The Jackson Herald
April 30, 2003
Georgias new political reality: rural power
No matter how this legislative session turned out, non-Atlanta Georgia emerged a clear winner.
By any measure, a survey of the 2003 General Assembly shows plainly that rural Georgia is finally back in charge of state government.
The Legislature that convened in January was advertised as a new start for what Gov. Sonny Perdue called a new Georgia.
The state Senate convened as a majority-Republican body for the first time in more than a century. Republican leaders immediately stripped the Democratic lieutenant governor, Mark Taylor, of most of his authority.
The House minority leader, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Sharpsburg, emerged as a major legislative player. In past years, the House Republican leader, no matter who, was viewed as little more than a nuisance.
And, of course, Perdue became Georgias first Republican governor in 130 years.
We card-carrying pundits agreed that the stage was set for a grand clash between newly empowered Republicans and desperate Democrats over establishing priorities and public policy for Georgia.
It has not worked out that way.
Instead, Republicans almost immediately broke with other Republicans over Gov. Perdues first round of proposed tax increases. Republican Westmoreland looked at Republican Perdue as if he were a strange bug in a bottle when the governor first stepped on stage and promoted raising property taxes.
Across the aisle, Democratic solidarity was shattered by proposals to change Georgias tough predatory lending law. Black Democrats, along with the handful of urban whites, wanted a strict statute. White rural Democrats desired a more banker-friendly law.
When the smoke cleared from the two skirmishes (one dealing with taxes, the other over the lending bill), the main battle lines in the Legislature had been redrawn.
And a new majority was in control. It was neither Democratic nor Republican - but an all-white coalition of conservatives from both sides of the aisle. White rural Democrats joined with Republicans in cobbling a predatory lending bill to their liking. Black and urban white Democrats were left out.
Republicans broke ranks and joined Democrats in destroying most of Perdues tax-raising proposals. (At this writing, his relatively minor tobacco tax might still be alive on the final day of the session.)
In the House, white Democrats and Republicans joined forces to pass a flag-referendum bill that Gov. Perdue recommended. In the Senate, Republicans helped scuttle the Perdue bill and send it back to the House.
A quick review of those votes produces a picture, though not a perfect one, of the coming new era of shared power in Georgia: White rural Democrats and non-Atlanta Republicans will be running the show for the foreseeable future.
Speaker Terry Coleman clearly played to that new center of influence on a dozen occasions. And Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor almost came in from the cold, as he turned up the heat for preserving state aid for South Georgia.
Contrasts between the political present and the very recent past are stark.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes maiden legislative session of 1999 centered partly on urban concerns - improving air quality, combating sprawl and, finally, the establishment of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority to deal with metro traffic problems.
In the 2003 session, GRTA was barely mentioned and sprawl has become an almost archaic term. Air pollution wasnt even on the table.
Changing the flag a minor issue for most urban and suburban whites - gobbled up the most time in the New Georgia Legislature, mainly because it really mattered to conservative rural whites and, of course, to Republican Gov. Perdue..
The main event was balancing the budget. Again, rural whites dominated the debate.
Come to think of it, the entire House leadership is composed of good old boys from South Georgia. (By comparison, the Senate GOP leadership is made up of non-native Georgians, most of whom live in suburbia.)
And, of course, Perdue of Bonaire is the quintessential non-metro governor who has gone out of his way to show disdain for the recently potent Atlanta business leadership.
The 2003 regular session of the General Assembly has been characterized repeatedly (even by some of its own members) as a disastrous, do-nothing gathering, an. assessment may be accurate. No matter how badly it performed, however, the just-concluded Gold Dome session marked the beginning of a new political reality in our state. Or maybe it was the re-emergence of an old one that we havent seen for more than forty years.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422-2543, e-mail: email@example.com, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com.
By: Adam Fouche
The Jackson Herald
April 30, 2003
Move over Steve Irwin, here comes Fouche
Most of you have no doubt heard of Steve Irwin, AKA the Crocodile Hunter.
Hes the crazy Australian mate on those nature shows that wrestles with crocodiles, handles deadly snakes and travels the world over looking for the most poisonous reptiles known to man.
I saw him on TV the other night. He was running through a swamp in the Everglades, barefoot, jumping into the water after a small snake. It bit him twice. He wasnt bothered.
A little while later, he spotted an alligator in trouble, its lower jaw torn. So he just leaps into the leach-infested swamp water and pounces atop the reptile to help out.
Maybe where hes from, this activity is Australian for party. Over here, bye crockity, we call it just plain stupid.
But Steves little play date with crocodiles and snakes is nothingnext to me anyway.
I went horseback riding for the first time Saturday with my girlfriend. We need to talk about this a little.
We went on one of those deals up in the mountains that takes you out on a trail with three or four other people for about an hour.
First of all, they gave me a huge horse. At over six feet tall, Im no small fellow. So I got a big, tall, manly horse. And sitting atop the saddle, I was more than a few feet off the ground.
This concerned me for three reasons. Number one, the way I figure it, theres a high probability that the day I ride a horse is the day it decides to throw somebody off.
And number two, if this is the day, Ive got a long way to fall. Third, I was worried about the horses ability to carry me, especially on a day after heavy rains, when the trail was little more than a really long mud hole.
The second reason this ride was such a feat pertains to the saddle. Now I know that men have been riding horses for centuries. Heck, this country was basically founded and forged on the backs of horses.
But riding in a saddle for an hour pounds a guy pretty good in an area that just doesnt need to be pounded too much.
For you who havent been on a horse before, I equate it to standing at one end of a see-saw while a little kid jumps up and down on the other side, pounding you down there every time. It feels a little something like that.
Third, I got bit by one of the horses. Now our trail guide gave explicit instructions to keep the horses single file to prevent them from kicking and biting one another. I had no problem with these directions. I didnt want any part of biting, kicking horses.
But some girl from Florida that I didnt know who was riding with us (no doubt a University of Florida graduate from her blatant disregard of common sense) decided not to keep her horse in single file.
And so she passed me, more than once. And her horse went after mine, more than once. And the second time, my horse turned, and her horse bit my leg. It didnt hurt, but it was startling.
And all the hoopla spooked my horse, and it took off running. Lets get something clear here. I didnt panic. And I wasnt scared.
But for more than a few seconds, I was a little worried. I had never ridden a horse, and here it was starting into a full gallop. But my superior ability with animals allowed me to get the horse under control and diffuse the situation.
The remainder of the ride went without incident. I will say that despite my minor worries, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and plan to do it again.
And my experience leads me to one conclusion, Steve Irwins got nothing on me. Sure he can wrestle crocodiles and alligators.
But I can ride a horse for about an hour, a feat thatll no doubt put me on prime time on the Animal Planet soon.
Adam Fouche is a reporter for Mainstreet Newspapers. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.