Crossover Day: Death or Second Chance?

fig_treeIt’s Crossover Day.

For any lobbyist, legislator, and general run of the mill politico, this is a day of significance.  Crossover Day is the 30th legislative day in the 40 day legislative calendar of the Georgia General Assembly.  Each bill begins in either the House or the Senate, and then must go through the committee process on its originating side before “crossing over” to the second chamber- to then begin the process again before being signed into law.  This is dictated by the Senate Rules. If the bill does not successfully cross over (it died in committee, failed on a floor vote, etc.) then the bill is considered “dead” for the remainder of the current session.  Bills remain “alive” even if they do not crossover for two years.

I am going to get a little wonky in the next few paragraphs, so if process discussion is not your thing, skip down until after the definition.

In everyone’s head there is a timeline as we approach Crossover Day.  When must the bill be introduced?  By when must it be favorably recommended by the committee?  Can I get the majority of floor votes that are requisite?

There’s a lot of gallows humor in the week preceding Crossover Day, with terms such as “dead”, “Frankenstein”, “alive”, and “revival” thrown around at will.

For obvious reasons, the House is the more difficult chamber in which for a bill to originate.  It must pass 180 differing opinions before it may crossover.  Have you ever tried to herd cats?  Try passing something in the House.  The Senate is the easier chamber to originate bills, due to sheer fewer numbers of egos people.  However, any bills dealing with funds going or coming from the general fund are constitutionally required to begin in the House.

So what do you do if your bill does not cross over?  Give up?

Oh, no.  You just become more aware of the term “germane”. Continue reading “Crossover Day: Death or Second Chance?”

In Defense of Common Educational Standards (Common Core, if you will)

Common Core Cartoon

It will probably come as a bit of a surprise that the libertarian leaning (little L, please) Mensa Dropout is writing on the strengths of common educational standards. Here’s the thing with standards:  they are just standards.  Standards are different than curriculum, and curriculum is different than instruction.

Common Core Standards, or here in Georgia, Georgia Standards of Excellence (same stuff; different name, and we paid lots of money for that different name) are just that: standards.

Education has a three part thing going: simply put, education is how we teach what we teach to get to what we want our kids to know or do.

Standards are what we want our kids to know and do at a certain level in their education.

Curriculum is what we teach to reach those standards.

Instruction is how we teach the curriculum to get to the standards.

Below is an example from Common Core 5th Grade (I would like to point out that GSE has the exact same standard on page 33…just sayin’):

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.

There’s our Standard:  Students will be able to identify figurative language.  There is a writing component to it where we can up the ante and have students create a piece with figurative language in it.

How DARE we teach kids about metaphors and similes!

So the Curriculum is what venue we use to teach this:  definitions, flash cards, examples, short snippets from speeches, poems, stories, etc., or for the more traditional worksheet kinda person, well, a worksheet.

Can we use The Bible to read and identify figurative language?  Sure!  Can we use an excerpt from Mein Kempf?  Absolutely!  Or we could go middle of the road, and teach a little poem like “Sleep”, which is by a white female writer who was born in Victorian England, in case anyone wants to accuse me of communist brainwashing with my choice of poem.

Instruction is how we teach it:  small groups, giving more complex or less complex poems or speeches to students depending on their reading level or language acquisition.  Listening to the poem, reading the poem, guided reading and response to identify metaphors and similes…sorry; went total educational wonk right there.

Why is there so much antipathy for Common Standards?  I’m not sure. The only argument against standards that I hear is really an argument against the curriculum, not the standards.  It’s important that we understand the difference between the two.  My main argument for standards is our society is pretty transient, and kids move a lot more than they did when I was a kid. Nowadays, younguns may change schools four or five times in their lives.  Is there a reason why the child should be punished because the parents move a lot?  Shouldn’t we all be teaching close to the same standard around or about the same time so that if Transient Johnny does move in his fifth grade year from Kansas to California, he won’t be totally lost or, even worse, completely bored?

The fight over Common Core appears to me to be a fight between grown folks, and it’s the little ones who are caught in the middle and who are punished.   It’s like having divorced parents fighting over what is best simply because they want to be in charge…and the kids always, always lose.

Keep the standards; change the curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of the local community. Put the kids first because they are the ones who will be choosing our healthcare and old folks’ homes.




Trafficking: The Modern Day Slavery

January was National Human Trafficking Awareness month.  I was fortunate to be invited to a panel discussion through Ellevate, a professional women’s networking group, that helped to shed much needed light on this issue.  The fact that hit home the most for this writer was that of geographical rankings for human trafficking, the city of Atlanta was in the top 14.

In 2012 the International Labour Organization estimated 20.9 million victims worldwide, and 26% of them children.  In 2013 atTrafficking In Persons Report it was up to 27 million.

Continue reading “Trafficking: The Modern Day Slavery”

And Then They Came for Me: Thoughts on House Bill 757

I believe in freedom of speech.  I believe it is the First Amendment for a reason.  I believe that people can and should be able to speak their minds, even if I find them to be assholes.  My definition of assholedom is different than others, and I consider “In Your Face” people to be the ultimate assholes. I am NOT politically correct, nor do I aspire to be; the two little people in my world will be handed over to my best friend and his husband if my spouse and I get hit by the same bus/train/car/white supremacist (it’s in our will); I go to church regularly, and I believe that being a Christian means loving everyone, including assholes; I believe that businesses should be able to serve or not serve anyone they want to serve or not serve based on anything that those businesses feel are against their moral compass. I’m just a walking dichotomy, and proud to be one, although many find my dichotomies tedious.

All of that said, I am against House Bill 757, The Religious Freedom Bill that is floating around in Georgia. My friend, Daniel, says that it would be fine if it were an “Economic Freedom Bill” because then everyone would be on the same footing (an equal opportunity discrimination bill, if you will).  My spouse says that money is green, and although Chik-fil-A is against the marriage of same sex couples, he is pretty sure that they won’t deny two women holding hands a biscuit if their money is green. I believe that people should and will choose to boycott specific places based on their convictions (even if the biscuit is THAT good).

But we get into some murky water with all the what-ifs and suppose-thats.  I’m not interested in our government in my bedroom or in my bible.  I’m not sure that I want the government to be in my life at all, really, and I fear that this bill, if taken to the extreme (and there are always extremists) could turn into a discrimination legislation the likes of which we witnessed with the Jim Crow Laws here not too long ago, the likes of which we witnessed in Germany, the likes of which we see in other countries today.

If Georgians want to continue to grow this state economically, then I think our legislators need to rethink this bill because we never know when they will come for me or you…

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

                                                                                                                  ~Martin Niemoller


Superbowl 50: The Ladies’ Political Platform

Super_Bowl_50_Logo.svgSo there was a little football game this past weekend.  Not sure if you caught it, but in the midst of the pigskin throwing, the millions of dollars in ad buys and the simple joy of watching Peyton Manning win again, there was a little political statement made by a couple of ladies in unexpected ways.

For beginners, Lady Gaga, who is known for her outlandish costumes, audacious lyrics, and unwavering support of the LGBT community gave an outstanding rendition of our nation’s anthem.  She stood (all 5’1”) in a simple yet sparkly pantsuit and sang her heart out in a performance that brought many unexpectedly to tears.  She was the picture of modern grace and patriotic pride in her red pantsuit (reminiscent of a certain female Presidential candidate) and simple stud earrings.  Her eye makeup, nail color and shoes were the only hints of stepping out of line with the outfit otherwise à la Jackie O with a modern twist.  The element of surprise here was not then what she was wearing, but how powerful her voice and presence is without adornment.  Implicitly, this nation building moment also highlights the changes in the country since we last gathered for this game- the SCOTUS ruling of marriage equality.

Maybe it was just a song, or maybe this was a platform for a much larger statement on how we define ourselves as Americans. Continue reading “Superbowl 50: The Ladies’ Political Platform”

In Defense of Canada

Canadian Flag
Even The Canadian Flag is cool. Maple leaf, maple syrup? Consistency!


Apparently, The Donald has a problem with Canadians.  Not sure why he has this atavistic hatred for our friends in the North.  I mean, annexing the whole thing and making it one, giant snow park would be cool, but I’m not one to invade other countries.

In my little part of the world, calling someone a Canadian is not an insult.  Never have I been irritated with someone and said, “Man, you are soooooo…Canadian,” nor have I told my children, “Don’t play with them; they’re Canadians.”  Thems just not fightin’ words. In fact, I love Canadians.  I love Canada.  It worries me and makes me a little sad, really, that The Donald has a problem with Ted Cruz due to his Canadianism (which he forsook to become solely American, an act which I will never understand).

I am here today to extoll the virtues of all things Canadian.  Maybe Mr. Trump will read this little dittie and change his tune. I doubt it, though; he’s a little busy combing his barely-noticeable-toupee and being angry and…weird.  He’s weird.  Weirdweirdweird.

Here is The Dropout’s top ten list of  why Canada is Cool, and why Trump should take a chill pill:

10.  Canadians have Maple Syrup.

I could stop right here and be done with my list.

9.  Canadians are NICE.

Whenever I visit up to the Great White North, I am treated with kindness.  Even in Montreal, where the Francophones love the French language, all I have to say is, Bon Jour and then start speaking English.  No harm, no foul.  With those two words, it is understood that I tried to do the French thing, and everyone is pleased with my southern drawl efforts.  I never met a person there who was not helpful or who refused to switch over to English or whatever language the person was speaking to them (for me, it’s English…it’s all I got).

8.  Canadians Speak, Like, Seven Thousand Languages

So my Canadian friend Tom (also very nice, although I don’t think he grows his own syrup) speaks Italian, French, English, Hebrew, and Spanish.  I mean, come on!  Canada is as big and as landlocked as the US, and we Amerkuns speak English. Many of us haven’t quite mastered that language.  I was visiting a place in Montreal, when a lady said to her husband, “Oh, look, baby!  Even the little ones speak French!”  The boy switched to English and apologized for insulting her.  See?  Even the little ones are nice!  Tom’s kids, who are eight and six, speak three languages.  My kids, who are the same age, speak broken English.

7.  Canadians have Poutine

Check it:  French Fries covered in gravy, and sprinkled with cheese curds.  It’s like bacon and cheese fries but oooooooooh, soooooooo, much bettttttttter!  I have dreams about Poutine, and when I wake up and step on the scale, I’ve gained 12 pounds.

6.  Canadians are Rule Followers.

I was visiting there Before Children (BC), and while driving some folks to a ski resort, I think I may have been a touch over the speed limit (the metric system never stuck with me; I don’t think I ever really learned it, to be honest).  All three passengers reminded me to slow down!  I was going over the speed limit by like five KpH, but I was told to slow down!  What if I hit someone? We were on the highway, and no one was to be seen walking along the clean highway (another thing about Canada:  it’s really clean-I guess everyone follows the rules and puts trash in the trash can).

5.  Canadians Understand Both the Metric System and the English System.

It cracks me up that we Americans are the only ones who use the English System of measurement.  Even the English don’t use it anymore.  But Canadians, because they are so nice, use both. Even the baking mix boxes have both.  See?  NICE.

 4.  Canadians Aren’t Down with The Man

At dinner one night (also BC) while out in California, I struck up a conversation with a Canadian, and she had a theory as to why many Americans are so anti-establishment, but Canadians are so…not.  Her theory was that while American settlers forged their own path to land and wealth out west, the Canadians had their Mounties to go first and make sure it was a good place to settle.  Right from the start, the police and the settlers were pals.

3.  Canadians are Versatile

Let’s go back to the gloriousness of maple syrup, shall we? And slather it on a French pastry…umm, hello! But first, let’s have a plate of Poutine.

2.  Canadians Are Just as Capitalistic as We Are

Okay, I am making a gross generalization here, but every Canadian I have met likes money just as much as I, a capitalistic American, do, and believes that hard work will get you where you need to be.  My friend Tom likes money even more than I do, and that is saying something.

1.  Canadians Don’t Take Everything So Seriously, and Neither Should Donald Trump

Canadians laugh at the folly of humanity just like everyone else, but they don’t get all worked up about stuff. They don’t even get worked up when someone makes fun of them for being Canadian.  I’m sure that every Canadian out there in the free world is laughing at Donald Trump’s issues with The Great White North, eh?

So let’s show our Northern Friends a little love, and tell The Donald that there are bigger, less Canadian fish to fry.

Freedom!!! Nope, not for you, Mr. Spencer.

Ah, Jeremy…JEREMY!  What were you thinking, dude?  Well, we all know what you were thinking, but did you really have to say it?  Did you have to post it?  Did you have to keep the photos up on your Facebook page? Jer…e…my.  Jeremy, you, my friend, are what we would call an idjut here in my part of Georgia.

So, Mr. Spencer, a DOE Official (political favor by Mr. Woods for helping him with his campaign), put some pretty vitriolic posts about anyone who is not a straight white Protestant male on his Facebook Page.  I will give him credit for being an equal opportunity hater, but a hater all the same.  But here’s what I think (and since my salary from this blog seems to continually get lost in the mail, I can say what I think):  I think Mr. Spencer has the right to believe what he wants to believe, however distasteful those thoughts may be.  I believe he shouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place (so he passed around a lot of campaign ads for Woods, and he’s brothers with a Georgia Representative.  Those are not resume pieces that will get you hired where I live; just sayin). I also believe that we have become waaaayyyyy too politically correct here, there, and everywhere.

Where do we draw the line, though? At what point do we say, enough is enough, and let folks think what they want to think and say what they want to say? At what point does a company or an entity dismiss a person’s thoughts as just that:  thoughts?  I am of the philosophy that you can swing your arms around in a circle until you are blue in the face.  I may find it annoying, but you shouldn’t be arrested for swinging your arms around, even though you look stupid.  But the minute, the second, you hit me, we have a problem.  At that point, your arm swinging interfered with my right to go about my business.  At that point your annoying little arm swinging game turned into a hitting game, and I am the victim.

There are so many stories out there where some yahoo with too much angst spouts off about inappropriate (read: NOT ILLEGAL) stuff.  Recently, a teacher from Johns Creek High School was fired resigned from Fulton County because she posted about a student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) taking too long on a final exam (to which he had extra time by law).  She was pissy because she wanted to go home at noon with all her other teacher friends, but the student took his time on his exams entitled to him through his IEP.   A teacher in Winder, Georgia went to Germany and took a photo of herself with a beer in her hand at pretty much every stop she took (She sued and won, by the way).  Are these things illegal?  No.  Neither of them is illegal, and, although I am not a lawyer, the way I read the Professional Code of Ethics, not a one of them defies those ethics either.  Neither does Jeremy Spencer’s gross misperception of humanity.

So Jeremy Spencer is an idjut, and he should not have been hired…but should he have been fired resigned for having thoughts with which others disagree?  He was swinging his arms on his personal Facebook Page, and he did not take down a post that I would consider seriously offensive (I’m not easily offended by much), but his arms didn’t do any physical damage to anyone or to anyone’s property while swinging.  At what point does the old saying about words not hurting anyone begin to take hold in grown folks?

At what point do we simply say to those people and about those people, “Bless your heart” and keep it moving?

Rep. Mike Dudgeon: Transparency In the Age of Technology

voting card

Anyone who knows me personally knows how much I adore convenience providing technology, individuals who speak their mind, and processes that afford ample transparency.  I believe that those who can be informed can also engage, and the more folks are engaged are the more who can bring about sustainable methods of solutions to the challenges of our time.  I do not believe that elected oficials are inherently corrupt, but do recognize that it takes some serious courage and vision to alter a pre-existing system.  With this perspective, my compliments to legislators do not come easily nor is my respect earned without merit.  The Georgia General Assembly has been my playground and profession for the last twelve years.  I cut my teeth with the House Hawk system (to which Congressman Tom Graves belonged) and I have mourned the loss of a number of men and women who contributed not simply to their district, but to greatness of the state as a whole.

Last week I was sad to hear of the decision of Representative Mike Dudgeon to not seek re-election.   The image to the right was the image accompanying his Facebook post notifying the public he would not be seeking re-election.  I am particularly sad about this because of his contribution to a more open and transparent bill comparison system.  In a General Assembly in which the Senate still does not provide live streamed meetings, (and as of last week) I was told by Senate Gallery Doorkeepers photographs were no longer allowed in the Senate gallery, Representative Dudgeon stood in direct contrast.  He is no rabble rouser, but simply admires limited scope of government and does not hide behind some archaic idea that technology is something to be feared.  In contrast to the same photo-prohibiting ladies that explained I could use my cell phone for “business” not for “playing” while in the gallery, Representative Dudgeon and many House members actively have dialogue with their constituents via social media.

Thanks be to God for the House chamber, and specifically for Representative Dudgeon.  For those who are unaware, Representative Dudgeon graduated Georgia Tech with a degree in Electrical Engineering and currently holds five patents.  During his years in the Georgia General Assembly, Rep. Dudgeon also took time out of his full-time job in the tech sector and his service as a member to develop an inter-office software program that analyzes the different versions of bills as they go through the legislative process. 

Here’s where is gets wonky, so skip down a paragraph if you are not into political nerdom/ jargon. Continue reading “Rep. Mike Dudgeon: Transparency In the Age of Technology”