Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, has figured out something many of his colleagues in the General Assembly seem unable to grasp: If you disagree with something I say, tell me so and give me your side of the story.
Wilkinson called after my column advocating limits on lobbying expenditures to say that he believes the current laws are working just fine. A member of the General Assembly since 2001, Wilkinson has served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee for the past eight. It is not the most fun job in politics.
Surprises come in many categories and degrees. Some are sudden and may be astonishing, some develop gradually and some are just there to be discovered as one becomes aware.
On the Saturday morning of the annual meeting of Dawson County Homeowners Civic Association, Feb. 25, I received one of the sudden variety. I was truly astonished when Association President Jane Graves presented me with the "Mike Brown YOU CARE" award.
Education reform has taken center stage recently with the passage of HR 1162 in the Georgia House, which would create a constitutional amendment to expand educational options for Georgia's students.
This bill was precipitated by a Supreme Court ruling that deemed the Georgia Charter Schools Commission unconstitutional.
Dear public school teachers: The "school choice" crowd in the General Assembly is after you again. I am beginning to think this is all your fault.
Evidently, you did something to them in their prepubescent period that has scarred them for life.
Just when you believe that everything is under control, something will jump up and bite you.
Fiscal Year 2011 revenues were well ahead of FY 2010, and for the first six months of this year, revenue collections were running about 4.5 percent ahead of FY 2011.
Each year, the General Assembly is constitutionally mandated to pass a balanced state budget.
On Thursday, we were one step closer toward fulfilling this goal with the passage of the Senate's FY 2012 amended budget.
The General Assembly is at a critical juncture as we mark the midpoint of the 2012 Legislative Session. With many bills still being reviewed and debated in committees, there is a growing sense of urgency to pass legislation prior to Crossover Day.
One bill in particular that I would like to highlight this week is SB 292, also known as the Social Responsibility and Accountability Act.
I seem to have an innate ability to make folks mad. Usually, it is the humor-impaired and special interest twits.
Today, I hope to make everybody mad, no matter your race, creed, color or university affiliation. This diatribe is for all.
Over the past two weeks, I have received at least 200 e-mails pertaining to HR 1162 (a proposed constitutional amendment on public education) and its companion legislation, HB 797. The e-mails are split about 50/50, with most of those asking for a "no" vote being from school teachers and most of the "yes" votes coming from parents.
This begs the question: Why does Georgia need a constitutional amendment on public education this year?
As we've discussed in previous columns, Georgia is currently one of the most generous providers of merit-based financial aid in the nation. However, the HOPE scholarship is currently under attack by opponents who have proposed an income-based salary cap for students whose families make more than $140,000 per year.
When HOPE was originally created, eligibility was partially based on family income levels; this restriction was removed in 1995. No other state lottery restricts eligibility based on family income; every state lottery scholarship is set up to be a merit award program.
There was a time at my (Methodist) churches when we regularly stood in line to go kneel at an altar, be served communion, and then hear the minister announce, "Let these retire and others take their places."
We are doing it somewhat differently now: Going to the altar individually (after communion) rather than in groups. But whenever I learn of someone retiring from a public position, I remember that phrase and often wonder what will happen when "others take their places."
The 2012 Legislative Session is moving forward at a rapid pace under the Gold Dome as we begin to move bills through the legislative process. In just a few short weeks, we've already made great progress toward passing legislation that responds to our citizens' needs.
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with commissioners of the Union, White and Dawson County delegations at the Association of County Commissioners Legislative Conference where we discussed issues relevant to the county's needs.
A miracle took place in the House of Representatives last week. For the first time in recorded history, a budget passed without a single dissenting vote on either side of the aisle.
Last January Gov. Nathan Deal conservatively estimated state revenues of $18.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2012.
In order to keep my national certification as a modest and much-beloved columnist, I am required to submit annually a State of the Column message. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Please stand and applaud if you hear something that floats your boat or look bored if you don't. You may be on television.
"My fellow Georgians, ladies and gentlemen and significant others, I am pleased to tell you the state of this column has never been better. (Applause.)
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