A Legislative Update From Amy Carter

| March 24, 2014

Amy-CarterATLANTA, GA – Representative Amy Carter gives local citizens an update on what the final days of the legislative session held for her and other representatives.

Final approval of $20.8 billion budget highlights session’s final week

The 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly came to an end late in the evening on March 20. During the session’s final week, the House of Representatives and Senate completed work on a $20.8 billion state budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1. HB 744 represents a 5 percent total increase over the current year’s budget and includes the following highlights:

  • $314 million in additional Quality Basic Education formula funds for public schools. School system equalization grants received a $5 million increase, and an additional $414,585 went to school nurse funding.
  • Several new programs for Georgia’s technical colleges, including $7.3 million for full tuition reimbursements for Zell Miller HOPE Grant recipients; $5 million in tuition assistance for high-demand job training; $2.15 million for dual-enrolled students’ tuition and expenses; and a $10 million low-interest loan program from lottery funds.
  • Merit-based pay increases for state employees.
  • $8 million for improvements to airports around the state, to be supplemented by $20 million in federal matching funds
  • New Public Health funding for Hepatitis C screenings, an Alzheimer’s Registry and training for early autism diagnosis and intervention providers
  • Funding for new Behavioral Health waiver slots and Child Support agent retention.

In the budget’s bond package, major items of local interest include:

  • $1.9 million in pre-design funds for the $25.6 million Lanier Hall, an Allied Health Building on the Valdosta campus of Wiregrass Technical College. This addition will allow Wiregrass Tech to provide classroom space for seven medical programs and additional space for many of the college’s 17 existing allied health programs.
  • $1.9 million for the University Center renovation project at Valdosta State University.
  • $1.605 million in library funds, including $280,000 in state funding for South Georgia Regional Library, divided as follows: $100,000 for roof, $100,000 for heating/air conditioning, $75,000 for mold remediation and $5,000 for structural improvements. With $280,000 in state funds plus a local match of $1.06 million, the project costs will total $1.34 million.

HB 744 now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal, who can sign the budget in its entirety or veto selected line items.

New Zell Miller HOPE Grant to assist technical college students

HB 697 received final approval to create the Zell Miller HOPE Grant program to cover full tuition costs for HOPE-eligible technical college students who maintain at least a 3.5 grade point average.

This legislation is intended to attract top students back to Georgia’s technical college after an earlier reduction in tuition assistance had resulted in a nearly 20 percent enrollment drop-off.

Restoring these funds will not only help our technical college students, but they will help Georgia have a more skilled workforce.

2nd Amendment rights preserved in approval of legislation

The House and Senate agreed on an amended version of HB 60, allowing LICENSED, LAW-ABIDING citizens ages 21 and older to carry weapons in more public areas than presently authorized.

The Safe Carry Protection Act continues to respect the rights of private property owners and gives congregations the option of deciding whether to allow weapons to be carried in their places of worship.

HB 60 awaits the governor’s signature.

Source: Representative Amy Carter

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