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Benton, a noted birther who has long advocated hanging the Ten Commandments inside the Gold Dome, this year wanted to wrap his arms around his dead confederate forebears. The Jeffersonian penned a bill to ensure the continued visibility of Georgia's monuments, statues, plaques, or other "commemorative symbols" — including memorials celebrating Dixie. Local governments and even the state could be charged with a misdemeanor if they removed, concealed, or altered them in any way. The stalled bill also would've mandated that such shrines must be displayed at a "site of similar prominence" if moved to another location. "We're not saying they can't move them," the lawmaker told the Atlanta Daily World. "We're just saying they can't just put them in a field somewhere."
The "Deconstructing Druid Hills" Award
Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs
Willard could've upended Georgia's historic preservation code — all for the benefit of a single developer. Druid Hills residents say Willard's bill was intended to pave the way for Atlanta attorney Robert Buckler to develop a seven-unit subdivision, Clifton Ridge, on a parcel currently zoned for only three houses in the historic neighborhood. It would be one thing if Willard had somehow been hoodwinked into sponsoring the bill. But this is the third year in a row that Buckler, a wily Troutman Sanders partner, has used his close ties to state lawmakers, including the Sandy Springs legislator, to get the legislation introduced. Willard's saving grace is the fact that the bill eventually stalled in his own judiciary committee. Given that the developer has failed time and again in his attempts to create the tiny subdivision, why put your name on a stinker idea of a bill in the first place?
The "Dudes in Powdered Wigs are Sexxxy" Award
Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton
Cooke and five other relatively newbie lawmakers have spent too many late nights trolling tea party message boards. The gang pushed for a resolution urging Congress to repeal the 17th Amendment, which established that U.S. senators would be elected by popular vote instead of by state legislatures. They argued that doing so would help prevent the next "Obamacare" and other "unconstitutional laws proposed by the federal government." It was the latest outburst by a growing number of Republican lawmakers obsessed with "originalism," the belief that today's laws should uphold the Founding Fathers' initial intent. How about we try passing bills that address present concerns — say, inadequate transportation funding or a broken education system — rather than waste time crying over ships that have already sailed?
The "Subsidizing Homophobia" Award
Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs
Earlier this year, the New York Times told the world some lovely news about Georgia: State money is going to pay for student tuition at private schools that bar gay students. Turns out a popular tax credit program allows parents to donate to private educational foundations that funnel the cash to private schools, some of which have policies that allow students to be expelled just for advocating gay tolerance. While no longer the heavy-hitter he was when former ally Glenn Richardson wielded the Speaker's gavel, Ehrhart decided to increase the tax scholarship program's cap from about $50 million to $80 million. Ehrhart's so shameless in his support for the program that he brazenly called it a "voucher." Speaking of shameless, he also operates one of the nonprofits receiving the donations.
The "Save the Worst for Last" Award
Sens. Mike Crane, R-Newnan and Judson Hill, R-Marietta
Just days before the legislative session ended, an abortion debate finally reared its head under the Gold Dome. Few expected it to happen as the Senate discussed House Bill 246, a proposal to give the Georgia World Congress Center Authority the power to make choices about its employees' benefits. Crane introduced an amendment that would prohibit any state employee insurance plan from covering abortions. He and Hill said it would protect taxpayers from funding what he considered to be an immoral practice. The bill eventually stalled on Sine Die. However, the governor said he might consider taking executive action in the months to come.
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