s going to be a whole lot easier to enforce than the one we have now,” Deal said. “Just simply saying no texting and driving and having signs on the roadway reminding people of that doesn’t seem to have stopped the process of people holding a phone and texting.”
The law goes into effect July 1, but there will be a 90-day grace period. A first offense under the new law is punishable by a ticket or points on your license.