published Friday, May 4th, 2012

Nathan Deal signs charter school bill and other region news

CANTON, Ga.

Deal signs charter school bill

Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation approving a funding system for Georgia charter schools created by the state.

Voters are set to decide in November whether to change the Georgia Constitution so state officials can create charter schools over the objection of local districts. Lawmakers acted to put the issue on the ballot, arguing it would clarify state law after a May ruling by the state Supreme Court that outlawed the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.

The bill signed Thursday is the "enabling" legislation that would re-establish the charter schools commission if voters approve the constitutional amendment.

ATLANTA

New law reduces jobless benefits

A Georgia law that will reduce the number of weeks people will be able to collect unemployment benefits has been signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Beginning July 1, unemployment benefits will be reduced from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of between 14 and 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate.

Supporters said the change was necessary because Georgia must pay back more than $760 million borrowed in recent years to cover unemployment benefits after the state's unemployment insurance trust fund was depleted during the recession.

At issue was how to pay that debt and replenish the unemployment insurance trust fund. Opponents blasted the plan, which slashes the number of weeks of benefits nearly in half, as harmful to the unemployed. The state's unemployment rate remains above the national average.

The governor also has signed into law a bill that eliminates the $1 charge for the optional "In God We Trust" decals for car license plates.

Senate Bill 293 also makes displaying a county decal optional. The license plate bill comes after the state had to re-do a public contest last year because "In God We Trust" appeared on possible designs without making it clear the motto was a sticker and not permanent.

The new law also takes effect July 1.

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