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Everything Onboard

I was 18 years old and headed to boot camp the first time I ever flew on an airplane. I still remember the exhilarating experience of the plane screaming down the runway and preparing for liftoff.The only other time I remember that feeling was with my best friend on the way to pick up our dates in high school. Granted, I was excited about the date, but nothing compared to riding in the ‘69 Camaro equipped with a 427 cubic-inch engine, a high-lift cam, and a blower. The compression was so high that you could hardly keep that beautiful car running until you released the clutch and increased the rpms of the engine. Soon, the roar of all eight cylinders working in harmony would take over, and we would be thrust back in our seats like a ride at Six Flags.

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Rattling Through the Quarter

The first quarter of 2019 is nearly over, and it has been one for the history books. Back in January, I watched with amusement as the world witnessed what those of us close to Trevor Lawrence already knew — that is he is something special. I don’t mean because he was the quarterback who handed Alabama its worst loss in recent history in the National Championship game, or because he was a freshman who didn’t start until game five. He’s special because he has maturity far beyond his years, and a humility that is rarely seen in today’s athletes. Whether you are a Clemson fan or not, you must agree it is refreshing to see a wholesome young man share that his faith is his motivation to be better, not fame.The stock market continues to rise and fall like a beach ball bouncing in the crowd at a baseball game during a hot summer afternoon. One day it seems to stabilize, climbing 300 points, only to suddenly drop 500 points in a matter of hours.

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The Access Program

A few years back, I had the privilege of chairing a study committee on cybersecurity. This study committee explored several aspects of cybersecurity including the readiness of our state agencies. In conclusion, our white paper recommended purchasing $100 million of cyber insurance, creating a GBI center in Augusta, and several other action items. The entire process made it abundantly clear how well positioned our state was in becoming the cyber hub for the U.S.Over the next year, technical colleges and universities began adding curricula to prepare students for the incredible opportunities that lie ahead for those who study cybersecurity. In 2018, experts reported that 300,000 jobs in that sector were unfilled.

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When Tragedy Strikes

It has now been seventeen years since the traumatic attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. What started as a routine morning for millions of people living in these different areas changed quickly. The world watched in horror while thousands of people at these sites scurried to avoid the effects of buildings collapsing and debris flying through the air as freely as leaves on a fall day. On the morning of 9/11/2001, the skies above New York and Washington, D.C. were clear, but a terrible storm was brewing. Within hours, men, women, and children ran for their lives, as they fought to realize and understand the tragic events that were unfolding around them. The world watched in severe sadness and fear as the reports of devastation became clearer, and massive buildings were reduced to piles of rubble.The terrorists were calculating, strategic, and intentional as they executed their plan. Their mission was agnostic, and their desire was to harm as many as possible without prejudice.

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Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes

As a young boy, I remember my grandmother talking to me about a couple of life principles. She stated that most things are not as they seem, and that we should try to put ourselves in another’s shoes before casting judgment. Those are great things to learn, but integrating those principles into our lives is much harder. That became ever apparent recently as my wife and I traveled to New York after being asked to host the U.N. International Prayer Breakfast. This event had over seventy different ambassadors as well as the current and incoming security general in attendance.For the past several months, I felt strongly that the U.S. should pull out of the U.N. I believed the intergovernmental organization comprised of 193 members was dysfunctional and operated more like a country club. My opinion was based upon hearing reports of mass grave discoveries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this past year, and girls as young as eleven continuing to be married in some of these participating countries.

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Destined for Happiness

The election primaries are finally over, and one could argue they were the ugliest this state has ever seen. This particular cycle escalated into personal attacks, recorded conversations, and clip art.

It seems that no matter the topic of conversation, our society has become so polarized in one direction or the other that we have lost the ability to respect the other side’s opinion. In fact, we become so focused on destroying the other candidate that we miss the present opportunities that lie before us.

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Will the New Law and Express Lanes Provide the Relief We Seek?

In July, the hands-free law went into effect, outlawing the use of hand-held devices while driving. This legislation was passed in an attempt to reduce traffic-related fatalities as a result of distracted driving. Law enforcement has openly stated that the law was necessary to aid in the enforcement of the no texting statute passed back in 2010.Those against it felt that a law already existed prohibiting the engagement in any action that would distract drivers from safely operating a motor vehicle. This law was cited when a man was issued a citation for eating a juicy hamburger while driving. If eating a hamburger while driving is deemed distracting and unsafe, I’m still puzzled as to why people can puff on a cigarette or vape while driving down the highway.

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Oh Say, Can You See?

Recently, NFL owners convened in Atlanta for their annual spring meetings. All 32 NFL teams were present to consider several very important matters including billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper’s purchase of the Carolina Panthers, new rules to limit the risk of head injuries during kickoffs, sporting event gambling, and of course — players kneeling during the “Star Spangled Banner.”The sale of the Panthers to Mr. Tepper has strong support and should easily garner the votes necessary. The movie Concussion brought to light the devastating effects high impact blows can have to the brain. If you have not seen the movie, it is worth renting. After seeing this movie, it became obvious to me that something must be done to protect these players from these types of injuries.

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Exercise Your Right to Vote in Local Elections

I was recently flying back from a conference in Las Vegas and found myself sandwiched between an elderly woman and a young attorney. The older lady noticed the legislative pin on my lapel, and looking rather surprised, she asked if I was a senator. I answered “yes,” and the next few hours were spent discussing everything from President Trump’s hair to Brian Kemp’s gun commercials. As the conversation progressed, the elderly lady became increasingly bold and began strongly voicing her opinion on a variety of political topics. It was clear from her tone that she was very unhappy about much of what she perceived was happening in government. The young attorney sparingly contributed to the conversation, but seemed to be embarrassed and frustrated as the dialogue continued.At one point, I hesitantly asked permission to gather some information from both. The first question I asked was if they voted in the past four election cycles. To my surprise, the young attorney stated that she did vote at every chance, but acknowledged she only voted for the candidate her daddy told her to. The other lady shared she only voted in the presidential elections because she felt her vote would not matter in any of the others. I followed up that question by asking if either knew who the lieutenant governor or the speaker of the house was. Uncertainty was obvious, but the senior lady sputtered out that she thought his name was “Newt something” and the lieutenant governor was “Karen Handel somebody.” The final question I asked was if they had ever met their state senator or house member? I was stunned. How could two knowledgeable professionals be so disconnected with reality?

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Do Millennials Care About Customer Service?

I recently debated with a colleague about whether great customer service truly matters to millennials or not. I used a recent business trip to California to support my argument that they do care. This trip was designed to educate myself on several components of the 2018 Coachella Music Festival. This massive Festival is situated on nearly 700 acres in Indio, California, and I was allowed access to review ticketing, internal operations, and security. Admittedly, my knowledge of the current music scene is very limited, so it was easy for my daughter to convince me to allow her and two of her friends to accompany me as mentors.I would say that nearly 100,000 college kids a day pile onto the grassy compound to hear their favorite band play from one of the stages. In total, 68 bands performed including seasoned artists such as Beyoncé and Eminem, and each year, several top newcomers such as the Weeknd and Migos are asked to perform. Tickets were not cheap. General admission tickets started at $399, and VIP tickets started at $1750, increasing to as much as $7500. Who in their right mind pays that kind of money to attend a music festival you ask? Clearly, a lot more people than I thought because the tickets sold out in just over twenty minutes.

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The Twisted Path of Legislation

There are many variables that can influence a piece of legislation and successfully having it become law. Previously, I wrote about the importance of changing our voting machines because hackers can gain access to our current DRE (Direct Reporting Electronic) voting machines in less than ten minutes. Since the current operating system on these machines is obsolete, and updates are no longer available, legislation to modernize these voting machines should be a snap to pass. However, the road for Senate Bill 403 (voting machine bill) was arduous because of the complexity of making such an important change during a major election year.

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Prioritizing Georgia’s Public Servants

It is interesting how many times I’m asked the question, “Why can’t you guys in D.C. balance the federal budget like our state does?” This question is the symptom of a much bigger challenge. Since teaching civics is no longer a priority in many schools and homes, the average person simply doesn’t understand the election process or the environment in which their laws are made. For instance, let’s take the Georgia General Assembly, which consists of 56 senators and 180 representatives. By statute, the session must convene by the second Monday in January and must not exceed forty legislative days. However, if you chair a committee, your responsibilities extend far beyond a forty-day session. Effective and engaged legislators do not stop working at midnight on Sine Die, but continue throughout the year meeting with constituents, attending committee meetings, and educating themselves on governmental challenges.With legislators in many other states earning sizeable salaries, most citizens are surprised to learn that the annual salary of a Georgia legislator is only $17,500. Please don’t misconstrue this column as a plea for the State to allocate heaps of tax-payer resources for my colleagues and me, but instead, see this as a small part of a larger systemic issue involving compensation for those in the public service sector.

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Computer Hacking, Distracted Driving, & Secure Voting Machines

The Georgia Legislature reconvened on January 8 for the 2018 session, but many Georgians were distracted by the weather and the opportunity to watch the University of Georgia take on the University of Alabama for the National Championship. Although one of the most exciting games in recent history, the Bulldog nation endured a heartbreaking loss in overtime.

Speaking of distracted, there is a bill working its way through the House that is called the Distracted Driving Bill. In essence, the Bill would make it illegal to operate your cell phone while driving your car unless you were hands free. This seems reasonable at first glance, but the issue isn’t that simple. If the legislation seeks to protect lives by reducing accidents caused by distracted driving, then shouldn’t we focus on reducing all distracted driving?

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Medical and Lifestyle Technological Advances

If you’re from my generation, you grew up watching shows like The Jetsons, Inspector Gadget, and even a love story featuring the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. Although these shows were fictitious, they provided a possible glimpse of the future. While we may not be able to hop into our personal spacecraft and zip off to the supermarket, autonomous trucks are already being utilized for transporting goods in Europe. You may have wondered if you would ever really talk to your watch like Gadget, or if someone could really have a damaged leg replaced with a robotic one.

Several years later, nearly thirty million Apple® watches have been sold. This device allows you to communicate, pay bills, and even monitor your exercise — but these features are likely only scratching the surface. Time will tell, but rumors are that the watch will eventually cannibalize the phone within 2-3 years.

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As we begin a new year, I can’t help but think about how blessed we are to live in this wonderful country. We enjoy a robust economy with an unemployment rate of nearly 4.5 percent. The stock market continues to set new records, and fuel prices are hovering around $2.39 a gallon. The average family in America owns at least two cars, eats three meals a day, and has a household income of $67,000. I realize that there are exceptions, but many safety nets in our culture exist to help those who truly need assistance. We live in a country that affords virtually any citizen to pursue an opportunity, to serve in public office, regardless of religion, race, gender, or social status.

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Cybersecurity is defined as the state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data or the measures taken to achieve such action. Just a few years ago, this word was foreign to most people and would have been reserved for those who work primarily in the IT or military field.

That all changed when thieves began targeting retail establishments, stealing third-party vendor credentials to grab payment card data. Many big-box retailers have been hit, but the mother of all retail breaches occurred at Target. Hackers infiltrated a third-party payment vendor and stole millions of credit card and personal information records, resulting in a loss of millions to the retailer. A similar situation at Home Depot surpassed the Target exposure, resulting in nearly 56 million credit card numbers being stolen at a cost of approximately $175 million dollars to the retailer.

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Technology — The Good, Bad, & Ugly

In 1997, the social networking website was created, and it is said to be the first ever social media website. Over the next few years, AOL, Yahoo and MSN all released their version of Messenger, and in 2001, Microsoft began including Windows Messenger with the XP operating system.

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Technology Is it Good for Society?

Technology has dramatically changed all aspects of our lives. It has automated everything from manufacturing to health care, and the pace continues to increase at record speeds. While the Baby Boomers and Gen X population struggle to engage this growing trend, the Millennials and Gen Y population expect and even demand this technology.

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