Campus News

Legislative priorities largely accomplished in 2013 session

With the adjournment of the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly on March 28, the University System and UGA counted many of their legislative priorities as successful, pending approval by the governor.

“We are grateful to our state leaders and to the local delegation for making higher education a priority, despite these very challenging economic times,” said Griff Doyle, vice president for government relations.

Key among the legislation was action granting authority to USG institutions to carry forward to the following fiscal year certain ­unexpended revenues plus 3 percent of tuition. The approval allows more flexibility in budget management and allows funding of projects and strategic initiatives beyond one year, said Tricia Chastain, director of state relations.

Also passed was a bill giving the board of regents authority to set both the employee and employer contribution rates for the Optional Retirement Plan, as was a bill transferring the State Archives to the University System.

Another approved bill legalizes the sale of alcohol, excluding liquor, within 100 yards of a college or university campus-action sponsors said was designed to make it possible to lure one or more grocery stores to downtown Athens.

Rules banning firearm possession on college campuses will not change this year after legislation that would have done so was not acted upon by the time the legislative clock expired. But the bill survives as a conference committee report that will be up for consideration at the opening of next year’s legislative session.

The $1.883 billion state appropriations bill placed on the governor’s desk includes several UGA-specific items: $5 million for equipment for the new Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital; $2.6 million for renovations to the Fine Arts Building; $7.5 million for renovation of 4-H Rock Eagle cabins; $4.6 million for renovation of the Tift Building on the Tifton campus; $4 million for major repair and rehabilitation funds for the Cooperative Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Stations; and $1 million for equipment for the Agricultural Experiment Station.

There was some budget cutting, as well, including a 2.25 percent reduction for forestry research and the Agricultural and Forestry Cooperative Extension, and a 3 percent reduction for the Agricultural Experiment Station, Marine Extension and the Marine Institute. Ninety percent of a previous reduction to the construction of the Veterinary Medicine Hospital was restored.

The legislature approved $63 million in new formula funding to support enrollment growth in the University System, the second consecutive year full formula funding was approved.

Graduate medical education was increased by $2.075 million to $3.275 million, an important development for the Georgia Regents University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership.