Opinion Columns & Blogs

A few legislative issues

Every spring, I teach a group of budding K-5 teachers about history, geography, economics and government. And I have students research for themselves who their national and state representatives are, as well as what bills are being considered by the Georgia General Assembly, or whatever state they are from (Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, etc.). I’m getting them to research their bills, and have them contact their elected officials to provide an opinion on the subject. And here are some I’ve looked up that I thought I’d tell you about, and will even offer an opinion or two on the subject.

The ayes, or eyes, have it

The Georgia General Assembly is taking up a bill to expand the pool of people who can offer eye treatments. Currently, ophthalmologists are the only ones can offer them, but a bill hopes to widen the list of folks who can offer eye exams and treatment, too.

Normally, I’d say that the more people who offer, the cheaper it’ll be, right? Or so goes the theory. But medicine in general, and eyes in particular, are a tricky thing. If you water down the treatment, those eyes might get pretty watery.

Now those who provide the exams are pretty cool; thanks to one, I discovered that I didn’t need glasses anymore, as my eyesight corrected itself.

But treatment is another issue. For example, those without the extensive training might recommend a treatment that an ophthalmologist might tell you is unnecessary, so are we really saving money? Having had a daughter go through the process, I can tell you that as a parent, you really want the right person to make the right call. And I concur with the argument offered by Steven M. Walsh in the Albany Herald. So please call your representative and senator to vote against Senate Bill 221.

Pension for your thoughts

Up North, you might cringe at stories of pension systems for public employees going bust. I know some up there who are pretty sure the vault holding their retirement funds is as barren as Al Capone’s. It’s a different story for Georgia, which has fully funded their pension system, giving teachers something to look forward to after decades of instructing Georgia’s children.

But we may be about to make the same mistake those Yankees made. You see, pensions are very tempting to an opportunistic politician who can’t wait to fund a personal pork project with future dollars set aside. And there’s such a bill, which would give a tiny raise to teachers, but take from that pension system, which could make ours look like, well, Illinois. So please call your legislators to reject Senator Hunter Hill’s well-meaning but dangerous plan to fundamentally undermine the Teachers Retirement System (TRS). My conservative students who teach will thank you for it.

(Update: In a joint Senate and House Retirement Committee meeting on May 7, the bill was not forwarded for actuarial study.)

Wade in the water

America the beautiful is blessed in a way most countries aren’t. We have just about enough fresh water for everyone in the USA, and it’s the most vital resource we have. As international politics expert John Cooley wrote, “Long after we’ve wrung the last drop of oil from the earth, we’ll be competing for water.” Many world wars claim to be about religion or real estate or who controls the government, but beneath many you’ll see a competition for water rights.

Yet there’s a proposal to allow coal companies to dump their waste into our water, undermining our law that has protected our waters since 1972. Any savings to such companies will be paid for on the backs of the average American.

We don’t need to become a Third World country or a Texas county that has to import its water, and therefore be held hostage to others. Owning our own water is vital to our independence. Those coal companies will have to figure out a better way to dispose their material.

More than 125 people were killed and thousands were hurt in West Virginia when several dams failed because this slurry clogged them up back in 1972, leading to this legislation in the first place. And a 2008 coal ash spill cost billions to clean up. So call your member of Congress (House and Senate) and tell them to oppose the rule change allowing companies to dump coal crap in the water, if you agree with me on this matter.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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