Originally created 02/10/00

Why elect lawmakers?

As expected, Georgia's House Education Committee, on a 15-9 party line vote, approved Gov. Roy Barnes' confusing, retooled 151-page education reform bill Tuesday.

It's appalling, however, that no amendments were allowed even though most of the 15 Democrats hadn't even seen the revised bill -- much less read it -- before they OK'd it.

Even more shocking, many admitted they didn't know what they were voting on! They simply took the word of Barnes' floor leader, Rep. Charlie Smith, D-St. Marys, that all was well with H.R. 1187 -- notwithstanding that the governor just made more than 100 changes.

Smith said he was unwilling to accept any amendments because that might bog the reform bill down in the legislative process.

What's that again?

Does Smith believe, at least when his sainted governor's agenda is at stake, lawmakers should ignore the legislative process. Unbelievable!

Let's hope no high school students were present to see the democratic process trashed. Why have a legislature at all if its members aren't going to do the job they're elected to do?

Just let the governor rule by fiat.

Minority Republicans still will offer constructive amendments, urged by educators and state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko, on the House floor today. But it will be a surprise if these proposals -- including striking down the governor's new "education accountability" bureaucracy -- will go anywhere.

The Barnes-Smith fast-track express is expected to run right over them. Then it will try a Senate "fast-track." However, there is reason to be optimistic that the upper chamber will not be railroaded; that caution and compromise will prevail.

Don't get us wrong. There are very good policies (as well as some bad ideas) in the Barnes legislation. But there should be a serious effort to slow down and give H.R. 1187 earnest scrutiny. Surely, the General Assembly won't approve the most ambitious education reforms in 16 years without knowing what they all are, and discussing what their impact could be.


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