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The "All-Expenses-Paid Loopholes" Award
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge
Ralston introduced two proposals early in the session that sought to address lobbyist gifts and how local government candidates file campaign reports. But his bill had flaws, including expanding the definition of a lobbyist to include just about anyone with an opinion about a cause. He backed a later fix, a $75 cap on lobbyist gifts containing its fair share of loopholes, that didn't apply to subcommittees. It also remained lax on rules about travel for public officials — something Ralston himself has enjoyed in the past. In addition, lawyers would be exempt from registering as lobbyists. Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry told CL that Ralston's initial approach was "completely disingenuous." "[He showed] you can call something a ban and it can be worse than a gift cap." And state senators later called his legislation "opaque" and "shameful" before making major revisions to the ethics reform package. A revised bill still containing some loopholes unanimously passed on Sine Die with his backing.
The "Blame Obama" Award
Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson
Is it really necessary to codify partisan vilification of the Affordable Care Act? Apparently, the insurance agent from Jackson thinks so. Obviously assuming that the new law will raise prices, Jones proposed legislation that would require Georgia insurers to explicitly state at the bottom of bills how much of a premium hike comes as the result of the president's health care overhaul. Further, it would say that the Legislature, governor, and insurance commissioner weren't at fault. The kicker? The law would expire at the end of 2014, giving the impression that it was simply intended to give its author and other Republicans an extra bump in next year's midterm elections.
The "Walking Ed" award
Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta
We saw a glimmer of the common-sense Buckhead Republican we once knew when he implored his colleagues to buck the threats of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and support the bed tax, which could stave off massive cuts to hospitals. Or when he proposed allowing state reservoir funds to help pay for water conservation. We'd like to see more of that person, and less of the right-wing zombie championing legislation that would allow parents to stage coups in schools, shrink Fulton County, or promote the Tennessee-Georgia border dispute as a realistic solution to the state's long-term water woes. And ease off the anti-labor union bills, too. Yes, we know you want to serve in Congress. But step away from the dark side, Ed. You're better than this.
The "Hide in my Bosom" Award
Gov. Nathan Deal
State lawmakers, who serve part-time, have basically two responsibilities: cast votes and kowtow to Georgia Power's commands. The governor only made them do the latter this session. When it came time for the General Assembly to take up a bill to tax Georgia hospitals' net profits, a measure required to pull down vital federal funding, some conservatives started grumbling. They thought the policy would violate a blood oath made to Grover Norquist, the Washington, D.C.-based anti-tax activist who's made a career out of telling elected officials how to do their jobs. Rather than ask lawmakers to do what's best for the state's medical network and risk getting primaried next November for breaking a tax pledge, Deal pulled some administrative acrobatics — and found a way to task an unelected bureaucrat with the responsibility. And when he realized that lawmakers would use a bill allowing up to $300 million in public cash to be spent on subsidizing a new Atlanta Falcons stadium as a grandstanding opportunity, he walked across the street and asked Mayor Kasim Reed to handle the deal. Deal, who essentially gave former state Sen. Chip Rogers — a wing-nut favorite and re-election threat — a $150,000 golden parachute to leave the Gold Dome late last year, is the Capitol's sugar daddy, and we're all the worse off for it.
The "If I Only Had a Friend" Award
Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven
Another year, another bullshit bill beating up on MARTA. Jacobs, chairman of the Gold Dome's MARTA oversight committee, pulled a page from last year's legislative playbook and added a twist. In addition to giving mayors in Fulton and DeKalb counties' predominantly Republican new cities a strong hand in appointing MARTA's 12-member board, his legislation would've mandated the privatization of the transit agency's bus cleaners, payroll, paratransit drivers, and many other operations. MARTA CEO Keith Parker had already signaled that he would outsource some services. But Jacobs wanted to force his hand. In addition, he wanted to tinker with employee pension plans. Union and transit officials warned Jacobs that his moves could run afoul of federal laws and jeopardize federal funding. But Jacobs pressed on. When it appeared his bills were dead on arrival in the Senate, he snuck language into an unrelated bill, pissing off members of the upper chamber. Jacobs got his board appointment changes, but finally decided to retry his privatization scheme next year. He might want to make some buddies in the Senate between now and then.
@ JF Williams "And now I have even more of a reason to totally ignore…
If only he'd continued to throw strikes the way he tweets.
Wow! Look what I missed...didn't miss anything I was at the beach. I burned gas…
At-large voting is a crock and a crime when it's conducted this way. Get rid…
If it is John Rocker writing the tweets they are pretty good.