Newspapers bring business to your city • Lamar Norton, Executive Director, Ga. Municipal AssociationSubmitted by editor on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 20:04.
Newspaper publishers across Georgia are dedicating a significant bit of time and ink explaining why community newspapers matter. I would like to add my thoughts on the subject. As executive director of the Georgia Municipal Association, the state’s largest representative of city governments, I have seen firsthand how newspapers impact cities. To put it simply: Newspapers are economic development.
First, and most basically, most newspaper offices are located in downtowns. They employ people who, hopefully, eat and shop at other downtown businesses. People come to newspaper offices to place ads, share their news and buy their newspapers. So newspapers drive traffic into the downtown area.
They also cover events like ribbon cuttings and business expansions that help local businesses. Think about where you live. If you live in one of Georgia’s many smaller towns, it’s likely your newspaper is a once or twice-weekly publication. If that newspaper didn’t exist, who would cover these events? Would the closest large daily newspaper drive to your town to cover the grand opening of a Mom and Pop store? Probably not. Your community newspaper, however, does cover those events and that coverage helps Mom and Pop and the rest of the family stay in business.
The House again saw only a handful of bills during our third week, but that situation won't last long since the committees have begun to pump out a steady stream of new legislation. Our main work was getting out the “little budget,” as the bill to adjust the current, fiscal year 2013 budget is called. This bill makes adjustments to reflect the actual rate at which revenue is coming in, and is also used to alter priorities on some programs. Revenue is off very slightly from projections (by less than 1 percent), so that part of the adjustment was fairly minimal. Nonetheless, K-12 education needed roughly $160 million to handle enrollment growth, and various healthcare programs (primarily Medicaid) required about $240 million extra, so cuts were necessary to accommodate those changes. The House honored the Governor’s request that K-12 education not share in the cuts, so most other areas of the budget saw 2 to 3 percent reductions. No one was surprised to see another tight budget, and thus little comment was made. I supported the bill, and it passed by 145 to 18.
Now I’ll turn to discussion of some interesting new bills. As I mentioned in a previous column, the freshmen have been busy introducing ideas they are eager to pursue. The “old dogs” haven’t been idle either. To date, over 200 new bills have been launched in the House. As we look at some of them, please remember that while I find a bill interesting enough to report to you, that doesn’t mean I support it. These ideas are often a surprising measure of our times.
Georgia House Bill 142 (introduced on Jan. 29, 2013, see: http://goo.gl/tFdYG ) attempts to reform ethic laws in this state. Sadly, legislators have, in their zeal to cast a wider ethical net, broadened the definition of lobbyist so wide that it now encompasses basically everyone except elected officials themselves (just wait, that will come next!). Yes, this includes even you and me. The particularly onerous portions of this bill, the reporting requirements, do not apply to individual citizens expressing “personal views” UNLESS they are speaking to someone elected statewide who was not elected within their district. In other words, as the law is written (as of today Feb. 10, 2013) if you wish to speak to the Governor, Secretary of State, Public Service Commissioner, etc. and discuss anything other than the weather or sports you technically would need to register with the state of Georgia as a lobbyist and pay a $300 annual fee for the privilege thereof.
This provision clearly violates the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (in conjunction with the supremacy clause) or the 14th Amendment (take your pick) insofar as the 1st Amendment guarantees “the right of the people… to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That key phrase “right of the people to petition” – defines precisely what “lobbying” is. Therefore any laws that in any way hinder the ability of anyone to petition (lobby) are violations of this core Constitutional right. It is immaterial toward the exercise of this right whether I (or a group of people) personally petition the government or if I hire someone to act on my (or our) behalf.
New Year’s resolutions often manifest themselves in some type of exercise and or weight loss program involving crash diets and boot camp. With good intentions, we promise ourselves this will be the year; we will exercise more, dine healthier, and eat less. My daughter in-law is a wellness coordinator and personal trainer; January is her busiest month. By mid- February melancholy has replaced motivation; her client schedule and class size returns to normal. This says something about how we approach diet and exercise. It’s all or nothing; we set drastic unrealistic goals and expectations. When they can’t be sustained we become discontent, disheartened. So, what is sensible and sustainable? How can we achieve the desired lifestyle changes, and remain content with ourselves along the way? The answer: small changes over a long period of time.
Actress Delta Burke struggled with her weight for years; she took a patient approach. She decided, if it took her 10 years to lose the desired pounds- so be it. Her goal was to stop gaining. This confirms what my college nutrition professor shared about maintaining your weight, “You may think a one pound weight fluctuation each year is harmless. If, at 20 years old, you gain a pound per year by the time you’re 50 you’ve gained 30 pounds.” Delta figured it out, she made lifestyle changes to maintain her weight and weight loss was the benefit. It worked; it took 10 years.
As a dedicated bird watcher it was with incredible delight that I accepted the invitation of Rena Holt (of the Sunflower Farm) to come to her home to see a Rufous Hummingbird that was visiting her feeders and watch it being banded. For those of us who do feed our regular visitors, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, we send them off in September, take down our feeders, and wait for their return in early summer. I’ve been advised to keep up the feeders for those stragglers that might come by, but it seemed like too much trouble. Well, Rena proved me wrong. What a beautiful sight to see this 2-year-old male (the bander told me this) flashing his bright, copper-colored feathers in the sunlight. And then to have an up close and touchable moment with this little beauty was a birder’s dream. To impress you a bit more, note that the Rufous Hummingbird’s migration and breeding grounds are on the west coast – to have him visit us here is a rare treat.