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Creative Loafing's 2012 Golden Sleaze Awards 

Recognizing the Gold Dome's scoundrels, ne'er-do-wells, and bullies

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Everyone — the lobbyists, the press, hell, even some elected officials — was prepared for the worst when state lawmakers returned to the Gold Dome in January to kick off the 40-day General Assembly.

Not only was it an election year, which guaranteed that state lawmakers would propose outlandish bills just to earn media attention, it was also the first election year for the Tea Party freshmen swept into office on the national-outrage wave two years ago.

Those legislators, and even some of the more experienced state senators and representatives, did not disappoint. It is agreed by all rational minds that what Georgia most needs from its leaders is legislation that could help create jobs, fix problems in the upcoming transportation-tax vote, and make relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers less cozy. Instead, we were treated to red-meat bills about abortion, drug-testing people seeking welfare, and undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children who now are seeking a college education. (Political columnist Tom Crawford noted during one particularly bully-tastic week that the only demographic group left unscathed was "white Christian males who are still employed and don't have to apply for public benefits.") Attempts to do good by Republicans and Democrats alike were scuttled in favor of the same ol' bills boosting the same ol' corporate interests.

In hopes we'll prevent history from repeating itself, we'll review the low moments of the 2012 legislative session. Regular readers might notice the larger-than-usual number of senators among this year's award winners. That's not by design. Once the more grown-up of the two chambers, the Senate has devolved into a freak show. One theory: Senate leaders are rewarding Tea Party freshmen whose support last year was crucial in stripping Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of much of his powers as the chamber's presiding officer. In return, those same leaders have given the foot soldiers the green light to introduce whatever legislation tickles their fancy — or just copy and paste from national conservative message boards. (Also: The House, traditionally the more dysfunctional of the legislative branch's two chambers, lost some of its resident crazies, politically speaking, including Marietta's Bobby Franklin, who died last July, and James Mills of Gainesville and Tim Bearden of Villa Rica, both of whom took jobs under Gov. Nathan Deal.)

That noted, it brings us great pleasure to exorcise ourselves of these sleazy details — and also recognize the few lawmakers who rose above the muck and tried to make Georgia a better place. Without further ado, CL proudly presents the Golden Sleaze Awards.

The "Allergic to Microphones" Award

Rep. Judy Manning, R-Marietta

When the Marietta Daily Journal queried state lawmakers in January about their GOP presidential picks, Manning dug deep inside herself and delivered the stupid. After chiding the media for fixating on candidates' personal lives, the Cobb County Republican, who miraculously has served her district for more than 15 years, said she's "afraid" of Mitt Romney's "Mormon faith." "It's better than a Muslim," she added. Manning, a Newt Gingrich supporter, went on to accuse Romney of performing — she wasn't sure about the number — approximately 180 gay marriages while he was governor of Massachusetts. (He didn't.) National media quickly picked up the story, leading Manning to post on Facebook: "A seasoned [reporter] manipulated my comparison using verbal judo and made my choice for a Republican Presidential candidate appear to be motivated by religion. NOT SO!" Mormons received an apology from Manning. Muslims did not.

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