The Augusta Chronical, Updated Apr 14, 2018 at 7:45 PM
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
— Groucho Marx
There’s a campaign-style bumper sticker making the rounds nationally that says, “Any Functioning Adult, 2020.”
Sure seems that way, at least in Washington, D.C.
It appears to be a much different story in Georgia, and perhaps other states. Georgia appears quite well-run – as evidenced by a just-concluded legislative session where the main challenges were making the state better and safer and preserving its quality of life.
In fact, among the audience’s questions at a gubernatorial forum Thursday hosted by the Columbia County Republican Women were ones about how best to structure the state’s blend of taxes and how to capitalize on “the economic growth brought on by the film industry.”
Most of the problems cited by the 80-some in attendance were, in fact, national bugaboos, including illegal immigration, helping veterans, guns and mental health, assaults on conservative speech (highlighted by the Facebook congressional hearings last week) and balancing religious freedom with gay rights.
At bottom, Georgia’s chief challenges are education, transportation, immigration, health care and rural economics.
Other issues include human/sex trafficking – of which there is a vortex in the Atlanta area, but which is also spilling out into small-town Georgia due to crackdowns in Atlanta; the national opioid crisis; and concerns about Second Amendment rights.
As for “functioning adults” in leadership, we’re happy to report Georgia has more than its share. The upcoming May 22 statewide primary — for which early voting starts April 30 — is proof enough of that.
Engaged voters are currently taking the measure, as are we, of the men seeking to be the state’s next governor. The leading candidates are Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, state Sen. Hunter Hill and businessman Clay Tippins.
All are top-quality individuals. Cagle and Kemp obviously inhabit top-tier positions. Hill is an Army Ranger with three tours of duty under his belt. Tippins is a former Navy SEAL with international business experience.
We encourage you to visit their websites – just Google the name plus “governor” – to learn more about them. But it’s hard to see how we can go wrong – despite following a tough act in Gov. Nathan Deal.
Moreover, the just-ended legislative session – while featuring more than the usual sausage-making politics – was highly successful and absent crisis. Legislators confronted major issues such as gun violence, post-Parkland, in what one lawmaker called “a calculated, considerate way.”
In large part because Georgia is certifiably the No. 1 state in which to do business – named so in 2017 by Site Selection magazine for the fifth year in a row – revenues have made it possible for the state to fully fund its Quality Basic Education formula for what appears to be the first time since its inception in the 1980s. Recession-era austerity cuts also have been eliminated.
The state also plunked $360 million of additional funds into the Teachers Retirement System.
Meanwhile, the 2019 budget, beginning in July, includes $1.6 million for student mental health awareness training and “response and intervention training” for schools.
A new “Chief Turnaround Officer program” also has been funded to help turn around failing schools.
As for gun violence, lawmakers also took action to strengthen the state’s data base on involuntary commitments, and to punish those who supply guns to individuals who are prohibited from purchasing them.
Contrary to Groucho Marx’s wry observation about politics, Georgia is on good footing and taking steps to improve that footing.
“I just don’t know how people argue with what we’re doing in this state,” Rep. Jodi Lott said. “I can’t say enough good things about the direction of the state.”
Challenges remain, of course.
Transportation is a continuing struggle – due, again, in large part to the success the state has had in attracting business and industry.
On that front, the General Assembly passed landmark legislation that, over five years, will consolidate Atlanta-area mass transit systems into one “Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority,” or The ATL. It will coordinate and expand mass transit across 13 Atlanta-area counties – a huge and welcome step, since 60 percent of the metro area’s commuters work and live in different counties.
The big challenge will be to get the Capital to look beyond Atlanta’s needs to the rest of ours.
And while you’d think that red-state Georgia wouldn’t have a problem with cities giving sanctuary to illegal immigrants, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last fall that “three Georgia cities — Atlanta, Clarkston and Decatur — have adopted measures in favor of restricting their interactions with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
Republican gubernatorial candidates are promising to crack down on such lawbreaking.
Still, the state of the state is pretty doggone good.
As state Rep. Barry Fleming noted in his invocation at Thursday’s Columbia County gubernatorial forum, all one has to do to remind oneself of that is to follow the news around the world.
Georgia is in a good place.
It’s up to informed and engaged voters to keep it there.
Augusta Chronicle Editorial Staff