Deal reserved perhaps his most spirited tone to discuss ethics, though he offered no specific policy proposal. House and Senate leaders are embroiled in a back-and-forth over how to tighten regulations on who must register as a lobbyist and how much those registered individuals can spend on interactions with elected officials.
"There will always be those in the media and elsewhere who thrive on sowing the seeds of doubt and distrust and who will never recant their sinister innuendos and malicious accusations even when they are vanquished by truth," Deal said. "And while you will never silence those voices of discord, nor should you try to do so, you can bolster the confidence of the public that might be tempted to listen to them by simply establishing clear rules under which you and those who deal with you in your capacity as elected officials must operate."
Deal agreed last year to pay $3,350 to settle three ethics complaints filed against him over his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The state ethics commission also dismissed four additional complaints against him.
Before he was elected governor, Deal was the focus of an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics. The review focused on his meetings with the state's revenue commissioner to preserve a lucrative arrangement with his Gainesville auto salvage business. A report released in 2010 by the independent, non-partisan entity said Deal may have violated House rules. But he left Congress before any action could be taken and he was never charged with any wrongdoing.
Deal praised Georgia voters for approving a 2012 constitutional amendment that will result in more independent public charter schools. "The message they sent was this: They are not satisfied with the status quo. And neither am I," he said.
The governor's education agenda this year, however, is relatively thin. Besides the pre-kindergarten boost, his budget adds money to the HOPE scholarship program. But his agenda does not include any policy favorites of the school-choice movement that has pushed private-school tuition vouchers and charter school expansion. Deal said he wants Georgia to continue to monitor progress under curriculum tweaks and other policy changes — many of them part of winning federal grants from the Obama administration.
Associated Press writer Ray Henry contributed to this report.
Follow Barrow on Twitter (at)BillBarrowAP.