The Jackson Herald
April 9, 2003
Icebergs in the Gold Dome
Dealing with an important legislative issue is like approaching a giant iceberg. You must keep in mind that only the tip is showing. The largest and most perilous parts of the legislation are below the surface, hidden from view.
Two cases in point - the flag controversy and the budget shortfall. First, the flag.
Rep. Larry Walker, D-Perry, has come forward with a reasonable bill that would finally put to rest the divisive flag issue and let us move on to more important business. Walker would repeal the present Barnes flag, install immediately a new flag similar to the pre-1956 stars-and-bars banner, then hold a nonbinding up-or-down referendum on the newly adopted flag in March 2004.
The Walker plan has the blessing of several Republicans and black Democratic leaders. If the Walker proposal could win legislative approval, Gov. Perdue is likely to sign it. It gives flaggers a true Confederate heritage symbol, and it takes the anti-USA battle emblem out of the mix. An otherwise controversy-ridden referendum becomes almost an afterthought. The idea is so simple and doable that you have to wonder why someone didnt think of it before.
Whats the problem? The Walker plan is just the tip of the iceberg - the part that is visible. The hidden parts will keep it from being seriously considered, even it miraculously clears the rules committee. The Walker idea is OK; the author is not. Walker is out of the legislative leadership loop. He made the mistake of challenging his former friend, Rep. Terry Coleman of Eastman, for speaker. Walker lost the battle as well as his position as majority floor leader. Legislation with Walkers name on it is not viewed with favor.
In addition, Walker is seen as too chummy with Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. In another time, being the governors pal would be an asset. But Perdue, so far, has made enemies right and left with tax proposals and seemingly intransigent positions on a number of issues, including the flag matter. He also has shown a remarkable lack of arm-twisting ability to win his way on legislative matters. So Walker cant expect much help from the governors suite. Also, Walker engrossed his flag bill - which means it cannot be changed.
Everybody knows legislators like to tinker with other peoples bills. The engrossment adds another piece of baggage to a good idea, which may be sinking slowly from sight. Too bad.
(Another subtext: Several top Democrats seem to have no interest in putting the flag controversy to rest. As long as the fuss continues, Perdue and the Republicans are put in a bad light and perhaps made vulnerable for defeat in the future.)
Second, the budget. Any knowledgeable accountant will tell you Georgias budget is fixable. The shortfall can be overcome. Just whack a little here, and cut a little there. Voila! Its fixed. Nothing to it, right? The money guys will tell you that, in fact, compared to other states, Georgia is reasonably well off fiscally.
Once again, you have to peer beneath the surface to understand why the lawmakers are having such a hard time balancing the budget in these austere times. First, they will do practically anything to avoid raising taxes - especially since the governors first major proposal was to increase taxes. What the governor wants, the Legislature detests. Thats an automatic. Besides, raising taxes - especially regressive sales taxes - is a particularly bad idea during tough economic times when unemployment is rising.
So how about reducing spending? The most glaring examples of runaway state spending can be found in Medicaid - the multibillion-dollar health-care system for the indigent. If the Medicaid growth rate could simply be reduced to equal the growth of the rest of state spending, the budget problem would be solved. Thats what the experts say. Sorry. Cant do that. Too many legislators have a direct or indirect interest in all sorts of Medicaid programs ranging from nursing homes and health-care clinics to big-volume pharmacies and medical equipment dealers. Those special interests must be protected at all costs, as any candid legislator would tell you, presuming you could find one. So taking a whack - a major whack - at Medicaid is probably out of bounds. State layoffs might be considered - but that is the equivalent of firing voters. And dont forget this: When the state payroll is cut, the entire state economy bleeds. State government employment represents a major piece of Georgias total money pie.
The guessing here is that taxes will be raised slightly; Medicaid will be trimmed barely; and the budget writers will cross their fingers in hopes that an upturn is just around the corner. In such a bold fashion, the historic 2003 legislative session will face up to its budgetary responsibilities.
As for the flag fix, unless some Democratic leaders are big enough to put partisan bitterness behind them, the Walker plan will evaporate - and the controversy will go on and on and on.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422-2543, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
April 9, 2003
What to do when pollen levels rocket
1. Stay inside. Do not go to work. Do not get the mail. There cant be anything really important out there anyway; all the good stuff comes by way of email or the internet. Stay inside and catch up on daytime television. Judge Judy is on three times a day and Dr. Phil has been moved to 5 oclock. If the air outside appears balmy and the day beautiful, remember the pollen count. Think of the thousands of miniscule allergens just waiting to attack you should you step outside to pick up the weekly paper.
2. Change your air conditioner filters frequently, making sure your filters will remove infinitesimal particles like pollen. Its important to breathe only the best filtered air.
3. If your boss calls to tell you that you must come to work (or you forgot to run to Quality Foods to buy up all of the bread and milk when the first hint of pollen was sighted), have boxes of rubber gloves on hand and several white masks. Wear them any time you must step outside and discard the soiled gloves and mask as soon as youre breathing filtered air again. Be sure you remove the gloves without actually touching the outside. Pollen is a sticky little bugger.
4. Shower twice a day to wash off any stray pollen that might have grabbed onto you when you dashed from the house to the car or vice versa. Wash your clothes in hot water to kill the pollen. Add twice the amount of bleach you would have normally.
5. Change your bed sheets daily. Youll breathe better at night knowing the hot water killed the pollen and your sheets are free of the yellow stuff.
6. Use a pressure washer to blast the pollen off of your car. Some of it could blow into the cars vent system and make its way into your nose causing an allergic reaction. If you have time, do the same to the driveway, the mailbox, the bushes, the house, the yard, well, you get the picture pressure wash the outside.
7. Buy up all of the local honey you can get your hands on and eat it on everything. It will help you build immunity to pollen so it wont hurt as much next year.
8. Pray for rain because rain is the only deliverance for allergy victims. If it rains, go outside and stand in it. Give thanks. This is the allergy-sufferers spring. Now is the time to get your spring flowers planted and clean out those gutters. But first attach a lightning rod far from where youll be working. (Its better to be safe than sorry.) Just dont forget the mask and gloves, pollen may be able to do its work if the wet pollen touches you.
9. Visit the drugstoretheres an OTC for everything. Eye drops for the itchy, watery eyes and a second set of drops for the burning, irritated eyes. Nose sprays which relieve congestion. Kleenex for the drippy nose. A multitude of medicines for the scratchy throat and the cough and the bloated head feel.
10. Watch the news and realize how much there is to give thanks for. Pray for our soldiers and our President. Have faith that the people in power are making the right decisions and we are left to live our commonplace lives, concerned about the pollen count and traffic in Atlanta. Step outside and breathe deeply. Enjoy the day for it will be the only day like it ever.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.