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Op-ed, blogs and columns

High profile legislation responds to citizens' needs

By State Senator Steve Gooch

A number of high profile bills have been introduced this week that are aimed at responding to the needs of our state’s citizens. Georgians, along with voters across the nation, have told their elected officials loud and clear that they want smaller government and less intrusion.  Here at the state level, we’re working to meet that request.

As taxpayers, we all want to rest assured that our government is being a good steward of our hard earned money. The Senate and House have both moved forward on legislation that would require the General Assembly to justify every dollar it spends.  Georgia currently operates under a continuation budget.  Once a new spending program is approved by the General Assembly, it is automatically rolled over into the next succeeding budget under a single line item, called continuation. The budgets that we approve each year detail as little as 3% of the state’s spending; everything else appears on one line without any description.  Legislation is in the works to move to a zero-based budgeting method that would require us to justify all expenses, including those approved in earlier years. The Senate has passed a version of zero-based budgeting four times in the last eight years, and the bill enjoys strong bipartisan support. If we are to be good stewards of taxpayers’ hard-earned money, we must analyze and justify how every dollar is spent.

At a time when federal mandates and regulations seem to be encroaching on everyone’s life, the Georgia legislature is working to protect citizens’ rights. A bill has been introduced that aims to protect the gun rights of legally-carrying citizens during a state of emergency. Senate Bill 26 prohibits any additional limitations on carrying firearms during a state of emergency, including seizing any firearm not currently prohibited by law, or requiring the registration of a firearm that is not already required to be registered by law.  Legally-carrying citizens should be able to protect themselves and their personal property at all times, particularly emergency situations.

This week also saw the introduction of a bill aimed at restricting the massive influx of illegal immigrants into Georgia.  Senate Bill 40 enhances the use of the federal E-Verify system and allows local and state law enforcement officers to help federal authorities identify illegal immigrants in Georgia. The bill includes increased punishments on contractors who work on state projects but do not use the federal E-Verify system to ensure their employees are legal to work in the United States and mandates that private businesses use E-Verify. The bill also authorizes law enforcement officers to ask for immigration documents from a person who is stopped for probable cause of a crime, authorizes law enforcement to verify citizenship or legal immigration status by asking for government identification such as a driver’s license and allows them to turn over suspected illegal aliens to federal authorities.  The bill specifically states that race or country of origin cannot be used to determine if someone is in the United States illegally. Much of this bill is aimed at helping businesses and state agencies determine that people working for them are not in the country illegally.

Also this week we celebrated North Georgia College and State University Day at the Capitol, where we recognized the college’s softball team for their perfect 50-0 season in 2010, the program’s third perfect season in its 14-year history. North Georgia College stands as a beacon of excellence in education, and is Georgia’s second oldest public institution of higher learning. The college’s rich history is coupled with its national distinction as a leader in teaching and learning innovation, educating engaged citizens and contributing to regional development.

I’m excited to announce that I’ve been appointed chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee on Roads and Bridges, and look forward to using this appointment to help meet the transportation needs in the 51st Senate District and across the state. The subcommittee will be tasked with vetting specific transportation bills and resolutions assigned by the full Transportation committee that focus on this particular policy area.  In order to elevate our state’s transportation system, we must ensure that our roads and bridges are maintained to the highest standard. Providing quality, core transportation functions has a huge impact on our state’s competitive advantage, and it’s incumbent upon this subcommittee to examine any policy that affects that part of our transportation network.  I’m honored by this appointment and look forward to working with my colleagues to improve Georgia’s roads and bridges.

Expect the pace to quicken under the Gold Dome as we begin moving these and other bills through the legislative process. I remain committed to passing good legislation that responds to our citizens’ needs.


From Hard-Head, with love

By Bettina Huseby

“Live and learn,” my Aunt Mary liked to say. It was one of my favorites. I’m approaching the half-century mark, but lately it’s teenagers who are teaching me stuff. I work shoulder-to-shoulder with ’em at home, at school and at my job. Nobody is particularly happy about it and it shows.

I was sanitizing in the Walmart Deli when a young colleague startled me, barking orders at high volume. I was indignant. She was not being respectful to me, her elder, and she frightened me so much I wet my Khaki uniform pants.

I can be loud too, and gave it right back to her, expounding on why I was right and she was wrong. For emphasis, I threw my cleaning bottle across the floor. My pitch was archived as evidence on the security camera. They didn’t call me into the office, but my scheduled hours were cut way, way down into the immature teens (those digits between 12 and 20) and they removed me from the Deli indefinitely.

This sort of thing has been happening to me since kindergarten. I’m playing nicely by myself when a bully strikes and withdraws. I react and get punished for my reaction while the bully gets off scot-free. Day jobs are for organized types, anyhow - people who keep their socks rolled in pairs and brush after every meal. I’m more of a night-job kind of gal. Maybe it’s time I quit Walmart and become a stage actress. The pay is probably comparable and emoting is in my genes. My mom could cry on command and my dad had a very short fuse.

In the comedy film Smokey and the Bandit, Jackie Gleason has my dad perfectly nailed in the character of Sheriff Buford T. Justice. He abuses his son, Buford, Jr., across several state lines as they chase bootleggers and Jr.’s runaway bride. Gleason spits orders and insults, “Do what I tell ya, you pile of #$%&! Put the evidence in the car!” When his fatherly patience has completed dissolved, Gleason mutters, “There is no way, no way that you came from my loins.”

My dad lost patience with me over tiny little things, like saving water. I liked to keep the tap on while washing dishes, but Dad said to fill the sink up and turn the water off. I refused. He called me Hard-Head and stomped off to do some figuring on paper. This, he shoved under my nose. I said he was wrong. He got even madder and shut the water off at the valve. Mom jumped in and stopped us. She said no argument was worth winning if it gave Dad a stroke. We knew he had clogged arteries, but even his doctors were unaware of the aneurysm growing on his aorta. This condition took his life in a split-second, a few months later. I was 18 years old.

I felt a callous first reaction: Relief. Now he wouldn’t follow me around the house anymore, dictating my every move. Then one day it hit me. We had suffered a terrible loss. Never again could I ask him for advice. For the rest of my life I’ve had to stop and think: What would Daddy do? I can usually come up with an answer. Maybe it’s because he spent most all of his free time with me, Hard-Head. Certainly it would have been easier for him to be anywhere else on the planet. But he had no other agenda.

Lately, the kids I run into (or have run-ins with) seem especially grouchy. But I can’t worry about them all. God assigned me two of my own, whose little minds I could warp any way I see fit. I’ve tried to do a good job. If Dad were here, I hope he’d approve. I think he would. But it really doesn’t matter what I hope or think at this point. They’re teenagers now, out there making their own choices. The evidence will speak for itself.

Huseby is a Jasper resident and an occasional contributor to the Progress.

Help your school system to help our kids, says Pickens Tea Party

By Nancy Davis

Tea Party publicity


The Pickens County Tea Party wants to know why the United States has dropped to 35th in the world in quality of education?  Why are we building SUPER, million dollar complexes and spending a higher amount of money per student without seeing the positive results of a better, smarter young person?

What we need is QUALITY education, not quantity buildings.  QUALITY must be the ruler we use to determine learning environment we give our students.                         

Learning used to be fun. Parents used to get involved. Testing was done but there was not a life or death attitude in getting every child into college.

Maybe we lose some of our kids, not because they don't care or aren't smart enough, but because the emphasis on a college education is not necessarily the best answer for every child. So what we need to do is go back to determining who the individual child is and what their needs are.

Hence, National School Choice Week January 23-29, 2011. Let's take time to look at the educational systems and begin to provide effective educational options for EVERY child.  Visit your schools, listen to the teachers, observe classes, observe use of available facilities and see if our children are getting all the options available.

Much money has been spent to provide technical schools in areas.  Chattahoochee Technical College here in our community provides excellent opportunities for our kids (and adults) and supports our communities through providing additional options for many students who don't want, or can't, attend college.

Our drop in the educational ladder of the world has put America in a tight to produce that innovative, out of the box mentality that once fueled America to be the leader in the world. Shine a spotlight on education.

Help your school system to help our kids effectively.

In Pickens County, about 2/3rds of our taxes goes to education. Budgets get bigger and maintenance costs get higher.  Budgets balloon but are our schools giving our kids what they need?

You have to get involved to make an informed decision.

Wendy Lowe is now our new Pickens County School Board Chairperson.

The time of the monthly board meetings is going to 7 p.m. to try to allow PARENTS to get involved in their children's education.  A new, fresh perspective-much needed.

But it is our responsibility to support new ideas if it creates a better environment of learning for our children.  Home schools, private schools, public school, Christian based schools-all must come together to give our children the best opportunities to become educated, productive adults.

Are you up to the task?  The Pickens County Tea Party thinks we must EDUCATE ourselves to get up to speed and make the best opportunities we can for our kids.  After all, they are the future of America.

Do we want to be 35th in the world or 1st?


N. GA. VET OFFERS ADVICE TO PET OWNERS --- Handling pet emergencies

By Lyn Lewis, DVM

Wayside Animal Hospital

I have lived in North Georgia since graduating from Veterinary School in 2002 and I constantly hear stories about the “Blizzard of ’93.” I heard stories of how some people were stuck for up to two weeks because of the weather. When I heard those stories I would just shrug and say, “Well that was 1993; with all the improvements to the North Georgia area it would never be that bad now.” That is why last week was so eye opening for me to see how bad it gets up here.  Things are just now starting to normalize after over a week.  We managed to have a skeleton crew at the office and I helped answer the phone. For the most part, people were calling about pet emergencies and how they could not leave home and wanted advice. So, this week I decided to cover some of the major areas of pet emergencies.

Probably one of the most common emergencies is vomiting and diarrhea. Where people make mistakes is to keep feeding them. I have clients who try other things like boiled eggs, dairy products and various meats. Unfortunately, this is the last thing they need. Dairy products and things with fat in them, for example meats, will cause more vomiting. The best thing to do is withhold food from them for 24 hours. Also withhold water for the first 12 hours when the vomiting begins. The gut needs to rest and, for the most part, reset the system. Anything that they swallow causes the stomach to stretch, even water.  When the stomach stretches, nerves tell the brain that something is there and in turn the brain tells the intestines to get to work, generally leading to vomiting. This is why I don’t like to even give fluids at first, let the gut rest. In the case of diarrhea and no vomiting, it is okay to give food and water. Keep the foods very bland like boiled chicken and rice or just plain rice. You can give water or if the diarrhea is lasting a long time gatorade or pedialyte for the electrolytes.

Wounds or any injury is another common emergency.  This is very tricky and really varies from case to case. With open wounds that are bleeding, we really need to focus on getting the bleeding under control.  The best way to do this is to apply pressure to the wound.  Sometimes even this does not work and a great backup is using ice or something frozen over the wound. I personally like frozen peas, the bag really conforms over any surface so you really can cover the area. Always place a cloth or towel between the ice and wound area so it won’t cause any tissue damage. The ice causes blood vessels to shrink and usually stops the bleeding.

Once the bleeding is under control, place a bandage over the wound with some pressure.  If the bleeding was mild and easy to get under control, I want you to clean the wound first.  You can use betadyne, chlorhexiderm or hydrogen peroxide to clean the area. A word of warning about hydrogen peroxide, the oxidation of the tissues which causes it to bubble actually damages normal tissues just as much as it kills bacteria.  Using it once is okay but if you do it multiple times it actually makes the wound worse because more and more normal tissue dies. After cleaning the wound, place triple antibiotic ointment over the area. Now it is time to bandage the wound; if you have non-stick pads it is great to cover the wound with this first.  If the wound is on the trunk you can use an old sweater or shirt to cover it. Duct tape over the cloth to apply pressure can also help.  Once you get it bandaged, keep your pet very confined, place them in a crate so they cannot move around very much.

If your pet breaks a leg or is limping, always try to immobilize your pet in a carrier or something small. If that is impossible you can try splinting the leg to stabilize the fracture.  You can use a magazine or newspaper to encircle the area of the fracture to make it stiff and unmovable. Once again you can use duct tape to keep it from coming off. Make it snug but not too tight. Always leave the toes uncovered because if they swell, your bandage is definitely too tight. For pain control, aspirin is safe if only given for a day or two. If given any longer aspirin can cause stomach or intestinal ulcers and liver problems. NEVER use aspirin if your pet has any bleeding because it will make it worse. Ask your veterinarian about what dose to give based on your pets weight.  They can also explain the long term dangers of using aspirin for any length of time.

Each emergency is unique but I hope the above topics help you manage your pet’s emergencies until you can seek professional veterinary help. It is always a good idea to talk to your local veterinarian about getting together a veterinary first aid pack so you have everything you need if a problem arises. Also, there is now a new after-hours emergency hospital in North Georgia called the North Georgia Animal Emergency Hospital. It is open 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday and open 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday if you need assistance or after hour advice.  Their number is 706-632-7879.  If you are further south there is also the Cherokee Emergency Hospital in Woodstock and their number is 770-924-3720.

Make Your House Sell Faster, By Ron Barnes


By Ron Barnes

Associate Broker – Prudential Georgia Realty

A common question being asked by those wanting to sell their home is “what price can we ask to guarantee our home will sell within the next (fill in the time period)?” The truth is there is no magic formula to answer that question. However, there is a way to approach the question. It is called absorption rate pricing.

Space will not allow me to go into great detail to explain this, so check with your real estate professional if you have questions.

The following illustration represents “The Pond” of homes circulating through the market. The “flow” is the top layer representing those homes most aggressively priced that enter the market stream and flow out quickly. The “show” is the group of homes that get shown, but never get offers. The “stagnant mass” is where many homes reside in this market; priced too high, they never even get a showing, much less an offer.



The Absorption Rate is the ability of the real estate market to “absorb” or sell all of the houses for sale in a given amount of time. For example, if 50 homes are sold every month and there are 600 homes for sale, it will take 12 months to sell all of the homes currently on the market. If there are 1,200 homes for sale, the absorption period will be 24 months. This does not take into consideration new listings that come on the market, withdrawn listings, and listings that expire.


If you would like to sell in 12 months, you need to take the absorption rate into account. In the above scenario with 2400 homes for sale, we know that only 1/2 of them will sell in the next 12 months. If you need to sell within the next 12 months you need to price the property in the lower 50% of the price range for similar properties in order for it to sell in the next 12 months. To sell in the next 6 months it would have to be priced in the lower 25% of the competition.


Obviously this article is more theoretical than practical, since the details of your home and local market need to be applied. However, it is no accident that while the average absorption rate for Pickens over the last 15 months is 4.13, the average for homes under $100,000 is nearly three times that rate. Interestingly, homes priced from $250-300K are at about half the rate compared to homes in the $200-250K range, so if your home is worth $240,000 and you’re trying to squeeze it for $260,000, you’re only fooling yourself.


Ron Barnes can be reached at 678-520-6648 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Information in this article includes part of a class by Zan Monroe called “Ninja Marketing”. Prudential Georgia Realty is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial Company. Equal Housing Opportunity. Statistics furnished by Trendgraphics.