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.)
I just wanted to thank Dick Yarbrough for his recent column about teachers and the state of education in Georgia.
I am glad he will be watching Chip Rogers to see if he tries his vouchers bill again.
The 2012 Legislative Session is off to a fast start, as lawmakers have already passed several pieces of legislation and met to discuss the governor's budget recommendations.
In addition to my duties at the Capitol, I spent time this week meeting with several key leaders from throughout the 51st District, as well as my constituents.
Whew, that was close. I almost became a Baptist the other day. Not just any Baptist, but a (gulp) Southern Baptist.
Let me add here that there have been times when the Rev. Dr. Gil Watson, the world's greatest preacher, has become so weary of trying to save my sorry soul that he would gladly trade me to the Baptists, Presbyterians or even the Islamic Center for the Advancement of Self Pity in return for two altos, a Sunday school teacher and an usher to be named later. Dr. Gil only has these thoughts when I insult some demographic ...
The mayors and city officials from around Georgia hosted a breakfast for the General Assembly and selected state-wide officers on Jan. 23.
Mayor Gary McCullough, the Dahlonega City Council, Senator Steve Gooch and I were present for the occasion.
There must be some irony in the timing of President Obama's recent trip to Disney World. He returned to his home base of "fantasy land" to give an address regarding the need to boost tourism. He looked a tad on the silly side using Cinderella's Castle as his backdrop while exclaiming "America is open for business!" Taking a vacation in the middle of a depression is hardly a choice when you are unemployed.
Yet just hours earlier, the president was turning "thumbs-down," killing the Keystone XL Pipeline in our midwest.
Last week was budget week at the Capitol. The Appropriations Com-mittees of both the Senate and House held joint hearings from the governor and his department heads.
Gov. Nathan Deal has set the "revenue estimate" for FY 2013 at $19.2 billion.
State Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, one of our two unelected lieutenant governors - Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, is the other - sent out a puff piece taking much credit for authoring a bill to require local school boards to consider a teacher's "effectiveness," not seniority, when getting rid of teachers.
People both inside and outside state government tell me that Williams has solved a problem that doesn't exist. Many school boards are already doing this. Seniority is a big issue in the Northeast, where there are teachers' unions. We have none in Georgia.
Most of us can find good excuses for breaking any New Year's resolutions we may have made - and mine is physical disability.
It's not that I have been very physically active in the last several years, but over the holidays I compounded my ailing-back-syndrome and thus postponed "getting back to some activities (including Silver Sneakers exercise)" that I was doing before my forced inactivity during summer and early fall.
During the third week of the Georgia General Assembly's 2015 legislative session, my colleagues and I passed one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year: The 2015 amended fiscal year budget (AFY 2015).
The third week of the 2015 legislative session saw a significant piece of legislation pass through the Georgia State Senate. I am proud to say that with unanimous consent, Senate Bill 1 passed the Senate and is now under consideration in the House.
Let's get off the backs of law enforcement, shall we? Most of us couldn't do their job, or wouldn't do it, if we had the chance.
Forty years ago I embarked on a career in the oil industry that has covered decades. That career has taken me around the world far more than once. It has taken me from oil rigs to refineries, to massive tanker ships to the highest corporate towers.
The State of Georgia's Juvenile Justice System is going to the dogs. And that's a good thing.
Georgia is still refusing the federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover more than 500,000 uninsured people. This decision will cost the state's health care system about $34 billion over the next decade, according to a new report by two well-respected research organizations.
Gov. Nathan Deal made it clear during his annual "State of the State" address that Georgia's economy continues to grow in the aftermath of the worst economic collapse of the 21st century.
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