- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

Jan. 26

The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on some hits and misses under Gold Dome:

When the Georgia General Assembly was gaveled into action in January, hope was that a lightning-quick session would focus on high-priority legislation and fewer of the usual “hey look at me” proposals that often clog progress under the Gold Dome.

For the most part, that’s been the case. The most important bill signed so far is one that was expected: The move of the state primary from July to May 20 to match the federal primary date.

With the primary date set, lawmakers are in a hurry to breeze through the 40-day session so they can start campaigning. State law prohibits them from raising money during the session, so they won’t be spiking the ball to stop the clock very often.

It’s inevitable some bills of lesser importance will be pushed along to get the attention of voters and certain special interests.

We wonder, for instance, why lawmakers continue to focus on a bill addressing where Georgians can legally carry firearms.

We agree knee-jerk moves to tighten gun laws after such tragedies are closing the barn door too late, aimed at preventing crimes rather than punishing lawbreakers, and mostly wishful thinking.

Yet there’s also no hue and cry to make more guns available more places by the public at-large.

So why are lawmakers preoccupied with guns instead of more important priorities? Two likely reasons. One, the gun lobby is powerful and influential, and lawmakers seek its money and support.

And two, it’s an election year, when officeholders play to voters with those “hey look at me” hot-button issues aimed more at gaining political attention than solving real problems.

For the most part, we’re glad to see the legislative session conducted at a brisk pace with a focus on worthwhile issues. Let’s hope they don’t take up any more time than they already have and derail efforts to pass a short list - a very short list - of meaningful reforms to address real problems.




Jan. 31

The Albany (Ga.) Herald on time to sign farm legislation and move on:

In the end, the compromise package on farm legislation was a lot like the weather that farmers usually deal with - not just right, but good enough to bring a decent crop in.

The bill that was worked up by the House-Senate conference committee and passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 251-166, getting support from 162 Republicans and 89 Democrats. Conversely, it also had bipartisan opposition. Sixty-three Republicans and 103 Democrats voted no, while six GOP members and eight Democratic ones didn’t vote.

Georgia’s congressional delegation, which overall supported the measure 7-6-1, was as deeply divided over the issue as any.

The legislation was sent to the Senate, where discussion on it was to get under way Friday afternoon. At the time of this writing, the sense was the Senate would pass the bill at some point and, assuming that, it next will be sent to the president for his signature.

As far as those who were pushing for deep reforms in the bill, there was a good deal of disappointment all around.

A move by House conservatives to decouple the nutrition programs from the farm package failed, though the SNAP program saw a 1 percent cut to its funding and the creation of a 10-state pilot program in which able-bodied adult recipients would be required to participate in work programs. Also included were measures aimed at eliminating loopholes and waste.

It’s also important to note that while the legislation is generally referred to as the nation’s “farm bill,” 80 percent of the spending in the legislation’s anticipated $956 billion cost over 10 years is dedicated to food stamps and nutrition programs.

The remaining 20 percent will go to farm-related programs, which were the targets of liberals who decried “farm welfare.” Direct payment to farmers have been eliminated, while crop insurance programs have been expanded.

In the end, nobody got everything and everyone had reason to both support it, and to oppose it.




Jan. 30

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on statewide concern regarding snow storm:

Elected and appointed leaders in this area of Georgia earned passing grades for their preparations in advance of this week’s arctic blast, which fortunately struck here with more bark than bite.

If anything, people in Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties were over-prepared for snow and ice, treacherous roads and possible electrical outages, in addition to sub-freezing temperatures.

But that’s not a bad thing.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry and prepare for the worst when it comes to weather calamities, even if it triggers modest inconveniences like panic buying at the stores, dealing with kids who don’t have school, not being able to catch a CAT bus or closing businesses temporarily.

Had area officials been caught with their snow pants down, they would have caught heat and deserved it.

To find a classic case of how not to respond to a predictable threat, look no farther than Atlanta and the epic traffic jam that brought a great American city to its knees.

What happened in and around our state’s capital was an embarrassment. But the repercussions aren’t confined to the big city. This calamity raises serious questions about the ability of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the statewide agency responsible for disaster preparation and response, to do its job along the state’s coast and elsewhere.

Gov. Nathan Deal did the right thing and accepted responsibility for Tuesday’s Snowjam ‘14 - or Gridlockalypse - which left thousands of motorists stranded on the metro area’s clogged roadways and forced children to spend the night in their schools.

Likewise, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was disappointing. He pointed fingers at school officials, businesses and other leaders for not staggering their closings Tuesday, which caused the metro area’s inadequate road system to go from green light to gridlock in less than an hour. If Mr. Reed has political ambitions beyond his city’s beltway, he must ditch the buck-passing act. Georgians have enough whiny, inert politicians in public office. They don’t need more.

Deal is right to call for a top-to-bottom review of this week’s disaster, which appears largely man-made.





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