Athens, GA – Governor Nathan Deal addressed the Athens GOP today in a special Saturday meeting. This is the first time Athens has hosted this GOP event. Among the topics of his speech: the medical marijuana bill, education, and jobs.

The Governor started his speech saying he would be as brief as possible, so that he could take as many questions from the audience as he can.

Grady NewSource was live tweeting the event, but here’s a topic recap:

– Manufacturing: Deal sees the manufacturing business growing in the future, which has been proven, he says, by the Caterpillar plant opening in Athens.

– Education: Deal says he wants to focus less money on education remediation and more on making sure children know how to read early on by the third grade. The state will pay 100% of students’ tuition if they major in fields that are needed in Georgia, such as welding, information technology, and early childhood education. He says that’s “putting money where the jobs are.”

– Prisons: Georgia has one of the highest prison populations in the nation. Deal says the state will start a program that helps released criminals transition back into the work force. He says this is because he wants to help inmates be “law abiding, tax paying citizens rather than draining the community.”

– The film industry: “It is phenomenal what is happening with film in Georgia,” he says. He is confident that Georgia could bump California out of the way and be the new L.A. He says deep roots in the film industry would “be good for all of us.”

Question and Answer Session with the Governor:

Q: Deepening of the Port of Savannah

A: Put $35 million additionally for deepening, want to move it forward as quickly as possible. 3 – 4 years for dredging river

Q: How to improve online learning (on the college level)

A: Improve the “connectivity of the Internet” to everyone. And GPB will film the “best of the best” teachers to support students.

Q: What is Georgia doing to address highway maintenance?

A: Re-visit allocation of money: prioritize projects with the most significance

Q: What is going to be done about medical marijuana (cannabis)?

A: “Exploring” options: working with hospital and pharmaceutical board because “we cannot just open the floodgate” on this topic. Deal says he sees this being a clinical trial that is very controlled and monitored. He says they have to be careful because of federal laws.

Q: Nuclear energy plants in Georgia

A: “We have to have an affordable and reliable energy supplier”, Deal says. This would help phase out coal plants.

Q: What is GA doing to help veterans get jobs?

A:  Try to align skills with a profession that will give them credit for their training in the military. 60,000 to 80,000 are returning in the next three years, “we want to take advantage of those skills.”

Governor Deal closed his speech by saying that colleges needed to re-evaluate their degree programs and focus on graduation numbers. “Education ought to lead to employment,” he says.

His speech was very similar to the one he gave on the first day of the legislative session, with most of the same topics and accomplishments.

Alexa Knowles and Alma McCarty reporting.

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