Legislative Notebook: New budget includes Houston, Bibb projects

March 28, 2013 

On the last day of their annual session, lawmakers in the state House and Senate agreed on a $41 billion budget that they will send to Gov. Nathan Deal for his approval.

Lawmakers want to finance a $10 million bond to build and furnish a Military and Veterans Academic and Training Center in Warner Robins. Deal’s budget recommended the same. The campus will offer courses from both the Board of Regents and the Technical College System of Georgia.

On the medical front, lawmakers want to appropriate nearly $21 million for its annual grant to the Mercer University School of Medicine, up from the $20.3 million recommended by Deal. The private school gets the grant in order to train doctors who will work in underserved rural areas.

Houston Medical Center would get six new family medicine residency slots worth $124,000 under the legislators’ budget, an outlay not mentioned by the governor. And lawmakers want to sell bonds to build a $16.4 million Health Services Center, a facility to teach medical-related professions, at Middle Georgia Technical College. The governor’s draft budget agrees.

The House and Senate also recommend financing a $1.6 million bond to refurbish the Perry public library, a project the governor has not mentioned.

The budget totals some $19.8 billion in state funds and covers the fiscal year beginning this coming July.

Utilities regulator interested in solar

“Energy policy evolves. ... I don’t think there’s any reason why policy should not continue to evolve based on technology,” said Tim Echols, making a statement at the state Capitol on Thursday about a solar energy bill just proposed by state Rep. Rusty Kidd, I-Milledgeville.

Echols’ opinion is key: He represents a swath of Georgia from Bibb County to the coast on the Public Service Commission, the state’s utilities regulator.

Kidd’s draft plan would open Georgia Power’s grid to more energy from private solar farms.

Echols said that solar energy has gotten much more efficient, and he sees it driving down electricity bills.

Kidd’s bill may come up for hearings at the next session of the General Assembly in January 2014.

-- Maggie Lee

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