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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wanted: Your two cents

By Scott Henry

Something not smell right at the state Capitol? Creative Loafing tries to turn over every rock in our search for legislative sleaze, but we could use your help. If you've observed some slimy goings-on down at the Gold Dome, or would simply like to comment on our own 17th Annual Golden Sleaze Awards, please chime in.

We're looking for episodes of hypocrisy, self-dealing, grandstanding, rule-breaking and general boorishness -- but understand that we will be unable to post outright libel, so please limit your commentary to provable facts.

If there's any confusion about what constitutes sleaze in the General Assembly, here's an example that occurred after press time:

The Sneaky Weasel Award

To Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem

Majority Whip Fleming is earning a reputation for the kind of legislative subterfuge that makes enemies on both sides of the aisle. This past Monday, as the House was hurrying through a long calendar, Fleming took the well to amend his own non-controversial bill dealing with legal process. On the strength of his brief explanation that he was simply cleaning up some errant Senate language, the amended bill passed almost unanimously.

Soon after the vote, however, horrified lawmakers discovered Fleming had fibbed: His amendment actually stripped out a provision by Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, to restore Georgia's hate-crimes law, a measure that had passed the Senate with bipartisan support. Several Democratic and Republican members rushed to change their votes in the record after learning of Fleming's chicanery, but House rules dictate that the original vote stands, meaning he may have tricked trusting colleagues into killing hate-crimes legislation for another year.

For those keeping score: Fleming's scheming -- 1; Fleming's credibility -- 0.

Got it? Keep 'em short, pithy and, above all, factual. Opinions, of course, are most welcome.

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