While the cameraman filmed, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor waltzed up to Fort, shook his hand and schmoozed him up for no other apparent reason than to get on television.
The source of such camera greed can be found in these two words: election year. For the politicians fighting to keep their office, or to climb to a higher one, a few seconds on television are priceless.
While every political seat is sacred ground to be defended -- or conquered -- none is more prized than congressional, and there the fight for exposure was most hotly fought.
Sen. Greg Hecht, D-Morrow, a candidate for the 13th Congressional District, got some airtime for a redundant airport security bill that duplicated federal laws that already exist. One of Hecht's opponents for Congress, Sen. David Scott, D-Atlanta, made the news for introducing a natural gas deregulation bill.
And Rep. Bob Irvin, R-Atlanta, who's taking on U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss for the Republican bid against Sen. Max Cleland, got plenty of mileage out of his idea to hold hearings to blast the city of Atlanta's budget problems -- without even being gracious enough to invite Mayor Shirley Franklin.
With no blitzkrieg maneuver to change the state flag, or to create some new, uber-government agency, what we saw instead was a bunch of politicians yucking it up for the media by making it look like they're saving the world. Hey, that's almost as much hard work as actually solving real problems.
The folks who really pounded the hallways this session were bank lobbyists.
They went all out to fight legislation that ultimately reined in the state's predatory lenders. And the bankers had plenty of help in the form of pros willing to sell themselves. House Speaker Tom Murphy went the distance to help the bank lobby, and in doing so he clashed head-on with Gov. Roy Barnes, who pushed the legislation. The bill, which passed on the session's last day, may actually stop the sleaziest of lenders from hoodwinking Georgians out of their homes.
Piles of decomposing bodies in Noble County did a good job of distracting voters from the fact that new natural gas legislation won't do a damn thing to improve gas prices. Also, despite promises of passing a lean, bare-bones budget, lawmakers padded their districts' pockets with handfuls of cash-dripping pork like they do every year.
For those reasons and the ones below, we're obligated to shine the blinding light of public humiliation on those lawmakers bent on abusing the state and its people for their own twisted purposes. Ladies and gentlemen, claim your Golden Sleaze Awards.
And for the first time, Creative Loafing is separating out a whole set of awards for those lawmakers who actually did some good for the state.
The "About Damn Time Award," to the U.S. Department of Justice and three federal judges for taking way too long to decide whether to reject the state Senate map for violating the Voting Rights Act.
A regular session of the General Assembly can only last 40 days by law, so lawmakers had to drag the session out with recesses until the feds sent the state Senate map back for tweaking. That cost taxpayers more money, and created such a long and boring session that even interns and pages bitched, "Gosh, lawmaking isn't near as exciting here as it is on C-Span."
The "Geraldo Rivera Award for Excellence in Journalism," to Atlanta Journal-Constitution Public Editor Mike King, for raising the most-pressing question of our time in a column two weeks ago: Should the AJC cover the state Legislature?
Sometimes, he said, it's hard to squeeze something relevant out of a dried-up session. Maybe King is right to raise the question. Maybe we should just stand back and let legislators indulge in a gluttonous spending free-for-all. It's only our money they're throwing around.
King -- who was the daily's metro editor when it was blasted by a national journalism publication for its lack of legislative coverage -- summed up his ramble by saying the General Assembly "has become a yearly social club dominated by an executive branch that greases the budget process with pork where necessary and lets loose important policy only when a small group of its leadership says it's OK to do so." What a great story idea. Thanks for the tip.
The "Exxon Valdez Friend of the Environment Award," to Rep. Ralph Twiggs, D-Hiawassee.
Aw, yeah man, the 282 cc single-cylinder, four-stroke engine on a red-hot four-wheeler sure hauls ass -- ain't nothing like it. And it gets you closer to nature. Don't it? So close in fact, that all terrain vehicles have shredded the Chattahoochee National Forest, doing more than $1 million worth of damage.
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