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The "Stick it Where the Sun Don't Shine" Award
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
When eight senators stripped Cagle of much of his duties as Senate president in November 2010, the lieutenant governor basically became a figurehead. Which means he stands at the dais all day, presides over the chamber, and deals with the "bad back" that deprived him a chance in the Governor's Mansion. But when legislation that would make it easier for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels on their roofs came up for consideration in the Senate, the Gainesville Republican exercised one of the few powers he still enjoys. Rather than assign the legislation to the Regulated Utilities and Industry Committee, where it belonged, Cagle punted the bill where it'd surely die a slow death: the Natural Resources and Environment Committee. The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, refused to watch his legislation languish and eventually attached it to another bill. By then, the utility had sufficiently lobbied lawmakers out of pursuing the measure, which experts say would have barely affected the utility giant's bottom line. The move by Cagle — whose campaign chairman sits on Georgia Power's board — offered them plenty of time to do so.
The "Commander in chief in the War on Women" Award
Rep. Doug McKillip, R-Athens
Known by Gold Domers as "McFlip," this flaxen-haired lawyer switched parties in late 2010 after he was passed over for the House Democrats' top position. And with an "R" behind his name, he wasted no time pressing the crazy pedal. In addition to co-sponsoring odious legislation that requires welfare recipients to take random drug tests, the Athens lawyer introduced what could become the first significant restriction on abortion rights in the Peach State since lawmakers approved a 24-hour "waiting period" on abortions in 2005. Under his proposal, abortions would not be allowed after the 20th week of pregnancy — the stage of development, McKillip claimed, when fetuses could feel pain. Witness after witness said the lawyer — not a doctor — was wrong. The 20-week provision was stripped from the bill, as even members of his own party felt that such decisions should be best left to a woman and her doctor. Ultimately, McKillip was able to slip in a slightly more flaccid version of the 20-week provision (one that does allow abortions under "medically futile" circumstances past 20 weeks), and the bill eventually passed. It's unclear if McKillip, who says he became pro-life in 2009 when he found God, is more concerned about the primary challenger he recently drew than women's health. In the words of one Capitol observer: "McKillip threw all the women of Georgia under the bus for two more years under the Gold Dome."
The "Hold My Hand, You Big Xenophobic Teddy Bear, You" Award
Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville
Loudermilk could easily have left undocumented immigrants well enough alone after the General Assembly last year approved Arizona-style legislation. Rule No. 1 of the Gold Dome: One must never stop harassing Mexicans. This year, Loudermilk, one of the Gold Dome's biggest Bible beaters (you'll occasionally see him flipping through the Good Book at his desk), introduced a proposal that would ban undocumented immigrants — including students carried by parents across the border into the United States as young children — from attending all of Georgia's public colleges and universities. One could argue Loudermilk was overriding the Board of Regents, which in 2010 enacted a policy that prohibited undocumented immigrants from attending the state's most competitive colleges and universities. And University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby, who stressed that the agency's current policy be given a chance. According to the state, approximately 300 of the university system's 318,000 students are undocumented. What's more, they all pay out-of-state tuition rates. No such luck. When it came time for Loudermilk to defend his bill in front of a House committee, he actually asked D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society, the Cobb County-based anti-immigrant organization, to sit next to him. It passed the Senate but failed in the House.
The "Black Helicopters" Award
Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock
If you want to waste a few hours of your life, ask a Tea Party member about "Agenda 21." Developed by the United Nations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the voluntary program was designed as a blueprint to help communities lessen their impact on the environment. But Tea Partiers and conspiracy theorists remain convinced it's a vehicle for U.N.-sponsored troops to march people out of their subdivisions and cars and into Soviet-style tenements and overcrowded trains. Enter Rogers, one of the upper chamber's most influential and powerful members, who introduced a mind-bender of a resolution that says Agenda 21 promotes "radical, so-called 'sustainable development'" and "views the American way of life of private property ownership, single-family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms all as destructive to the environment." When not battling the New World Order, the good senator — who, whoa, dude, represents Senate District 21 — was pleasing his corporate overlords, especially telecommunications companies. Inspired by the free-market fappers at the American Legislative Exchange Council, Rogers introduced legislation that would preempt cities and counties from starting broadband programs in rural areas so private companies, which now say the low density of these rural areas doesn't justify installing infrastructure, could one day do business there. Chip Rogers is protecting Georgia from tin-foil conspiracies and keeping rural areas on dial-up and in the dark ages until AT&T decides they're worth a damn. Way to go, senator.
The "A Good Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste" Award
Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus
Just when we think McKoon might have some good ideas, he goes and mucks it all up. The first-term lawmaker produced one of the more commendable ethics reform measures, a package of legislation that would've limited lobbyists' gifts to lawmakers to $100, among other provisions. (Procedural tricks by GOP leadership resulted in the bill — which we stress, was very good — from languishing.) But nothing made us wince more than McKoon's efforts to ride the coattails of a national firestorm and introduce a bill that would prohibit religious nonprofits' employee insurance plans from being required to cover women's contraception. That bill — along with another proposal preventing the state health plan from covering employees and teachers' abortions by state Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan — so angered Senate Democrat women they marched out of the chamber. Overlooked by most of the Gold Dome crazy caucus was McKoon's bill that would ask Georgia voters, via a carefully worded constitutional amendment in November, whether they wanted to ban Sharia, the religious law of Islam. Yes, it's an election year — but that's no excuse. How 'bout when the dust settles next year we shoot for more legislation like the ethics package — measures that'd reform the Gold Dome for the better — rather than create solutions for problems that don't exist?