Georgia Says

The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on all of us are to blame for shutdown:

"Closed due to government shutdown." Those signs are seen outside many federal buildings, agencies and monuments, the result of an impasse shining a bright light on the ongoing dysfunction in Washington.

Shuttering federal government isn't new. Most remember the lengthy shutdown of 1995, when GOP leaders in Congress butted heads with President Bill Clinton. But the parties eventually came together to balance the federal budget and reform welfare. As bad as we thought our national polarization was then, it seems tame compared to the present form of gridlock.

The government hasn't fully shut down; most of it still functions, more or less. Some services have been curtailed and workers furloughed — an inconvenience for some, a greater concern for many others.

The parks service even tried to bar World War II veterans from visiting the memorial built in their honor and soon learned the same lesson as their former Axis foes: Those soldiers, though now in their 80s and beyond, do not abandon their mission.

But beyond the images of padlocks on buildings and barricades at national parks is a greater crisis: Our political system is broken, with no easy fix in sight.

Leaders in Congress won't unite for the good of the country if the people who elected them can't do so. And right now, we can't agree on what the good of the country really is. Until we do, we best strap ourselves in for a long haul of these endless sumo matches over public policy.

Sadly, at a time when we are facing some of the greatest challenges in our nation's history — debt to deficits to war — we are more likely to see the government collapse than see it excel. The signs are there if we choose to read them and find a way to change the path we're on.

Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune on proposed rules regarding bicycles in the General Assembly:

Legislative ideas with flat tires and bent wheels are hardly uncommon in the General Assembly, but House Bill 689 proposing a yearly $15 registration fee for bicycles along with strict rules about how to ride proved some representatives need training wheels before mounting proposed laws.

Obviously, the three Republican legislators sponsoring this measure fell off their tricycles while children and were not wearing the safety helmets that state law already demands of all those on two-wheelers. And why is it that politicians of this party insist they hate all taxes but never saw a fee they didn't like?

That said, there is nothing wrong with an objective of improving both safety for bicyclists and spaces/places available to them. A 15-year-old bike rider was killed after colliding with a car on a Calhoun street just last Friday, for example.

As for the ridership rules included in the proposal — no more than four riders per single-file line, limits on group rides, giving government officials the power to restrict when/where bikes can be used — that again is more a local problem/concern than a state one and best left in community hands. Or those of the riders, for that matter. They really do not need the nanny state telling them what common sense is.

The state-level bad joke is going nowhere. What next, a license to use skateboards? Come to think of it, local jurisdictions like Rome already typically address safety concerns regarding such mobility without looking for money in it. It is against the law to jaywalk without a fee being levied on wearing shoes.

If a flow of local registration fees would help supplement and speed up more and safer routes and riding for this area's many bicycle enthusiasts, then such might well be worth considering although — a thought that apparently never crosses minds at the state level — perhaps the license should apply to the "drivers" of the bikes and not their rides.

Frankly, it would not be surprising to find local bike enthusiasts cheering such an approach even more loudly than most booed and hissed at the legislative clowns on their newest unicycle idea.

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