News for Sunday, January 8, 2006

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No uniform solution to crack problem

Word is, South Gwinnett High School has a crack problem.

No, I'm not talking about narcotics but about teen fashion - specifically, about jeans that are either gravity-defyingly baggy or exaggeratedly low cut, either way exposing a significant portion of the wearer's backside.

When I was in high school, we had a word for kids who dressed like that. We called them "poor." If classmates looked like they were wearing oversized hand-me-downs or last year's outgrown jeans, it was usually because they were.

Nowadays, such excess has become a fashion statement. And while the logic behind this current trend may be incomprehensible to adults - how can such pants possibly be comfortable? - the real question remains, what are we going to do about it?

By "we," of course, I mean adults, those of us who have moved beyond the equally ridiculous fads of our own youth - anybody else remember elephant-leg bell-bottoms? - to approach (one hopes) something resembling good taste and a sense of propriety.

The solution being proposed by South Gwinnett's administration, and by school systems across the country, is to require students to wear uniforms. If we can't control how they dress, by golly, let's just make 'em all dress alike.

Clearly, school uniforms are the easy answer, in the sense that they ostensibly solve the problem while requiring a minimum of attention and judgment on the part of parents, teachers, and administrators. But are they the right answer?

I understand the arguments in favor of uniforms. Kids will take more pride in their appearance. There'll be fewer distractions in the halls. Socio-economic distinctions will become less visible. And without all that free advertising, Abercrombie and Fitch will have to increase its marketing budget.

Even so, I have two major objections. The first is that uniforms reinforce one of high school's most negative roles: fostering conformity while discouraging individualism. That's why kids dress in these silly styles to begin with - because they want to look like their friends. Should we really embrace, as a solution, the very group-think mentality that creates the problem?

My second objection is that school uniforms provide yet another example of the American penchant for punishing the innocent majority - and make no mistake, most kids will regard uniforms as punishment - for the behavior of a guilty few. Consider gun-control legislation and airport security, for example. The fact is, most students don't dress offensively, and it's fundamentally unfair to penalize them because others do.

Ultimately, the answer to the "crack problem" is simple, which is not to say easy: Devise a fair and reasonable dress code, with input from parents and students and then enforce it strictly.

Ah, enforcement. There lies the rub. Then again, that's when school principals earn their six-figure salaries: when they really have to crack down.

E-mail Rob Jenkins at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.

Engagement Announcements

McDonald - Woodard

Richard and BettieSue McDonald of Tifton announce the engagement of their daughter, Michelle Marie McDonald, to Ryan Augustus Woodard, son of Clint and Nancy Woodard of Metter.

Marketplace

Dixie Huthmaker, owner of Huthmaker Violins in Duluth, has been awarded a $3,000 scholarship to the Wizard Academy, a business and communications school. Huthmaker received one of just three Wizard Academy scholarships nationwide.

Continuing to discover new books and authors

During the last month of 2005, I was super busy preparing for and celebrating the holidays. Still, I managed to fit in a little light reading and ended up finding some new books that I really enjoyed.

Lifestyle's new look

We're excited to introduce two new Sunday Lifestyle sections today. In the Life & Leisure section, you'll find great community, books and entertainment coverage, as well as columnist Rob Jenkins. And in the Taste & Travel section, we bring you delicious recipes, travel coverage, columnist Susan Larson and your TV and comics pages.

It's all a part of a new approach to Lifestyle that brings a fresh look to the features and entertainment coverage you count on. Look for Health & Wellness on Tuesdays, Home & Garden on Thursdays, the Weekend entertainment section on Fridays and the Family & Faith section on Saturdays. And in the coming months, expect more changes, such as added books coverage, a recipe swap feature and additional content. We hope you enjoy Lifestyle's new look.

- Kristen Cox Roby, Lifestyle editor

Desbiens leads Gladiators to win

DULUTH - Guillaume Desbiens scored four goals and the red-hot Gwinnett Gladiators handed reeling Columbia a 6-3 loss Saturday in front of 6,405 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Plan offers tax credit for donated land

Georgia landowners now have greater incentive to hand over their property to the state.

Snellville ready to open long-awaited City Center

SNELLVILLE - Jerry Oberholtzer spent many sleepless nights wondering if his vision for Snellville was only a dream.

Affordable housing being built on Five Forks

n Where: Five Forks Trickum Road at the Ronald Reagan Parkway off ramp

•What: Colson & Colson is building a 118-unit affordable housing project, most likely condos, for senior citizens. While the housing costs aren't set, they could approach $2,000 a month for some units.

Treadwell - Pognant

Alisa Christine Treadwell and Matthew Joseph Pognant were married on Nov. 5 at Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Larry Wynn officiated the ceremony.

Perdue's bill aims to funnel more money into classrooms

ATLANTA - Responding to criticism of his education record, Gov. Sonny Perdue will propose legislation on Monday requiring school districts in Georgia to steer at least 65 percent of their funding to classrooms.

The governor's floor leaders will introduce the bill on opening day of the 2006 legislative session, along with a constitutional amendment limiting the use of Georgia Lottery revenues to HOPE scholarships and the state's pre-kindergarten program.

"Education takes place in the classroom between a teacher and a student,'' Perdue told reporters last week during a briefing on his plans for the session. "That's where we're going to place our focus.''

The two measures come as Perdue prepares to seek a second term as Georgia's first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

Throughout the last three years, he has come under fire from Democrats and education groups for cutting Georgia's K-12 and university system budgets.

Perdue also has been criticized for rolling back class-size reductions enacted by the Legislature six years ago during the administration of former Gov. Roy Barnes, keeping a tight lid on raises for teachers and seeking to limit the HOPE Scholarship program.

In each case, the governor has argued that he was forced to impose fiscal discipline on education spending because of the effects of a sluggish economy on state tax collections.

But Perdue's economic advisers are forecasting that the state will take in $1.2 billion in new revenues during fiscal 2007, which starts on July 1, the second year in a row of strong growth.

The governor said the budget he will release on Wednesday will dedicate 72 percent of that money to education.

"Education is going to be a big winner in this budget,'' he said. "(But) I don't want to back fill any administration. I want it to go to the classroom.''

Perdue said the 65-percent funding goal for classrooms contained in his bill is realistic, given that Georgia school systems on average already spend 63 percent of their money in the classes.

He said systems that aren't at the 65-percent level won't be found in violation of the standard if they show 2-percent improvement each year.

Systems already sending more than 65 percent of their funds to classrooms will receive waivers, he said.

Tim Callahan, president of the 65,000-member Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said maximizing the education dollars being sent directly into the state's classrooms sounds like a laudable goal.

But he said other vital components that go into operating public schools can't be ignored.

"I also want to have guidance counselors in the schools,'' he said. "Do we need school nurses, bus drivers and custodians? Yes, we do.''

Callahan also criticized the measure as an overly simplistic concept that would simply follow an approach growing in popularity among Republicans and conservative groups in other states.

"It's kind of a bumper-sticker gimmicky thing,'' he said. "I don't call it serious policy making or visionary leadership.''

While the 65-percent standard for classroom spending is new from Perdue, the governor first proposed protecting HOPE scholarships through a constitutional amendment during a speech last June.

In fact, his last three budgets already have put a stop to using lottery money on anything other than HOPE and pre-kindergarten, a practice that diverted more than $1.8 billion from the two programs between 1994 and 2003. He said the constitutional amendment would simply give the policy the effect of law.

While Democrats aren't likely to oppose protecting HOPE scholarships, they bristle at giving Perdue credit for taking the lead on the issue.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, noted that it was the governor who pushed unsuccessfully to link HOPE eligibility to SAT scores and Republican lawmakers who sought to limit the number of hours covered by the scholarships.

"Suddenly, at the last hour, he's become the champion of HOPE,'' Porter said. "People aren't going to fall for that.''

Slice of Paradise

Artist's photography will be on display at national Capitol

An artist who graduated from Gwinnett Technical College will soon have her work on display at the national Capitol.

Nighta Davis will have her wildlife and scenic photography on display at the Senate Rotunda of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Her work has already been on display at the Congressional building in Washington, D.C. and at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta.

Her photojournalism also won her consideration for a Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

Davis credits Gwinnett Tech as helping her develop her photography skills when she was a student.

Washington focuses on opposites: Abramoff and AlitoBy David Broder

WASHINGTON

The two names uppermost on the minds of official Washington at this moment represent polar extremes of reputation. Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is an admitted felon and certified sleaze. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito is an upright, ethical and highly respected jurist, as modest in his habits as Abramoff is flamboyant.

Travel Briefs

Survey tells best places to stay

•NEW YORK - Four Seasons hotels in Chicago and Hawaii and inns in Vermont, Mississippi and on the California coast were the top-scoring places to stay in the United States in the annual ''Gold List'' survey published by Conde Nast Traveler.

Black commits to UAB

SUWANEE - Collins Hill point guard Shantell Black verbally committed to the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Friday night.

Former councilman ready for his debut as legislator

LAWRENCEVILLE - Being the new kid in school is always intimidating, but it helps when you're already friends with the class president and the star quarterback.

OBITUARIES

BUFORD

BRADSHAW, J.B.

J. B. "Bob" Bradshaw, age 79 of Buford, friend of Jesus Christ, passed away at 6 P.M. Thursday evening, January 5, 2006. He left to be with Jane, his wife of 25 years in heaven. He was a father of three girls and one boy and a Dad to more. He was loved and will be missed by many friends. He was a cherished and loved member of First Baptist Church of Buford on Hamilton Mill Rd. He was an accomplished entrepreneur, he and Jane lived and worked to spread the word of the Lord through their business. Bob felt called to assist a Cuban ministry after a hurricane disaster by fully funding the operational costs of the church so they could afford to rebuild, though he would not admit it to anyone. Services will be held at 12 P.M. Monday, January 9, 2006 with Rev. Charles Gilliland, officiating at Tapp/Tim Stewart Funeral Home and Crematory, 201 Morningside Drive, Buford, Georgia 30518, 770-945-9345. Sunday will be a day of visitation at Mr. Bradshaw's residence. Monday through Wednesday there will be a memorial in his home for those that are unable to make the funeral. Please drop by to pay your respects and say goodbye. Arrangements by Tapp/Tim Stewart Funeral Home and Crematory, 770-945-9345.

DECATUR

LIGON, SARA

Mrs. Sara Mills Ligon, age 90 of Decatur, Georgia, passed away on Friday, January 6, 2006. Service and Arrangements will be announced later by Junior E. Flanigan of Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory of Buford, GA, 770-932-1133, www.flaniganfuneralhome.com.

JEFFERSON

GLENN, FRANCES

Mrs. Frances Wilkes "Mom" Glenn, age 82 of Jefferson, Georgia died Friday, January 6, 2006. Arrangements by Evans Funeral Home, Jefferson, Georgia, 706-367-5467.

LAWRENCEVILLE

BARRY,

CHRISTOPHER

Christopher White Barry, age 41 of Lawrenceville, died Thursday, January 5, 2006. Funeral Services will be held 11:00AM Monday, January 9, 2006 at Cannon United Methodist Church, Snellville. Rev. Glenn Ethridge will officiate. Mr. Barry was a Business Manager at UPS with 18 years of service; graduate of The Marist School & The University of Georgia and was a member of Cannon United Methodist Church. He is survived by his Wife: Melanie Ann Barry, Lawrenceville; Children: Victoria Marie Martineau, Atlanta, Mitchell Kallen Barry & Grant Etherson Barry, both of Lawrenceville; Parents: Charles & Carol Barry, Dawsonville; Sisters: Allison Barry Rosenlund, Denmark, Elizabeth Paige Barry, Tampa, FL; Several Nieces and Nephews. Flowers accepted or in lieu of flowers, memorial to: The University of Georgia Athletics Association, P.O. Box 1472, Athens, GA 30603. The family will receive friends from 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM on Sunday, January 8, 2006 at Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 2246 Wisteria Drive, Snellville, GA 30078, 770-979-5010.

HIGGINBOTHAM,

THOMAS

Thomas M. Higginbotham, age 64 of Lawrenceville, died Friday, January 6, 2006. Arrangements by Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 300 Simonton Road, Lawrenceville, GA 30045, 770-962-3100.

JOHNSON, ALLEN

Allen Johnson, Sr., age 78 of Lawrenceville, died January 7, 2006. A loving family man, he is survived by his wife, Jean Johnson; children, Barbara Higbe and her husband, Henry of Duluth, Allen Johnson, Jr. and his wife, Karen of Buford, Russell Lewis Johnson, Lawrenceville; brother, Robby Johnson and his wife, Marline, Macon, GA; sister, Laurene Wooten and her husband, James, Macon, GA; 8 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. Mr. Johnson was preceded in death by a son, A. E. Johnson. Funeral services will be held Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 2:00 p.m. at Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel. Rev. John Colbaugh will officiate. Entombment East Shadowlawn Memorial Gardens. The family will receive friends Monday from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel, 1031 Lawrenceville Hwy., 770-277-4550.

JONES, LINDA

Linda Gayle Norton Jones, age 53, of Lawrenceville, GA, passed away on Saturday, January 7, 2006. She is survived by: her husband of 33 years: Billy Jones; Daughter and Son-in-law: Heather and Kevin Boeckman; Son and his Fiance: Cameron Jones and Kelly Jardim; Daughter: Holli Jones; Parents: Ralph and Polly Norton; Brother and Sister-in-law: David and Neysa Norton; Sisters and Brothers-in-law: Sheila and Steve Steinhauer, Lisa and Tim Norton; Grandchildren: Jordan, Hunter, Dakota and Connor Boeckman; Parents-in-laws: James and Lucile Jones; Sister and Brother-in-law: Steve and Cheryl Jones; Many nieces and nephews. Gayle was born in Newton County, GA and had lived in Stone Mountain before moving to Lawrenceville. She was a nurse at Dekalb Medical Center. She was a member of First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville. A funeral service will be held at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, January 9, 2006 at First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville. Rev. Nolan Jackson will officiate. Interment will follow in the Gwinnett Memorial Park, Lawrenceville. Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The family will receive friends on Sunday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel, 1031 Lawrenceville Highway, Lawrenceville, GA, 770-277-4550.

LILBURN

FITZGERALD, JAMES

James J. Fitzgerald, age 49 of Lilburn, GA passed away on Thursday, January 5, 2006. James worked in the insurance industry in Atlanta for the last 15 years and most recently with Maxum Indemnity of Duluth, GA. He was preceded in death by his father, John D. Fitzgerald and brother, Jack Fitzgerald. He is survived by his: wife: Debra Adams Fitzgerald; children: Laura E. Fitzgerald, Emily A. Fitzgerald, all of Lilburn, GA; mother: Thelma R. Fitzgerald of Naples, FL; brothers: Robert Fitzgerald, Michael Fitzgerald, both of Pittsburgh, PA; sisters: Carol Fitzgerald of New Jersey, Patricia Kocher of Pittsburgh, PA; a number of nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held on Friday, January 13, 2006 at 11:00a.m. at Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel with Rev. Sara Holben-Schminckey officiating. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the American Cancer Society, 6500 Sugarloaf Parkway, Ste. 260, Duluth, GA 30097 or the American Red Cross, 1955 Monroe Drive, NW, Atlanta, GA 30309. The family will receive friends on Thursday, January 12, 2006 from 6:00p.m. to 9:00p.m. at Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel, 1031 Lawrenceville Highway, Lawrenceville, 770-277-4550.

SERENKO, LORETTA

Loretta Serenko, age 92 of Lilburn, GA, passed away January 6, 2006. Arrangements by Wages & Sons Gwinnett Chapel, 1031 Lawrenceville Highway, Lawrenceville, GA 30045, 770-277-4550.

LOGANVILLE

RAWLINS, SANFORD

Sanford P. Rawlins of Loganville, died Saturday, January 7, 2006. Funeral Services will be held 3:00 PM Monday, January 9, 2006 in the Snellville Chapel of Tim Stewart Funeral Home. Rev. Larry Cannon, and Rev. Darrell Lawrence will officiate. Burial will follow at Snellville Historical Cemetery. Mr. Rawlins was a member of Victory Baptist Church, Loganville, and was preceded in death by his wife, Clara Cannon Rawlins in 2005. He is survived by Sons: James Rawlins & Randy Rawlins, both of Loganville; Grandchildren: Michele Tyndall & Matthew Rawlins, both of Lawrenceville; Great Grandchildren: Tami Rawlins, Laura Tyndall & John Eric Tyndall, III, all of Lawrenceville. The Family will receive friends from 3:00 PM - 9:00 PM Sunday, January 8, 2006 at Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 2246 Wisteria Drive, Snellville, GA 30078, 770-979-5010.

MOBILE, AL

BRADLEY, JOHN

Mr. John Bradley, age 71, of Mobile, AL, formerly of Gwinnett County, passed away on Friday, January 6, 2006. Service and Arrangements will be announced later by Junior E. Flanigan of Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory of Buford, GA, 770-932-1133, www.flaniganfuneralhome.com.

Literary Calendar

Monday

Barbara Taylor Bradford, author of "Just Rewards," will discuss and sign her new novel at 7 p.m. Monday at the Chapter 11 Bookstore at Peachtree Battle, 2345-A Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Free. 404-237-7199.

Snellville city councilman, wife expecting triplets in June

There has been a veritable baby boom in Snellville over the past 12 months.

Reed wages battle for political future

Is Ralph Reed finished? Some astute observers tell me kingpin lobbyist Jack Abramoff's plea bargain with federal prosecutors is all but certain to wreck Reed's budding political career and may even force him to fight for his freedom in federal court.

Let's make a deal

Thumbs Up

The Daily Post gives a thumbs up to Gwinnett citizens who have stood apart this week.

Democrats say GOP not dealing with key issues

With the General Assembly's Republican majority focusing on a limited agenda for the legislative session that starts on Monday, Democrats say they're missing some key issues that need addressing.

When the lawmaking wraps up around the end of March, Georgians' property rights are almost certain to be safe from abuses of the governmental power of eminent domain, illegal immigrants will be on notice not to try to shoulder U.S. citizens aside in the line for state services and sex offenders will be looking at longer prison sentences, particularly if they choose kids for victims.

While all three are legitimate concerns, acting on them also is likely to be popular with Georgia voters and, thus, help the GOP retain control of the House and Senate this fall.

Democrats say what's absent from the majority party's short list of priorities are causes that don't resonate as strongly at the polls, like cracking down on Georgia's title-loan industry or building on the ethics reforms Gov. Sonny Perdue and lawmakers achieved last year.

"Everybody is against sex offenders. Everybody wants a good eminent domain bill,'' said Rep. Mary Margaret OIiver, D-Decatur, who is sponsoring legislation in the House addressing title loans. "(But) the Georgia General Assembly is open for all kinds of ideas affecting large and small groups of people ... I have never fashioned my agenda based on poll numbers.''

Oliver's bill would prohibit title-loan companies from charging annual interest rates of more than 60 percent. Current law allows interest rates of up to 300 percent per year.

But Oliver said she's concerned that pressure from the industry will prompt the Legislature to settle for a "featherweight'' Republican-backed measure that stops at prohibiting lenders from pocketing the profits from selling repossessed cars.

Sen. Steen Miles, D-Decatur, who is sponsoring a Senate bill similar to Oliver's, agreed that the interest rate issue will be the key sticking point. But she's optimistic that something will get done this year.

"The hearings we had over the summer months had an excellent turnout from people who felt they'd been victimized,'' said Miles, whose district includes most of Rockdale County.

"We're going to move on the Senate side. Hopefully, we can convince people on the House side who are more reluctant to come over.''

As for ethics reform, Republicans appear satisfied for now with the comprehensive legislation enacted last year.

It is highlighted by a long-sought provision aimed at the "revolving door'' of Georgia politics by prohibiting state elected officials or agency heads from becoming lobbyists within one year of leaving office.

But House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, said his GOP counterparts in the House watered down the bill considerably by removing a proposed $50 cap on gifts and a provision giving the State Ethics Commission the power to investigate alleged conflicts of interest involving lawmakers.

Instead, House and Senate negotiators created a new committee of legislators to, in effect, investigate themselves.

"They didn't really get that much done,'' Porter said. "They allowed the bill to be gutted.''

But Perdue is more willing to accept the give and take that went with getting a law passed.

"I would have preferred an independent body rather than this legislative oversight,'' the governor said. "I introduced it that way, and it didn't happen. But this is a relationship up here. You've got an executive and a legislative branch.''

Where Republicans and Democrats are likely to reach a meeting of the minds during the upcoming session is education and health care.

To Democrats, they represent the "real issues'' that GOP leaders aren't paying enough attention to in their rush to curb eminent domain and illegal immigration.

While they might not be at the top of the Republicans' legislative agenda, they're too important to ignore.

Perdue set the tone late last week, declaring that education will be the big winner in his 2007 budget.

And, with more money at the state's disposal due to the improving economy, he's promising no more major cuts in health benefits for teachers and state employees or increases in insurance premiums.

Dave Williams is a staff writer for the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at dave.williams@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Recruiting begins for tax district

LAWRENCEVILLE - If it takes a village to rejuvenate Jimmy Carter Boulevard, then a group of business people in the Norcross area is about to begin recruiting villagers.

Voices in business

Each week the Gwinnett Daily Post profiles the business men and women who help drive the success of local companies and small businesses alike. Interested in a profile? Call Doug Sams, business reporter, at 770 963-9205, ext. 1321, or e-mail him at doug.sams@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Schell called up by Chicago

Center Brad Schell, in his second year as a professional, received his first call-up to Chicago of the American Hockey League on Saturday.

Norcross boys, Collins Hill girls lead Tipoff Club honors

The Norcross boys and the Collins Hill girls received the highest awards at Saturday's Gwinnett Tipoff Club banquet at South Gwinnett High School.

Home builders offering buyers big incentives

SUWANEE

Like that house? How about a new washer and dryer to sweeten the deal? Maybe a new gas grill or plasma TV might interest you?

Donations help Lawrenceville co-op pay off loan in full

Are you aware of an event or project that benefits our community? Contact Shelley Mann at 770-963-9205 ext. 1305 or shelley.mann@gwinnettdailypost.com.

No. 1 Collins Hill blasts Stephenson

SUWANEE - Perhaps there is a basketball team from the state of Georgia that can give the nationally ranked Collins Hill girls a game, but one thing's for certain - it's not Stephenson.

People helping people: Cancer patients get help with 'wishes'

The holidays are over for another year. All the decorations have been taken down and put away.

We've stuffed ourselves with delicious treats and partied with friends and family. Those who traveled to visit family have returned home.

New Year's Resolutions have been made - and maybe even broken already.

Sweet Dreams

Gwinnett Gab

Tax commissioner reduces online fees

LAWRENCEVILLE - Beginning Monday, the credit card transaction fee to renew vehicle registrations on the Internet will be reduced by 57 percent.

Metro stream protections under review

LAWRENCEVILLE - A metro Atlanta water district could tweak its stream buffer requirements, giving counties and cities more leeway in how they comply with the regional mandates.

Republicans push limited '06 agenda

ATLANTA - The General Assembly's first Republican majority since Reconstruction pulled some symbolic one-upsmanship on the Democrats last year when the Legislature adjourned on Day 39, one day ahead of tradition.

GOP leaders could do it again during the 2006 session, which starts Monday. The limited agenda they are pushing includes issues expected to attract bipartisan support from lawmakers this winter, votes in November, or both.

"The new Republican majority is going to want to show that they're more efficient than the Democrats," said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. "They get in, get it done and go home."

If nothing else is accomplished between now and the end of March, Republicans in control of the House and Senate are promising action on:

•Eminent domain - Following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June in a Connecticut case, state legislators around the nation are vowing to pass laws safeguarding private property rights.

•Sex offenders - Several highly publicized murders of children in other states allegedly by convicted sex criminals are behind proposals to lengthen prison sentences for those who prey upon children and toughen monitoring requirements for sex offenders after they are paroled.

•Illegal immigration - Although controlling the flow of illegals into the U.S. is primarily a federal issue, Georgia Republicans are pushing legislation to deny taxpayer-funded services to people who are here illegally.

•Voter ID - Republican leaders say they plan to "fix" legislation the General Assembly passed last year requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Last fall, a federal court issued a temporary injunction preventing enforcement of the law as currently written.

Ambitious proposals

Several months ago, legislative Republicans were gearing up for a more aggressive 2006 as a follow-up to last year's busy session.

They had study committees examining a host of ambitious proposals, including an overhaul of the way public schools are financed in Georgia and an effort to limit annual increases in government spending to the rate of inflation plus population growth.

But the idea of replacing school property taxes with a higher state sales tax ran into opposition during a series of public hearings around the state.

The spending cap, also known as the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, lost momentum in November when voters in Colorado, the state that has pioneered the concept, passed a referendum temporarily lifting the spending limits in effect there.

"We put out some ideas that were kind of controversial," said House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram. "Now, we're going to heed what we heard."

The eminent domain issue surfaced during last year's session when Senate Republicans introduced legislation allowing local governments to enter into public-private partnerships with building contractors as a way to speed up public building projects.

But the bill was abandoned after newspaper columnists and editorial writers raised fears that it could be used to make it easier for cities and counties to condemn private property for public use.

Following the Supreme Court decision allowing the city of New London, Conn., to condemn houses in an old neighborhood to make way for new development, Georgia Republicans have gotten behind legislation to prohibit the use of eminent domain merely to improve a municipality's tax base.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, accused GOP leaders of pushing the issue now to cover up what they tried to do last year.

"These people intended to take property rights away," he said. "What they're doing now is a smokescreen."

Inverse condemnation

Some Republicans also are targeting inverse condemnation, an action by the government that doesn't take a property owner's land but causes it to lose value.

A Senate study committee has been working on legislation that would force local governments to compensate property owners when environmental or zoning restrictions limit the use of their land.

But advocates for cities and counties have objected that such a law would cripple their ability to regulate land use.

"Eminent domain is easier to get your arms around," said Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus. "(With inverse condemnation), you know it when you see it. But how do you correct it without affecting other things?"

While protesting Republicans' motives, Democrats are likely to support tightening Georgia's eminent domain law because it's politically popular.

The same holds true for cracking down on sex offenders.

House Republican leaders served notice last spring that going after sex criminals who target children would be a top priority this year. That was shortly after a convicted sex offender was arrested in Augusta and charged with kidnapping and murdering a 9-year-old Florida girl.

A House committee has been working on comprehensive legislation for several months, and Senate Republicans weighed in late last month with several bills.

The longer sentences contemplated in both the House and Senate measures undoubtedly will drive up the state's prison budget.

But Gov. Sonny Perdue said he's not worried about the cost.

"If we get it right in being able to identify and adjudicate true sexual predators who prey upon young people, I'm prepared to spend whatever it takes to keep them locked up," he said.

Dividing issues

There's much less unity in how to approach illegal immigration and the photo-ID requirement for Georgia voters.

While Republicans are driving the push for the Legislature to address illegal immigration, even GOP leaders concede it's mainly a federal issue.

"You can't pass a (state) law saying (illegal immigrants) can't go to public school or use emergency rooms because the federal government says they can," Balfour said.

However, Balfour said he expects lawmakers to pass a bill prohibiting illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition benefits at Georgia's public colleges and universities.

Other Republicans are crafting legislation to prohibit the state from hiring contractors that employ illegal immigrants.

Democrats have countered by prefiling legislation giving the state University System Board of Regents the ultimate say over admission and residency requirements and asking Congress to take the lead on dealing with illegal immigration.

Photo ID back

The photo ID issue wasn't expected to come up again until U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy issued a ruling in October prohibiting the state from enforcing the law adopted by the General Assembly last year. Murphy compared the requirement that Georgians obtain a photo ID before being allowed to vote to an illegal poll tax.

Richardson said legislation will be drafted this year scrapping the fee the state was to collect for providing photo IDs to voters who don't already have a driver's license or passport.

"We're going to fix voter ID," he said. "You are going to need a photo identification to vote in Georgia."

Throughout last year's debate on the bill, Republicans said their purpose in reducing the acceptable forms of ID at the polls from 17 to six was to prevent voter fraud.

But Democratic leaders accused the GOP of targeting voters least likely to possess a photo ID - the poor, elderly and minorities - because those groups tend to support Democratic candidates.

"This was designed to keep certain segments of society from voting," Porter said.

But, as with every other priority issue, Republicans have the votes to change the photo ID as they see fit.

With solid majorities in both chambers, GOP leaders expect to pass their bills and head for home by the end of March.

"The quicker a citizen legislature can return to their families and jobs, the easier it is to serve up here," said Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson, R-Savannah.

Plus, there's campaigning to do.

Qualifying week for statewide and legislative candidates will be held April 24-28.

Get a taste of summer at the exquisite town of Acapulco

Sunny warm beaches. Great food. Exciting nightlife. Welcome to the exquisite Mexican resort town of Acapulco.

While there are many ways to escape the winter doldrums, few could argue that a trip to this slice of paradise tops the list. Your cares will melt away when you see the clear blue waters set against the rolling hillsides that cradle Acapulco's lush resorts, hotels and restaurants.

Weathering Atlanta's winters can be like riding a meteorological roller coaster, but sunshine is the norm year-round in Acapulco. So turn down the heat. Shut off those pipes. Stop the mail. And hop a flight to a place where you can get away from it all.

State House goes high tech

ATLANTA - Political insiders know that most of the General Assembly's important business takes place not on the floor but during committee meetings.

Winder ends moratorium, annexes 80 acres for homes

WINDER - The city of Winder ended a moratorium on annexing land and added nearly 80 new acres within the city limits.

Sports calendar

Baseball

Jan. 14: Berkeley Baseball Academy is holding a pitchers and catchers clinic with professional scout for the New York Yankees and former minor league pitching instructor Joe Caro from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 14. The clinic is for players age 10 to 18, costs $75 and includes a video analysis and personal evaluation checklist. To reserve a spot, call 770-441-2242.

Thompkins scores 51 in Wesleyan win

LILBURN - Howard Thompkins scored a school record 51 points, including nine 3-pointers, to lead Wesleyan past Providence 72-40 on Saturday. Thompkins also had 10 rebounds.

Norcross singer to offer lullaby CD to celebrity moms

Caroline Ruse

Staff Correspondent

c_ruse@hotmail.com

Next week, the babies of celebrities could be falling asleep to the voice of Debra McDavid of Norcross.

McDavid, who just released a lullaby album entitled "Sleep, Little One," will attend Hollywood's Baby Boom Boom Room, a pre-Golden Globe Awards event, on Saturday to introduce the album to celebrity moms.