Legislature OKs CSU science building money

— Clayton State University officials have waited years to break ground on a new science building, but they may not have to wait much longer.

Both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly passed a $19.8 billion state budget Thursday that includes $19.8 million to build a science facility at the Morrow-based school. The Senate passed the budget conference committee report 54-0 in the waning hours of the assembly’s final day of work for the year. The House of Representatives passed it 175-1 shortly thereafter.

In a joint statement, Clayton County legislators called the passage a “milestone” for the university that will allow it to eliminate backlogs of students waiting to take science classes.

“It is important that now CSU can graduate more nurses, health care workers and science teachers,” said state Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Ellenwood). “This will have a long-term positive impact on our county economically.”

The inclusion of the science building funds in the state budget capped a legislative term that saw many goals for the county fulfilled. After two ears of waiting, Forest Park and the school system saw the passage of key legislation they have wanted. The transfer of the Georgia Archives to the University System of Georgia was also approved.

And, in a rare case of wanting to see a bill fail, county and school system officials got their wishes when a bill that would prohibit the county from collecting ad valorem taxes on businesses leasing space at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport stalled in the Senate. Since the General Assembly has adjourned for the remainder of the year, officials now have nine months to kill the bill.

But, the science building was the cherry on top of the ice cream.

During senate debates on the budget, Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) told his colleagues Gov. Nathan Deal helped secure the building project's place in the state budget.

Deal must sign the budget before it becomes official.

“That was a project that was badly needed over the last few years, but the governor stepped forward and helped us,” said Hill. “That was such a huge project. It would have really burdened our bond package but he stepped forward and realized it was the right thing to do.”

In a statement released Friday morning, Clayton State University President Tim Hynes praised state leaders in the Republican and Democratic parties for what he called “truly a bipartisan effort” to secure the building’s funding.

He also praised Clayton County legislators for fighting for the funding through out the legislative term. The university has been trying for at least five years to get money to build the science building, which is expected to add 16 science labs to the 11 labs already in place.

“The leadership of our delegation from the Southern Crescent area was instrumental in securing agreement from the General Assembly to move ahead with the construction of this facility,” said Hynes.

Local legislation awaits Deal’s signature

A bill to clean up language in Forest Park’s charter has been waiting for Deal’s signature since early February. The language was not previously changed as it should have been during a previous charter amendment that reduced the number of City Council seats.

Legislation was also passed this week to repeal two existing Clayton County-specific school board ethics laws. The school system began pursuing the repeals in 2011 after they were required to comply with a conflicting statewide school board ethics law. The statewide law made the local ethics laws redundant and unnecessary. That bill is also awaiting Deal’s signature.

Jonesboro tax referendum bill falters

the one piece of long sought key local legislation that failed to reach Deal’s desk was a bill calling for a referendum on lowering Jonesboro’s Homestead Exemption from $60,000 to $10,000.

It made it out of the House, but it wasn’t able to get through the processes involved in getting out of the Senate.

“HB 330 failed to get out of committee in the Senate,” said Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro) in an email sent during the House’s final session Thursday night.

Technically, the bill isn’t dead because any legislation that didn’t make it out of the General Assembly by Thursday is still alive until the end of the 2014 legislative term. However, the legislation called for a November 2013 referendum so the date would have to be changed in the Senate. That would, in turn, require it to be reviewed by the House again before it can go to the governor.