Deal backs guns for school administrators

By Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Gov. Nathan Deal announced Wednesday that he will offer legislation to beef up the state's review of mental-health records for gun permit applicants.
He also predicted passage for a bill that would allow trained administrators to have guns in schools. 
His comments came in response to reporters' questions following remarks to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's annual Eggs and Issues breakfast. Other state leaders also spoke, but only Deal faced the media. 
"Most of what we will probably see will come out of Washington, either through the executive orders that the president is talking about now or federal legislation," he said. "There is one area I do believe we need to tighten up, and that is the checking of mental-health records for permitting purposes."
He said much of any new gun-control measures were in the realm of federal government, and President Barrack Obama unveiled his proposal later in the day. 
But the governor acknowledged one idea in response to the Connecticut shooting that he agreed with, a bill to allow administrators who undergo the same weapons training as law-enforcement officers to carry guns in schools. 
Of the bills already introduced in Georgia's legislature as of the third day of the current 40-day session, he predicted the only one to succeed is from Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, that would authorize local school boards to arm principals if they choose.
"That one does have some merit," said Deal, in what is as close as he ever gets to endorsing anyone else's proposals. "If someone is going to be in an environment around children, they certainly need to be trained. I think it's one that may receive favorable consideration by the General Assembly"
Other bills pending would either impose greater restrictions on the owning of firearms or remove them entirely. 
In his formal remarks, the governor defending shifting the taxing of hospital revenue from lawmakers to a board of his appointees. Conservatives have said renewal of the hospital tax that funds the state's share of Medicaid amounts to a violation of a pledge many Republican legislators made never to raise taxes. 
Deal said give taxing power to the Community Health Board is no more of a political cop-out than doing the same thing with a nursing home tax for Medicaid in 2003. 
"It seems to me we could streamline the process by consolidating the functions of both the nursing homes and hospitals in the authority of the board that has responsibility for oversight of these two bulwarks of our healthcare system," he said. 
A Senate committee approved the shift Tuesday, and the full Senate will vote Thursday, the day Deal presents his full budget plan for the next fiscal year. 

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