- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


March 31

Savannah Morning News says legislators left some tough issues to handle next session:

The 2018 Georgia Legislature finished its 40 days of work for the year recently. From all accounts, it ended on a conciliatory note between the Senate and the House, and a few bills met agreement in both houses. As board games go, it was more a game of Chess than Checkers as members navigated the moves necessary to survive the next election.

Part of that may be the looming outside influences of businesses looking to make a new home in Georgia (hello, Amazon) and the unwavering influence of political donors (hello, health care lobby), but more likely it was the election year climate that encouraged pragmatic movement on some issues and quiet dismissals of others.

An early look at the session’s activity shows many bills that enhance or clean up existing statutes addressing a wide variety of concerns. By any scale, these bills were constructive steps. The group’s progress includes adding medical marijuana as a legal treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, allowing local governments to effectively ban fireworks except on holidays, and fully funding the state’s portion of the kindergarten through grade 12 formulas.

Votes that translate to your household bottom line include a reduction in the state income tax rate to 6 percent and the move to make requests free for credit freezes.

And the plan to expand rural internet through grants and public utilities already in place will bring the world to more than half a million rural Georgia residents. This will allow students to expand their horizons and businesses to grow customers in parts of the state that have, quite simply, been left out of the robust business environment Gov. Nathan Deal and legislators relentlessly champion around the world.

The group also made it possible for domestic violence victims to break leases without having to pay a penalty. It may sound like a small move to make, but for families and individuals trapped in abusive situations because they can’t afford to move, it may be life-renewing.

In any year, the list of legislation to be considered is a tough hand, but miscalculations could’ve ended in a contested mess. Instead, some thorny issues were left on the table unaddressed.

One issue left unresolved was that of “surprise” medical billing, where people who go to an emergency room or other facility end up with massive “out-of-network” charges that weren’t explained at the time. The doctors or specialists or treatments weren’t part of their insurance plan, so patients were charged the full rate with no safety net.

Another failed bill would have taken broader steps to keep guns out of the hands of Georgians with mental illnesses. And another would have banned bump stocks, the firearm add-on that allows rifles to fire more rounds more quickly, essentially turning it into a much more deadly weapon.

In a late disappointing turn, the houses failed to agree on the Hidden Predators Bill that would allow more adult survivors of child sex abuse to file suit and extended the statute of limitations to age 38 from the current 23. And for a limited period of time, it also would have allowed adults of any age to sue the accused molester and any organization that covered it up. The House passed a version, but the Senate stalled on points involving organizations and after tough lobbying by the Boy Scouts.

Those hot potatoes will have to wait until legislators feel safer in a non-election year.

After all, playing political cards in an election year legislature is less like a sweet game of Candy Land and more like an anxious round of Exploding Kittens where one misstep will leave an elected official outside on the porch or worse.

Online: http://www.savannahnow.com


April 1

Gainesville Times says the message of Easter should act as a healing balm for those angry at teens protesting gun violence:

The lessons of Easter will be taught from pulpits all around North Georgia this morning as the sun rises on the holiest of Christian holidays.

The holiday’s themes remain timeless: Sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness and rejuvenation. They are at the heart of the human spirit and the hope that carries us through life’s many travails.

We need these lessons to remind us what is possible more than ever in a time when the daily horrors we experience, and the resulting anger that often pervades public forums, can shake one’s faith.

Too often, many among us have lost the ability, or the will, to interact in a civil, respectful manner and maintain perspective. It happens in many ways on a daily basis, such as when a motorist deemed too slow, too fast or too rude can ignite angry reactions that are out of proportion.

In particular, such antagonism thrives on social media, where faceless participants are divided into “us” and “them” based on shared or opposing interests and views. Some comments are so harsh it’s hard to imagine them being spoken to a live person across a table. But when we are separated by windshields or the comfy distance of the internet, anyone who rubs us the wrong way is dehumanized into unworthy enemies to be loathed and abused.

The worst recent example is seen in the backlash unleashed against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students and their protests following the deadly shooting of 17 of their high school classmates in February at Parkland, Florida. They have channeled their grief into activism by conducting marches in their state capital and in Washington seeking gun law reform. They were joined by tens of thousands of others nationwide in a series of events in March, including one in Dahlonega.

Their goal is to break through the perceived political logjam over the legality of certain weapons and who can buy them, believing such changes are blocked by lobbying groups who sway elected officials.

The reality is a bit more complicated, as is the issue itself, but that’s a different discussion. Whatever one thinks of gun control, these young people expressing their views are passionate, engaged and inspired. We don’t have to agree with them to respect their involvement, and acknowledge that it’s refreshing to see youth motivated by something other than their own self interests.

But because they’re on one side of an issue and many in politics and media are on the other, their youthful zeal only labels them as “the enemy.” And in this war, the rules of engagement are less civil than they should be.

Recent disturbing examples are of many so-called adults attacking these high school kids on a personal basis beyond the issues. One of the young women most visible in the protests was dubbed a “skinhead lesbian” on Twitter by a candidate for office in Maine, who later withdrew from his race. Another internet troll with nothing better to do concocted a video of her shredding the Constitution; it was pure fabrication, yet believed by those happy to see anyone they disagree with demeaned in any way possible.

Friday on his radio show, rock star Ted Nugent said the Florida students have “no soul” and are “mushy-brained children.”

Recently, talk show host Laura Ingraham tweeted a slam at another of the Florida student leaders for having his college applications rejected. He responded with tweets seeking a boycott of her radio sponsors, and a few did pull their ads over what they saw as an over-the-top attack. One issued a statement saying “the decision of an adult to personally criticize a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values.” Another said “statements focused on a high school student, cross the line of decency.”

Good for them. When the supposed grown-ups in society can’t be magnanimous enough to allow young people to have the stage for a while without hurling juvenile taunts, we have lost our way. These young people chose to enter the debate and need to defend their positions, and their views are fair game for counterpoint responses. But personal jabs don’t constitute a mature exchange despite the perverse new normal endorsed by the Twitterverse.

Ingraham later issued a half-hearted apology “in the spirit of Holy Week,” likely because her advertisers were bailing on her. Her original broadside makes one wonder if she really embraces that spirit.

The student himself summed it up best: “It’s time to love thy neighbor, not mudsling at children.”

The proper response to youthful activism is to congratulate them for their devotion and discuss the substance of their positions in a reasonable manner. Those who believe strongly on any issue should be confident enough to rely on calm logic rather than snide remarks. Grown-ups who have a platform and positions of power and influence should set a higher bar for such behavior. Yet it’s the children right now who provide a better lesson in the Christian ideals of turning the other cheek and loving your enemy.

We also must remember these young teens are survivors of a horrific experience the likes of which few of us have ever seen or shared. That alone should guarantee them a receptive and respectful audience, even if we disagree with the opinions they may offer.

We may not be able to stop all acts of violence from those who have no conscience, but we can raise the level of discourse in reaction to it. The British showed the way during the Battle of London when they maintained their dignity even as the bombs fell around them. Let’s not get so caught up in defending our positions we fail to recognize our shared human experience.

That means turning the other cheek the next time someone cuts us off in traffic. Or loving our enemies when others on social media lash out against our political icons or ball teams. And when committed young people take up signs and ask to be heard, they deserve our attention and respect. Engaging them in a civil debate will ensure they will do the same someday when they are the ones in power.

In the true spirit of Easter, we ask: What would Jesus do? It’s safe to say if he were on Twitter, he wouldn’t ruthlessly attack teenagers who disagree with him.

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


March 30

Marietta Daily Journal on state Rep. Earl Ehrhart leaving office:

The Georgia General Assembly’s adjournment early Friday morning marked the end of an era: It was state Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s 28th - and final - Sine Die.

There’s something to be said about an elected official who - for three decades - refused to walk on eggshells, engaged the public and press at every opportunity and never cowered to the joyless politically correct.

It’s why Ehrhart, the longest-serving Republican in the Georgia House, has stood out as an exclamation point. Some may not agree with what he says, but it’s always crystal clear where he stands. Voters in west Cobb’s 36th District agreed with him often enough to elect him 14 times.

He was one of only 35 House Republicans upon his election in 1988 at the age of 28. The GOP minority leader and Ehrhart’s mentor then was U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia.

“He was outspoken then. He’s outspoken now,” Isakson said.

At the time, long-reigning House Speaker Tom Murphy, a yellow-dog Democrat, held the House in his steel grip. Murphy vowed to give Ehrhart an office in the hallway, one that he would share with the janitor. It was initially a bumpy ride in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, and after just one term, Ehrhart lost his seat in 1990 to Democrat John Hammond, a man he described as “a Michael Dukakis clone.”

But the times, they were a-changin’.

He returned in 1992 and was elected Republican House whip, where he would lock horns with Speaker Murphy. It was Ehrhart’s role to feed the red meat to the partisans, putting him in the position of pit bull. He called it both an awesome and, at times, painful role to fill since the ruthless Murphy played to win.

“Republicans are like grasshoppers, we squash ‘em with our boots,’” Murphy liked to say.

Outnumbered by Democrats, Ehrhart started the Republican Daily Briefing, in which the Republican caucus reviewed and read every bill that was filed. Since they didn’t have the votes, their only chance to make a difference was to be smarter and better prepared than Murphy’s Democrats. Those early Republicans decided on a strategy to crack Murphy’s coalition of conservative, rural Democrats and liberal Atlanta Democrats by forcing votes on wedge issues. They would then visit the towns of those conservative Democrats to alert the locals what their lawmakers were up to in Atlanta. The strategy worked, and in 2005, Republicans took over the House, with Ehrhart appointed the first Republican rules chairman in the state’s history. He described it as a heady and humbling experience as he spent years rewriting the House rules.

“Any time you’ve dealt with Earl, it’s an event,” Isakson said. “He’s passionate about what he wants to do. He’s a tough fighter. He doesn’t give in easily. But when he sees the light, he’ll come around to your side and your way of thinking. He’s not one of these people that you met two years ago and you can’t remember his name anymore. You’ll always remember Earl’s name.”

What makes him unforgettable is the verbal blowtorch he brings to bear on the forces of liberalism.

Among those who have been on the business end of that instrument is Kennesaw State University whenever the liberal faculty indulged their progressive appetites and invited students to circle the drain with them. When the university hosted an art exhibit on AIDS - which was more about thumbing its nose at decency than the virus, displaying such items as a painting of a naked clown engaged in a sex act with a skeleton - Ehrhart called KSU on the carpet, saying “a fully loaded porta-potty would be a better artistic expression.” His words carried weight given his position as chairman of the committee in charge of funding Georgia’s universities. Yet the students and faculty who denounced him likely don’t realize how much he’s done for KSU, ensuring it has received nearly $300 million since 2005 through a combination of buildings and formula changes. When Republicans took over the House, there were 34 institutions of higher learning along with a number of junior colleges. KSU came in 37th in per capita spending on students.

“Murphy used to tell me, ‘We ain’t going to put no money in that little Republican school up there,’” Ehrhart recalled. That has since changed.

When Marietta and Kennesaw mayors began allowing well-connected developers to utilize financial instruments such as tax allocation districts and payment in lieu of taxes, Ehrhart brought down the hammer, authoring legislation to crack down on such abuses.

Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren called Ehrhart one of the most dedicated and hardest working people he’s had the pleasure of knowing.

“In representing his constituents, you always knew how he stood on an issue. What he said is what he meant. A true man of his word,” Warren said.

The sheriff spoke of Ehrhart’s commitment to helping law enforcement locally and statewide, noting Ehrhart was the one he always went to.

“I’ve known Earl since he was about 10 years old. I coached him in youth basketball in Smyrna. He showed excellent leadership skills and determination to do a great job then, just as he has done the past 30 years in the General Assembly.”

The conservative battle ax’s greatest accomplishment is the rearing of his sons. In 1998, Ehrhart became a single father to his two boys, ages 16 months and 6 years. He remained a single dad for the next 18 years. While other lawmakers enjoyed the party culture of the Gold Dome, it wasn’t an option for Ehrhart. He had to be home and have dinner on the table at 6 p.m.

Sheila Raney, his administrative assistant of 18 years, recalls that commitment.

“I would say, ‘Are you going to go to this reception or that reception? He said, ‘No. I have family waiting for me at home, and I’m going home,’” Raney said.

His commitment as a father paid off. The younger son is a KSU student while his brother graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and flies fighter jets for the U.S. Marines. Several months ago, he and Ehrhart’s daughter-in-law gave Ehrhart his first grandchild.

Ehrhart married Ginny McCormack two years ago after they were introduced by KSU economist Roger Tutterow, the latter two having known each other since attending Osborne High School. Mrs. Ehrhart has decided to run for her husband’s seat, something he is thrilled to see happen. As for Rep. Ehrhart, he plans to do a little business consulting and serve on some local boards, but he is principally looking forward to the golf course and spoiling his granddaughter.

After 30 years of service to Cobb County in the Georgia House, Ehrhart has earned the right to kick up his feet. But it certainly won’t be the same when the General Assembly meets next year and he’s not there to tell the liberal progressive set to pound sand.

His service, honesty and knack for calling things as he sees them are admirable and deserves Georgians’ thanks.

His presence has left its mark. His absence will be sorely felt.

Online: http://www.mdjonline.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide