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One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel
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One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

"While this is only the first part of the Golden Ray and the St. Simons Sound incident, there remains a lot of work to do, threats to the environment, hazards to the people and to the Port of Brunswick continue to be addressed through a unified command," said U.S. Coast Guard Captain John Reed, Charleston sector Coast Guard commander.

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One Man's Opinion Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

While an ongoing review and investigation unfolds of a fire and the subsequent capsizing of the South Korean automobile transport tanker, the Golden Ray, off the Georgia coast, you can bet millions that the ship's owner, automobile manufacturer/shipper and insurer were all hoping that there were some very experienced hands at the wheel the night that this massive cargo ship fell over on its side.

The Port of Brunswick is one of the busiest automobile import facilities on the eastern seaboard. The shipping channel into and out of the port is narrow, surrounded on both sides by sand bars as well as St. Simons Island/Brunswick and Jekyll Island. Hard to imagine that the massive craft, with 4,200 vehicles still on board was piloted by a crew of only 24 sailors. The ship's pilot hails from Brunswick, most of the remaining crew are South Koreans. It may be months before we know how the ship ran aground, if the fire damaged navigation systems, or operator error grounded this massive ship on a sandbar, still causing ongoing environmental and economic injury, though thankfully without any serious injury or loss of life. 

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One Man's Opinion: Seasoned Hands on the Wheel

Georgia emerged from the depths of the Great Recession with a seasoned team at the helm, Governor Nathan Deal had nearly two decades of legislative and leadership experience in the U.S. Congress and Georgia State Senate, former Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle presided over the State Senate for three terms and 12 years and House Speaker David Ralston joined the body in 2002 and was elected Speaker in 2010. This experienced team led Georgia to become the best place to do business for six years in a row now, as well as record levels of employment, and industry relocations, while conservatively managing the state's fiscal affairs, resulting in the highest bond ratings possible to service our state’s relatively modest debt. None of these accomplishments occurred easily or by accident and of those three team captains, only Speaker Ralston remains on the current field of play.

Georgia and our U.S. economy may again experience choppy waters in the not too distant future. During the past two sessions of our General Assembly, growth in the Georgia economy allowed for record budgets, including a one-time pay raise of $3,000 heading for the wallets of Georgia educators. Now with a tougher economic climate looming, it may be time to trim those sails a bit. Governor Brian Kemp is requesting state agencies identify and prepare their budgets with a reduction of four percent for the coming fiscal year and six percent for 2021. 

The largest component of most every state agency budget is the salaries of its employees, typically consuming 65 percent of each dollar. Lay-offs are generally rare in state government, though furloughs did occur during the prior recession within several state agencies and local school systems. While the state owns most of its real estate, maintaining those structures and paying utility expenses typically consumes another 10-15 percent. You are now at 75 to 80 percent of the available budget dollar, leaving 20 percent to make cuts from...and those dollars are the agency program or mission expenses. A 4 percent cut is actually more like a 20 percent cut to the agency program, followed by the request of deeper cuts the following year. This calls for experienced hands chairing the House Appropriations and Senate budget committees, as well as steering the legislative process and budget differences between the Executive and two legislative chambers to a successful and prudent conclusion. So would you prefer the experienced surgeon, pilot or ship captain, or a newbie in training learning the ropes? A less seasoned legislative branch also enables a more entrenched and less responsive bureaucracy. 

Having lived through several prior recessions, especially the DEEP trough of 2006-2010, I understand and appreciate the benefits of having steady, seasoned and senior hands on the wheel. Sensing turbulent economic times ahead, I want Georgia to have captains and a spending Skipper who can help us smoothly sail through the tightest channel and choppiest waters, in part because they have already done this before. Think about it. Prayers for the crew of the Golden Ray and their families.

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News

  • The remains of six victims of a deadly volcano eruption in New Zealand have been recovered. Sixteen people were killed on White Island when a volcano there unexpectedly erupted Monday, The Associated Press reported. Eight military specialists recovered six of the eight victims believed to be on the island, and the bodies will be taken to Auckland for identification, CNN reported. Due to toxic gases still being released from the volcano, the team had to wear protective suits and breathing gear to be on the island, the AP reported. The search had to end as air supplies ran low, the New York Times reported. An additional recovery mission is planned to find a tour guide and boat captain who had taken tourists to the island. At least one of them is expected to be in the water, but the other person’s location is unknown, the AP reported. Forty-seven tourists, many from a Royal Caribbean cruise, and guides were on the island when the volcano exploded. Many of the people who survived were burned. Fifteen tourists not from Australia are in burn units across the country with 11 listed as very critical. Thirteen Australians who were part of the tour have all returned to their home country, the AP reported. Skin banks are sending tissues to hospitals to help treat the burns, as medical teams from Australia, Britain and the U.S. travel to New Zealand to help treat patients, the AP reported.
  • A Minnesota man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 24 years in prison in the death of his 13-day-old son. Michael Herkal, 33, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, nearly 16 months to the day after Apple Valley police responded to an Aug. 12, 2018, medical call for an infant not breathing, WCCO reported. The child died two days later, after doctors determined he had suffered a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain. Herkal was charged initially with felony assault and malicious punishment of a child, but three additional charges of murder were filed after authorities received the autopsy report, KARE11 reported. According to WCCO, Herkal initially told authorities his toddler pulled the newborn off the couch twice but later claimed the baby slipped from his hands and fell onto a coffee table during a diaper change. During his plea hearing, however, Herkal admitted he also shook the infant violently and slapped him, the TV station reported.
  • Major League Baseball announced substantial changes Thursday to its drug use and testing policy, multiple news outlets reported. In addition to removing marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” category – making it the first major US sports league to do so – the organization announced mandatory testing for the presence of opioids, cocaine, synthetic THC, LSD and fentanyl, ABC News reported. Per the policy revisions, players will still be tested for “natural cannabinoids” such as THC, CBD, and marijuana, but punishment for violations will now be treated similarly to those of the alcohol and violence policies, ABC News reported. 'Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids,” the league, in association with its players union, stated. According to NPR, the policy changes will take effect during 2020 spring training.  “The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said in a prepared statement, adding, “It is our hope that this agreement - which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education - will help protect the health and safety of our Players.” Read more here and here.
  • Seeking emergency mental health assistance could soon be as simple as dialing 988, federal regulators announced Thursday. The Federal Communications Commission formally began the process Thursday to designate 988 as a nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. “The three-digit number is really going to be a breakthrough in terms of reaching people in a crisis,” Dwight Holton, CEO of suicide prevention nonprofit Lines for Life, told USA Today. “No one is embarrassed to call 911 for a fire or an emergency. No one should be embarrassed to call 988 for a mental health emergency.' According to The Wall Street Journal, the new hotline is intended to simplify access to services available currently by dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the existing National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Once operational, dialing 988 would connect callers to the existing hotline and then route them to nearby crisis centers equipped to provide assistance. “We believe this historical and critical effort will turn the tide on reducing suicides and promote mental wellness in the United States,” said a statement from Kimberly Williams, chief executive of Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit that administers the lifeline, The Journal reported. Read more here and here.
  • An emergency landing by a single-engine plane snarled traffic Thursday night on Interstate 5 in San Diego, multiple news outlets reported. Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, told KNSD the Cessna 182 made a hard landing on the southbound lanes around 7:15 p.m. Within 30 minutes authorities had re-opened two southbound lanes, KFMB reported. Carlsbad Fire Division Chief Mike Lopez told KNSD a man and a woman were on board traveling from the San Gabriel Airport in Los Angeles to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. According to KFMB, no injuries were reported, and the plane did not strike any motorists. “They did a pretty good job landing this thing,” Lopez told KNSD, adding, “The skill of that pilot, he did a stellar job.”
  • A Fort Gibson man recently showed off his blacksmith skills by taking first place in a competition television show. Nic Overton, 23, earned the top spot on the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” which is centered around blacksmith work. Along with bragging rights, Overton won a $10,000 prize. Overton told KOKI he’s been fascinated with blacksmithing since he was a child and crafted his first knife out of a railroad spike. He managed to turn his hobby into a career. He owns his own business called Nix Knives.