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Political Pulse: Gov. Deal signs numerous pieces of legislation
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Gov. Nathan Deal signed quite a few of the banner pieces of legislation from this year’s session of the General Assembly this week.

On Wednesday, Deal signed a bill that significantly alters how Georgia punishes those convicted of nonviolent crimes.

House Bill 1176 is the result of the Criminal Justice Reform Council and seeks out alternatives, including treatment, for those with drug and alcohol convictions. The governor’s office, which heavily supported the legislation in its earliest of days, says it also will save the state money.

The bill received unanimous support in both chambers of the General Assembly. The governor said in a prepared statement:

“This will pay dividends to taxpayers over and over, from the reduced cost to our prison system to the increase in the number of people who return to the workforce and support their families.”

Deal also signed a bill that outlaws abortions 20 weeks after conception. The bill, which has come to be known as the “fetal pain bill,” was written by Athens Rep. Doug McKillip and co-sponsored by Gainesville Rep. Doug Collins.

During the bill’s heated debate in committee hearings, each side brought in experts to testify at what point after conception a fetus could feel pain.

Deal’s staff, in a release on the bill’s signing, was careful about that, saying that the 20-week limit is “the time when some believe a fetus can begin to feel pain.”

But Deal’s signature, no doubt, showed his support for the measure.

“Today, we are reaffirming Georgia’s commitment to preserving the sanctity of all human life,” Deal said in the release. “This legislation provides humane protection to innocents capable of feeling pain, while making an important exception in the case of medically futile pregnancies.”

Speaking of the governor, a little more than two weeks ago at a forum sponsored by the South Hall Republican Club, Brad Dunagan, who is seeking the office of tax commissioner, claimed to have his and Sandra Deal’s endorsement.

In fact, he said he was the only candidate in the race with such an endorsement.

This week, he’s said the statement was a mistake.

Dunagan, at 59, is Sandra Deal’s youngest brother, and says he has worked with his brother-in-law on some of his campaigns.

Sandra Deal has donated $1,000 to her brother’s campaign, which he said is his largest campaign contribution thus far.

Dunagan claimed the endorsement just before he sat down at the forum where each candidate present was given about two minutes to speak. His sister later asked him to clarify.

He apologized this week if his statement was misleading, but said the endorsement he claimed was not official but personal.

“I guess I was just under pressure to say something and try to make my case as tax commissioner,” Dunagan said. “I had not prepared to say it. I was reaching for brownie points, I guess.”

Ashley Fielding is the senior political reporter for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with her:

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