Seven months after its near-death experience, the Georgia Archives can officially begin its countdown toward a new beginning.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed a measure Monday allowing the University System of Georgia to take over management of the archives, effective with the new fiscal year starting July 1.
House Bill 287 came after a pledge by Deal to cut the archives’ ties to the Secretary of State’s Office, where it bore the brunt of several years of budget cuts. At one point last year, it almost closed to the public except for limited appointments.
Planning on how to handle the transition is well under way, led by a nine-member task force.
Triumphant archives supporters, meanwhile, now have a new exhibit to display once their battle goes into the history books: The blue ballpoint pen Deal used to sign the archives bill.
“Oh my gosh, absolutely incredible,” said Dianne Cannestra, president of the Friends of Georgia Archives and History, which spearheaded lobbying efforts heading into this year’s now-ended legislative session. “This is the most exciting day I think I’ve had in a long, long time. The transition will continue and, more importantly, we’re going to have to continue to fight for funding.”
Lawmakers have also proposed a slight boost to the archives’ budget at almost $4.7 million for the next fiscal year. The budget proposal would fund 10 positions at the Morrow institution, although it would not restore the jobs of five employees lost to layoffs Nov. 1.
Deal is scheduled to sign the proposed budget Tuesday. Supporters hope the increased funding at least restores more hours for the archives, which is currently open to the public two days a week.