You could call 2009 "the year of the quitter" in Georgia politics.
It was a 12-month period marked not by the accomplishments of politicians serving in elected office, but dominated instead by the news of people who decided to leave office or drop out of an upcoming election campaign.
It's no surprise that the Georgia media has been consumed with the recent scandals erupting at the state capitol over legislators and their alleged affairs with lobbyists. Any assignment editor with a pulse will tell you that sex is what brings readers and viewers to a story.
In the rush to explore every aspect of Glenn Richardson's resignation as House speaker, however, we may be overlooking a story that is much more important to the state's future: the continuing failures in our banking system.
The Republican leadership in the Georgia House worked out an arrangement among themselves last week for the scandal-plagued Glenn Richardson to step down as House speaker and be replaced by Mark Burkhalter in the powerful legislative position.
The high-ranking Republicans hoped to put their problems behind them with the removal of Richardson, but they still have some long-simmering issues to resolve. The decision from on high to change speakers is not sitting well with some of the rank-and-file House Republicans, especially the younger ones who've only served in the legislature for a few terms.
Horse racing? Casino gambling? Until recently, those were two topics you didn't discuss at the state capitol.
Bills would occasionally be introduced by liberal lawmakers from Atlanta to legalize pari-mutuel wagering or allow casinos to operate at Underground Atlanta, but the measures typically would be assigned to committees that wouldn't bother to give them a hearing.
Politicians are often accused of "putting the fox in charge of the hen house" - of giving someone with a vested interest in an issue control over how that issue is resolved.
A good example is a president (such as Barack Obama) who appoints people from Wall Street to enforce federal regulations intended to crack down on illegal behavior by Wall Street's investment community. Needless to say, you're not likely to get vigorous enforcement in that situation.
You would think people would be fired up about the congressional races on tap for next year, considering that Republicans will be trying to reverse their election losses of 2006 and 2008 while Democrats will be trying to protect their majority status.
Starting now and for years to come, many Georgians are going to see increases every month in their electricity and natural gas bills.
A few dollars here, a few dollars there, these little increases will add up to very impressive totals for the state's two largest utility firms: $175 million for Atlanta Gas Light and $1.6 billion for the Georgia Power Co.
The telephone book was once a familiar part of everyone's household. Some of the directories were big enough and heavy enough to be used as doorstoppers, but everybody would use them at some point to look up a neighbor's number or just check to make sure the phone company had listed their own name and address correctly.
But the white pages directory of residential telephone numbers is another cultural artifact that will soon become obsolete, just as the buggy whip became unnecessary when Americans shifted from horses to automobiles as their favored form of transportation.
Georgia State University seems to have everything going for it: the second-largest enrollment of any state college, a campus that is revitalizing downtown Atlanta with all the new buildings going up, and a sterling reputation as one of the University System's four research institutions (a status it shares with UGA, Georgia Tech and the Medical College of Georgia).
Even with all the academic acclaim, one thing Georgia State never had was that staple of southern college life: a football team.