Thursday in Georgia is Governor's Organ and Tissue Donor Day, to be proclaimed from the Capitol steps by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Also by order of Perdue, next Monday will begin a special session of the state Legislature to fix budget problems left over from the recent regular session that was already one of the longer sessions in state history.
Organ donations this week. Budget surgery next week. Coincidence?
The special session is as unnecessary as most cosmetic surgery, and will cost more, too. It also comes the week after those who intend to run for office are filing their intentions to do so. If there were ever a time when our government needed an extreme makeover, this is it.
First, the lawmakers failed to do their jobs when they allowed federal judges to draw new state maps for legislative seats. The federal courts gave the state's elected leaders a deadline for drawing fair maps, and the Legislature dickered until the deadline passed.
The result? Many veteran lawmakers won't be coming back next year, because the maps drawn by the judges didn't protect incumbents. Others will switch from Democrat to Republican in advance of what many expect to be a GOP takeover.
You can bet, though, the makeover under the Gold Dome will be anything but extreme; it will be more like putting perfume on a hog, and we will shrug and settle for whatever we get.
Maybe what we aren't getting, though, should draw some attention.
The Legislature is being called back into session to fix the unbalanced budget. Much of the imbalance is due to a bipartisan agreement to give Georgia educators the election-year shaft.
How? Well, powerful lawmakers in the last minute of the session shoved $50 million in hometown spending projects into the budget. The money to pay for this pork came from delaying pay raises for teachers and state employees, and cutting funds that would have offset rising health insurance premiums.
But the money is going for a good cause, right? How about $1.4 million for an aquarium in Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor's Albany district? Or $2 million for a library in the Canton hometown of Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Steph-ens? Or $13.7 million for a tech school building in the Dublin district of Demo-cratic House Speak-er Pro Tem DuBose Porter?
There's more to it than that, including a disagreement over indigent-de-fense funding and who controls it. All of this is supposed to be ironed out in the special session.
The session will cost more in one day than most teachers make in one year. Another coincidence? Or just a crying shame? Time to get out the scalpels, folks.
The 4H solution
One of the areas that has suffered from budget cuts in recent years is Georgia's Agricultural Extension Serv-ice, casualties not only of tight fiscal times but of changing times in the state.
We still run our school calendar as if kids need to be available for summer row-cropping, but very few of our children ever see a farm any more. The Extension Service has been forced to gradually trim its staff and offices to cope with Georgia's shift away from agriculture.
Along with it, the 4H program in schools has survived to see its 100th birthday this year. Columbia County's 4H program celebrated last week with an awards ceremony recognizing students for activities ranging from livestock judging to archery.
Above all, the kids were recognized for leadership. Within these top-notch students lies a possibility that one day we could have a bumper crop of bold, decisive people ready to use, as the 4H pledge says, "their heads for clearer thinking."
Good. It's doubtful any clear thinkers would delay teacher raises to free up taxpayer funds for a fish tank.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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