Santa Claus doesn't just wear a fur-trimmed red suit. Sometimes he wears pinstripes and wingtips.
This is the time of year when lawmakers sit down with local officials, making their lists of requests for next year's legislative session, deciding who's been naughty and nice.
It looks like everyone's getting a lump of coal. While Georgia's economy is taking a good turn, it will take a while for the state's revenue collections to catch up. As a result, sugary local visions of plum spending projects will never make it down the chimney. State Sen. Don Cheeks already told Rich-mond County officials not to expect any gifts; on Dec. 18, he and the rest of Columbia Coun-ty's delegation - state Sen. Joey Brush, and state Reps. Ben Harbin and Barry Fleming - will deliver the same humbug message in Columbia County.
County commissioners haven't spelled out their wish-list for next year, but they've gotten a promise from the elves at the Department of Transportation that there may be a couple of road projects in the ol' stocking.
The Board of Education got ready recently to sit on Santa's lap as School Super-intendent Tommy Price listed the system's requests, coming after the state's "austerity" cuts cost local schools $3.6 million.
till, the school system isn't asking lawmakers for a lot of money. They'd instead like more flexibility in using existing funds.
In one area, the county will probably get its wish: Mandated class-size reductions, already stalled a year, will get at least another delay. Brush, chairman of the Senate Education Commit-tee, says the class-size reductions would cost the state $200 million - and right now, the state's toy bag doesn't carry that kind of cash.
Local lawmakers will hear these and other requests on the 18th. A week earlier, the delegation's Santas warm up with the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce pre-legislative breakfast Wed-nesday morning at the Belair Conference Center.
Before the session starts in January, Santa will probably start to look a lot like Scrooge - wingtips and all.
Follow the rules
Gibbs Library has a copy of Roberts Rules of Order on the shelves. Commissioners may want to check it out.
By inadvertently violating those rules, County Commis-sioner Tom Mercer, standing in as chairman in Ron Cross' absence, let a rezoning for a new church die.
Here's how it happened: Steve Brown made a motion to approve the rezoning. Diane Ford made a new motion to table it until they'd had time to review revisions to the church's plan.
Roberts Rules says Ford's motion should have come first, but Mercer called for a vote on Brown's motion. Mercer and Brown voted for it; Ford and Lee Anderson against.
Commission-ers then discussed Ford's request to table the issue, quizz-ing each other about the revised plans and when to bring it back for a vote.
Ford's motion then deadlocked along the same lines, and Mercer turned to County Administrator Steve Sza-blewski for advice. Sza-blewski then delivered the news that a few people in the audience had long since figured out: With a 2-2 tie, the original motion failed - which means Emmanuel Faith Tabernacle Internation-al Ministries can't revisit the zoning change for another six months. Minister Eric Taylor says they'll probably look for another site.
There is still a chance - a slim one - that the rezoning could be reconsidered. A commissioner who voted on the "prevailing side" could ask that the vote be taken over. Perhaps the county's attorney - who sat like a knot on a log as commissioners debated themselves silly over a moot point - could offer an opinion on which side "prevailed" in the original tie vote.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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