- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


April 9

The Augusta Chronicle on the 2018 Masters:

Patrick Reed did it for the first time. Augusta National did it for the 82nd.

Both put on winning performances in the 2018 Masters, with the former Augusta State University standout capturing his first major and first green jacket, and Augusta National flawlessly staging yet another world-class sporting event.

Even the heavens seemed to participate, by closing up on Saturday when the forecast said they would open up. At the end of a fierce day of golf, it had mostly rained blessings upon us.

Fate took a hand too — dangling a possible Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson duel in front of our hopeless sentimentalities and, instead, continuing the 20-something surge of Masters champions and contenders.

This Masters will be remembered for many things — including the announcement that the club next year will begin hosting the final round of a new Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship. It’s not enough that the members have already tended to their own garden, known far and wide as one of the most beautiful golf courses, if not places in general, in the world. They’re also committed to growing the game internationally and among women and youth.

But this year’s tournament will be remembered mostly for last week’s feverish anticipation for a memorable Masters, and the fact that it delivered. In its own scrupulous way.

After Tiger and Phil had faded, it appeared Sunday would be a rematch between Reed and fellow 20-something Rory McIlroy, who went head-to-head in one of the most thrilling Ryder Cup matches in history in 2016. Instead, McIlroy yielded to fellow 20-something Jordan Spieth, who had led earlier in the tournament but started Sunday nine strokes behind Reed. Showing his Augusta National pedigree — already one first-place Masters finish, and two seconds in his young career — Spieth surged to amazingly tie Reed at one point before finishing one stroke behind second-place Rickie Fowler, yet another 20-something.

Much of the pre-tournament build-up was the result of our nostalgia for Tiger and Phil, and the fact that both were playing better than they had in five years. And it seems Fred Couples, he of 58 and bad back, flirts with contention each year.

But golf has a life of its own, and life has its own notions of the way things ought to be. Thus, once the tournament started, most of the excitement emanated from the young pros headed into their prime. At one point, 42-year-old Swede Henrik Stenson was completely surrounded by 20-somethings at the top of the leaderboard.

No matter our fondness for bygone days — and many fans’ secret desire to see our aging heroes spring forth from a fountain of youth — this Masters was a reminder that time marches on with or without us. That is as it should be.

It’s also a message of reassurance that the game of golf is in the most capable hands imaginable — those of the young golfers and their sublime hosts.

They don’t call it the Masters for nothing.

Online: http://www.augustachronicle.com


April 8

Gainesville Times says state legislators have shown they understand the economy won’t grow without good schools and transit options:

Election year sessions of the Georgia legislature often yield low expectations while many lawmakers are preoccupied with posturing and preening for voters and special-interest groups to take on real problems.

But this year, lawmakers mostly got it right with a productive session. The closing moments of the session on March 29 yielded some major steps forward on several key topics.

Some of the positive moves occurred earlier. It was in early March when Gov. Nathan Deal signed a long-awaited reform of the state’s outdated adoption laws, a bill held up last year by social conservatives determined to add a “religious liberty” amendment. That plan was pulled out into a separate bill passed by the Senate but which never made it to a vote in the House.

Then in the days before the session ended, Deal announced the state would restore an extra $166 million to the schools budget to erase years of austerity budget cuts. That could help local districts who have suffered to maintain learning levels over a decade-plus of student growth. Hall County’s shortfall during those years totals some $152 million, Gainesville’s $37 million.

With state funding cut, local districts were forced to shorten school calendars, increase class sizes and cut art and music programs. Even then, local taxes often have been raised to balance budgets, leaving taxpayers footing the bill either way.

In the session’s closing moments, lawmakers approved a bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of ailments that can be legally treated with prescription cannabis oil. The hope is that by expanding use of such medicine, more who suffer from those ailments can avoid opioids and other more dangerous prescription narcotics.

Legislators also addressed the concerns of rural Georgia hospitals and internet connections that have limited economic expansion in some less-prosperous areas of the state. They also approved another step in Deal’s criminal justice reform, the new law giving judges flexibility to forgo cash bail for poor defendants.

And perhaps their most ambitious move was creating a regional transit authority for metro Atlanta counties that will help ease crippling traffic across county lines. The measure would establish a regional transit authority called the ATL responsible for overseeing transit expansion, including $100 million in bonds to fund projects.

Though all are different issues, their passage points to an overarching theme under the Gold Dome. State leaders understand a growing state can’t skimp on the basics and cut its way to prosperity if it is to become a true economic power.

During the recession, the state had no choice but to limit spending when tax collections shrank. But with those revenues rising and the economy revving up, Georgia must proactively address issues faced by any state seeking to attract new businesses and residents. To ignore those concerns only sends those jobs and workers elsewhere.

We’re not just talking about Amazon, though that is the big fish everyone is trying to hook. The same concerns and priorities are shared by companies with a few hundred or a few dozen employees looking to move operations. In addition to a business-friendly tax base, these companies need a solid infrastructure: Good roads, air and freight transport and communications.

And to lure the best workers, they also want good schools, public safety and quality-of-life enhancements in an environment that welcomes diversity.

At times, state leaders have seem stuck in a time warp, turtles with their heads in their shells unwilling to face the future. Some running for office this year promise little more than “cut government” in any way possible. It’s a popular theme, mostly because of the size and scope of the federal Godzilla in Washington that is everyone’s boogeyman.

But state budgets are different. Sure, there’s some waste in there - there always is - but it’s a pittance compared to D.C.’s appetite for pork.

By law, Georgia lawmakers have to produce a balanced budget; they can’t spend more than the state takes in and charge it to the future, as Congress does. Thus, even in their more frivolous moments, they have to prioritize spending items that make up most of the state budget: Education, transportation, health care and public safety. Small government is good, but not at the expense of having good schools, decent roads and effective hospitals. Rather than downsize haphazardly, government should be the right size to fit residents’ needs and give taxpayers their money’s worth.

If some politicians had their way, the state income tax would be eliminated and spending cut well past the bone. We all want to keep more of our hard-earned money, but we can’t pave our own roads, build our own schools or put out our own fires. Georgians need safe communities, a way to travel to their jobs on time and opportunities for their families to succeed. The stark “go it alone” approach favored by some only serves to drive away potential industries and workers and take the state backward.

Now that the legislature is done and the primary campaigns are in full swing, voters get to decide: Do they want Georgia to revert to a small state of low ambition? Or do they want to create the capital of the new South, not a throwback to the old one, a state of live-work-play communities, multiple transit options, successful public schools, innovative colleges, modern health care options and high-tech communications companies that link us to the world?

The first Georgia won’t add jobs, and will thus lose tax revenue from a shrinking economy. The second will create new opportunities for all and set the pace in the Southeast.

Thankfully, our state legislature seems to recognize this, and has worked to follow the governor’s lead in making Georgia attractive to business not only with low taxes, but with the basics of life they all seek.

We may look back on this year’s legislative session as a turning point in that effort.

Online: https://www.gainesvilletimes.com/


April 6

The Savannah Morning News says the governor’s race has become muddled as candidates claim specific issues:

The Georgia governor’s race is a bit like Savannah’s pre-dawn square scramble on St. Patrick’s Day, with a slew of contenders rushing to stake out and tape off their personal space.

And just as happens along the parade route, the state’s would-be leaders don’t dare try to infringe on another’s claim.

The field is deep in candidates yet shallow in terms of name recognition. What they lack in reputation, the gubernatorial aspirants are attempting to make up for by owning specific issues.

Republican Brian Kemp is the illegal immigration czar.

Democrat Stacey Evans has put her hopes in HOPE.

Republican Hunter Hill wants to eliminate the state income tax.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is the progressive champion disinterested in appealing to swing voters.

Republican Clay Tippins is the data-driven business executive who sees the future in bar graphs and pie charts.

Republican Michael Williams is the Donald Trump wannabee - loud, proud and never “mealy-mouthed,” as he described his opponents’ policies.

Republican Eddie Hayes embraces faith-based decision making.

Republican Marc Urbach leads the charge for education reform.

Then there’s Republican Casey Cagle, the only candidate well known statewide by virtue of his three terms as lieutenant governor. But Cagle is far from a household name and carries the “career politician” label, considered a liability in many conservative circles.

Cagle does have strong financial backing and has proven an equal opportunity issue embracer, depending on the day and TV ad.

What does all this issue targeting mean to Savannah voters? Difficult days ahead, at least for those looking to thoroughly educate themselves before heading to the polls.

Georgia is on solid ground from a state government standpoint. Gov. Nathan Deal leaves the state in much better shape than he found it. The combination of his pro-business development policies and the broader economic recovery has produced a $2.4 billion rainy day fund, helped the state to fully fund the basic education formula and allowed for a modest income tax cut.

Candidates, particularly the Republicans, can’t run against the status quo, a popular tactic during tough times. But none want to align too closely with Deal either, as he’s been stung by ethics controversies, his handling of religious liberty legislation and his failure to take on key issues such as Medicaid expansion and offshore drilling.

Deal’s potential successors, therefore, are left to carve their own political images. And voters are left with incomplete portraits.

The dearth of debates and political forums complicates matters, denying voters the chance to see the candidates discuss matters of shared interest. The Republicans have engaged in several debates, although only one where all seven contenders were together in one place. The Democrats’ last exchange took place in early February.

Each party has one debate left on the schedule, although both happen in the days just before the May 22 election. The Democrats square off on May 15 followed by the Republicans two days later. Both events are sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club and will be televised by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The timing is not ideal. By mid-May, polling will have given the public some clarity on the races. Republican frontrunners will be cautious, unwilling to say something that might cost them votes, especially with a runoff likely. Those trailing will be baiting and bashing.

As for the Democrats, they won’t trade barbs like the Republicans. They will play nice because Georgia is a red state but one that has gradually become more Democratic.

The party sees an opportunity in this election. Democratic gubernatorial candidates have lost recent elections by approximately 200,000 votes but state statistics reveal those contest were marked by weak turnouts among African-American voters - more than 1 million chose not to cast ballots in the 2014 governor’s race alone.

Assuming many of those voters would vote for a Democratic candidate, both the Staceys are striving to engage and excite the electorate, not split or alienate them

Abrams and Evans cut sharp contrasts - Abrams is an African-American who spent much of a difficult childhood in Atlanta, while Evans is white and grew up poor in rural Georgia. They can debate politely and satisfy the party base by saying little.

Nobody said democracy was easy. But this election looks to be tougher on voters than most.

Online: http://www.savannahnow.com

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