EDITORIAL: The boys (and a few women) are back in town

January 15, 2014 

The 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly kicked off Monday. For the next 40 days (not consecutive), 236 state legislators and senators will try to decide how to regulate our lives. With the passage of HB 266, the auto title ad valorem tax, the state, according to the governor’s office, brought in $65.5 million more than before the bill was implemented, much to the consternation of new and used car buyers.

Lawmakers are restricted from raising campaign cash while the General Assembly is in session, so this session will be a shorter one . One of the lawmakers first orders of business is to change the primary election date to May 20, the earliest in the state’s history, to match with federal primary election dates. More reason for lawmakers to leave Atlanta early.

The only thing lawmakers must do is pass a budget, but many of them will also try to hit some hot-button issues to gin up their constituents for the primary season. Such is the case for Macon’s Sen. Cecil Staton’s resolution calling for a convention of states to seek constitutional amendments that “would limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government as well as the terms of office for federal officials and members of Congress,” according to a news release. Staton is gearing up to battle two Republican primary opponents, Spencer Price, who lost against Staton in 2012 by 203 votes and attorney John F. Kennedy.

It will be interesting to see if the Republican-dominated General Assembly and governor’s office will restore any of the billions of dollars in cuts heaped on public education now that state’s revenues are looking brighter, up 3.8 percent in December over the prior year. Last year, Bibb County schools were hit with more than $14 million in austerity cuts.

Lawmakers seem not to understand that education, in the words of former University of Georgia President Charles Knaap, is an economic development issue. “Ultimately, in a flat world,” Knaap said,”a failure to educate our children lowers Georgia’s standard of living.” We are still educating children in a system designed for an agrarian society.

The state would be better served if lawmakers mandated a design change rather than cutting more funds that force school systems to trade innovation for mere survival.

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