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Bill Shipp - The Georgia circus

Only in Georgia ...

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox flies to Hollywood to appear on the TV game show, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (Answer: probably not.) Meanwhile, her predecessor, Linda Schrenko, cools her heels in a federal prison for stealing a bundle from - where else? - the state education department.

Gov. Sonny Perdue finally gets his helicopter pilot's license. Now he can fly daily over the ground-bound peasantry trudging its way to work in lowly cars. He also zips off to China again. Wonder why he keeps going to China. Is there something we don't know?

State Sen. Mitch Seabaugh convenes a House panel to consider expanding the freedom to pack guns in Georgia. An "expert" witness testifies that the law ought to make it OK for adults to carry guns into schools, churches and other public places - even if they have criminal drug records. Georgia law already makes it legal for civilians to carry concealed weapons into airports and many other public and private places.

The nightly news continues to sound like a report from a war front, as citizens of Atlanta mow each other down at an alarming rate. The Legislature apparently wants to increase the rate of gunfire.

Why is the national news media wasting time on the Democratic National Convention in Denver? They ought to be in Georgia. This is where the action is. The Denver conclave is so predictable. Some say it ought to be called "Prelude to a Butt-Kicking."

And Georgia's present government ought to be renamed "Aftermath of an Unnatural Disaster."

Look at this mess:

· Almost overnight, the annual state budget has risen from $15 billion to $21 billion.

· To help forestall a financial collapse, Perdue takes away the homeowners' tax credit. Says the Barnes crowd never should have passed such a thing. Hey, former Gov. Roy E. Barnes hasn't been around for nearly seven long years. Don't blame him for your problems. He's too busy building a castle with a moat between Lost Mountain and Marietta.

· To make certain Georgia doesn't lose its national standing as having the worst public schools in the nation, Perdue and the Legislature are whacking money for public schools again. And higher education is being chopped to the bone. Courses have been cut and professors sent packing while student fees are skyrocketing. Folks, thanks to Gov. Carl Sanders back in the 1960s and several of his successors, our colleges are about the best thing Georgia has going for it. So why is the state skimping on them, even as it drains millions from the budget to pay for the governor's Go Fish program?

Nearly 100 local school districts have raised local taxes to try to compensate for millions ripped away by the state.

Georgia's mental health system has been allowed to virtually collapse to the extent that, after 40 years, Georgia's mental hospitals have regained the awful epithet "the snake pits."

Oh, yes, then there is the drought. The Gold Dome folks are dealing with that ongoing problem by stripping millions previously budgeted for new and improved reservoirs.

Of course, slipping and sliding revenues are forcing the state to cut spending somewhere, yet the budget axe is falling with extra force on education - the one state service that can rescue us from the bleak future ahead caused by the utter idiocy in the Statehouse.

The whole bunch ought to go to Hollywood to appear on the coming production of "Are We Dumber Than Dirt?" What about it, audience? The answer has to be yes.

JUDGE HITS HANDEL: After last week's column about Secretary of State Karen Handel's partisan dealings, Handel defended her actions in a letter published in several Georgia newspapers. Shortly after she submitted the column, a judge strongly rebuked her decision to boot Democratic Public Service Commission candidate Jim Powell from the ballot. Powell is now back on the ballot for November. Handel, of course, appealed the decision to the federal circuit court, consuming thousands of additional public dollars.

Insiders in both parties also believe that Michelle Conlon, the independent who attempted to qualify to run for the state House against Republican Party switcher Mike Jacobs, stands a good chance of appearing on the ballot. DeKalb County identified over 200 questionable signatures on the petition to qualify Conlon. A court is likely to rule that Handel's office should have reviewed these additional signatures because the margin was so close. That has been the practice of the secretary of state's office in prior years.

P.S.: In Handel's column, while claiming to be nonpartisan and unbiased, she referred to DeKalb County as one of the most "Democrat" counties in the state. While that may be the preferred nomenclature of right-wing talk radio, the proper term is "Democratic."

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net, or Web address: billshipponline.com.