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Yarbrough: Session like a dysfunctional family

POSTED: April 23, 2008 5:02 a.m.
When Republicans first took control of the Georgia House and Senate and the governor's office, I was concerned. Too buttoned-down and serious, I said. They will go to the Capitol, cut taxes, make government smaller and more responsive, jerk their Democrat colleagues around a little and then go home, get re-elected and start the whole thing over again. Not an ideal scenario for someone who makes a living poking fun at politics and those who practice the world's second-oldest profession.

I underestimated them. Turns out Republicans are more cantankerous than a junkyard dog. They haven't done anything but squabble since they took over. One of these days, they are going to find time to fight with the Democrats, but right now they are having too much fun fighting with each other. Witness the recently completed legislative session which ended like a dysfunctional family reunion. Things were so bad that Gov. Sonny Perdue went to China and washed his hands of the whole mess.

When the session was over, Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, surveyed the wreckage and said, "It is hard to call the session a resounding success." That is akin to saying pigs can't write poetry, Senator. We had kind of figured that out on our own.

The biggest loser in the session had to be House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram. If you fed him a case of pork and beans, I don't think he could have passed gas. He spent a year touting his GREAT plan which would cut property taxes and put a sales tax on goods and services. Needless to say, the public didn't think the GREAT plan was so great. It morphed into a repeal of the car tag tax and that didn't make it through the session either.

The speaker chose to blame his lack of success on Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who thwarted him at every turn. Richardson said, "It is time to get a new lieutenant governor." House Rules Chairman Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, was so angry he referred to Cagle as "Eddie Haskell." Before you go searching the Internet, Eddie Haskell was the smarmy kid who was always buttering up Beaver Cleaver's mom on "Leave it to Beaver." Cagle didn't say so publicly, but Ehrhart probably reminds him of Lumpy Rutherford.

Perdue got back home in time to praise Cagle and the Senate for their fiscal responsibility and to pour salt in Richardson's self-inflicted wounds, saying, "They [the Senate] weren't willing to sacrifice our state's fiscal health." As for Richardson, Perdue said, "For the second year in a row, the speaker's tirades blame everyone but himself." Nothing like party unity.

Our legislators did get some things accomplished. They passed a $21 billion budget and voted to allow the seizure of cars of unlicensed drivers involved in accidents. That's good. The lawmakers also signed off on a plan to allow consumers to place a freeze on their credit. Teachers and state employees received a 2.5 percent pay raise, which will promptly be eaten up by higher food costs, $4 a gallon gasoline and increased medical insurance premiums. And it will soon be legal to take a concealed weapon to restaurants. (Note to waiters: I dare you to serve me broccoli.)

Much-needed funding for state trauma centers didn't make it. Neither did legislation to add a new sales tax for transportation nor Sunday sales of booze in stores. Our public servants seemed too busy on more important issues. They spent the last day of the session debating the merits of marijuana-flavored lollipops. My favorite legislator, Bobby Franklin, D-Marietta, tried to add an amendment banning abortions to a bill on dog collars. (I don't make this stuff up.) His amendment was narrowly defeated, 155-2. Franklin, as you may recall, also failed in his effort a couple of years ago to have red clay named Georgia's official dirt. I love this guy.

I am sure Democrats will try and take advantage of the chaotic situation and ask us to let them become the majority party in Georgia once again, but they can't be near as much fun as the killer bees of the GOP. Besides, I doubt many Democrats even know who Eddie Haskell is.

Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose column appears Saturdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; Web site, www.dickyarbrough.com.




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