Banks County Opinions...

January 24, 2001


Column
By Jeanette Jamieson
The Banks County News
January 24, 2001


Jamieson reports on legislative session
The first session of the 146th General Assembly began at 10 a.m. on Monday, January 8. All 180 members were sworn in, and elections were held for the leadership posts. Representative Tom Murphy of Bremen won the speakership for the 14th consecutive time. Speaker Murphy has served in the House since 1961 and was elected speaker in 1974. He is the longest-serving speaker in the nation. Robert E. Rivers was re-elected clerk of the House unanimously. The clerk is the custodian of the bills, resolutions, records and other official documents filed in the House of Representatives. Representa-tive Jack Connell of Augusta was also re-elected speaker pro tem. The rest of the day was spent taking care of housekeeping and organizational matters such as establishing the House rules for the session.
The majority of the time the House spends in session is dedicated to considering bills and resolutions. One bill receiving much time in the press is HB 16, which seeks to change the state flag to the pre-1956 design, while putting the current flag in a place of honor in state museums. Another bill of considerable merit is HB 65, seeking to exempt certain teacher and public school employee information from the state's open records laws. Proponents of the measure feel that it is not only appropriate but necessary that these men and women share the same privacy protection considerations that we already extend to law enforcement officers, judges and the like. This bill is co-sponsored by me and Speaker Murphy. Typically, thousands of measures are dropped for consideration each session but only hundreds make it to the House floor for final consideration after being reviewed in committees.
Gov. Roy Barnes was invited to the House chamber Thursday to present his FY 2002 budget proposal before a joint session of both House and Senate members. It is the third time that this governor has presented his budget requests, and this year's package outlines almost $15 billion in state spending.
While this figure is massive, it is still a considerably conservative estimate of next year's revenues. Recent rumors of a coming national recession, and an expected statewide economic slowdown have prompted Gov. Barnes to keep this year's estimate close to the cuff. Most lawmakers agree that it is better to be safe than to face the revenue shortfalls confronted by several other states this year.
Again, education tops the governor's priority list. Last year's education proposals have been receiving feedback, and this year the fine-tuning begins. One such adjustment deals with classroom para-professionals. Teachers and administrators alike were up at arms over what they saw as a cut in money available for para-pros. It is the reason that Gov. Barnes has set aside $68.5 million to specifically fund para-professional positions. Lawmakers were happy to hear that this means that approximately 60,000 para-pros will be employed to fill every kindergarten classroom in this state. Gov. Barnes received a standing ovation after proclaiming this appropriation.
Gov. Barnes is proposing a 4.5 percent increase coupled with a program to expand options for classroom teachers that would allow them to earn higher wages without moving into administrative positions.
Other education spending initiatives include:
·$7 million to be spent on statewide reading programs determined by the community.
·$3.5 million to fund pilot extended day programs in willing middle schools.
·$18.9 million to extend the "Early Intervention Program" up to grade five.
·$500,000 to set up an alternative certification program so that experts in certain fields may enter the classroom if they so desire.
Another area that has received much recent attention is the sub-par working conditions of the state's child welfare department caseworkers. To that end, the governor is proposing $3.5 million so that more caseworkers may be hired to lighten existing caseloads. He also set aside some $7 million to increase the salary paid to caseworkers by five percent across the board, and to increase starting salaries for caseworkers with master's degrees by 18 percent.
The total increase in funding to the child welfare system comes to approximately $42 million, and will include $5.2 million to increase the per diem paid to foster families to cover increased expenses of providing for these children in need.
These are only a few of many proposals in a massive state spending plan. It now becomes the job of the House and Senate to consider these proposals and to make the adjustments they deem necessary. It is a long and labor-intensive process that is usually not resolved until the session's last days. While lawmakers may sometimes feel overwhelmed at the enormity of such a task, they point with pride to a process that consistently produces a budget widely considered to be one of our nation's most fiscally sound. The General Assembly was in adjournment for the week of January 15th with budget hearings being held on Tuesday through Friday.
If you have any questions or comments, please to do not hesitate to call me at (404) 656-5064.

Column
By Angie Gary
The Banks County News
January 24, 2001

King of the house
I've noticed those personality tests in women's magazines before, but have never taken one. I think I'm afraid to find out what category I fit into. But when I saw a "personality plus" test for cats, I decided to find out where Quincy fits in.
The choices were: "the possessive cat," "the manipulator," "the non-committal kitty," "the bad boy/bad girl cat," or "the wired cat." I couldn't imagine my baby fitting into any of those categories. I mean, he is perfect. He is just a little angel-ask anyone.
I decided to go ahead and read all of the characteristics listed under each category. He's not possessive. He's the only cat in the house. In fact, he won't allow any other animals in the house. You could say that means he is possessive, but I don't think so. He just doesn't like cats or dogs. Nothing wrong with that. Lots of people don't like other people. So, what's wrong with him not liking other cats?
All I had to do was read the first line of "the noncommittal" kitty paragraph, to know that it wasn't describing Quincy. "This cat keeps its people at arm's length," the article said. Quincy doesn't keep anyone at arm's length. If you come into our home, you better like cats because before you leave, you will have one very big cat curled up in your lap. He shows no discrimination. It doesn't matter if it's a woman or man or child. If you sit on the couch, he is going to curl up in your lap. Noncommittal, no way. My Quincy is a lap cat, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, lap cat wasn't a category, so I kept reading.
Next, I read about "the bad boy/bad girl" cat which is prone to destroy your home. All cats make a mess every now and then, but I don't think Quincy does too much damage. Of course, I did smile when I read, "You may never be able to display a bouquet of flowers in your home again." We can certainly relate to this, but I don't think that makes Quincy a bad boy. When we left him alone for a week, he did knock things in the floor, but he missed us. He wasn't being a bad boy.
As for "the wired cat," Quincy is too lazy to be this kind of cat. Eating and sleeping are his two main activities each day. In between this, he cuddles up with his family on the couch. Not lot of activity there, so I kept reading.
Now, the manipulator. I couldn't believe it when I read the first sentence, "The manipulator cat is a master at leaping up on the dresser in the early morning and knocking off objects just to get your attention." I couldn't believe it. I thought Quincy was the only cat who does this. Not many mornings go by that I don't hear my glasses and alarm clocking hitting the floor. I just thought he was trying to look out the window. I never imagined that he was being manipulative.
So, I guess a cat psychiatrist would say Quincy fits into "the manipulator" category. While that may not sound like the kind of animal that would make a perfect companion, he is the king of our house.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com.

 

 

 


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