As I walked out of the Capitol just minutes after the 2009 legislative session adjourned sine die, I thought about season one, episode nineteen of the NBC drama “The West Wing.” Walking back to my car parked in the Steve Polk Plaza, I thought of a quote made by fictional president Josiah Edward “Jed” Bartlet in the episode “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet.”
“Just once, in this job, I’d like to end a day feeling as good as I did when the day started.”
The morning of April 3rd, I woke up energized. I woke up thinking the fortieth day of the 2009 legislative session would be the day when the Republican leadership would put the politics aside and finally do business on behalf of the people they represent. I felt good Friday morning, but I ended the day not feeling as good as I did when the day started.
Allow me to be very blunt and to the point.
The 2009 legislative session ended in colossal and epic failure.
On every major issue, the Republicans did not lead. They allowed petty infighting within their party to once again stifle progress in this state.
We have no mechanism for funding transportation projects. The nails are being hammered into MARTA’s coffin. Trauma care funding remains a no-show. The pet proposal of the GOP –eliminating the car birthday tax– went down in flames. In other words, any person making the audacious claim that the ’09 session was in anyway successful needs their head examined.
James Salzer, political reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, summed it up like this:
When state lawmakers drove away from the Capitol early Saturday, they left many Georgians facing the possibility of higher property taxes this fall and the prospect of higher utility bills in the future.
They left students facing likely increases in tuition at universities and colleges. And they left metro Atlanta residents with the likelihood that MARTA service will be cut.
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “A budget nobody will call perfect”, April 5, 2009
11alive reporter Paul Crawley called the ’09 session “painful” [Source: 11alive.com, “Painful 2009 Georgia Legislature Finally Ends”, April 4, 2009]. Savannah Morning News editorial page editor Tom Barton equated the Georgia General Assembly to a Barnum & Bailey Circus [Source: Savannah Morning News, “Barton: Shame on state lawmakers”, April 5, 2009].
John F. Sugg repeated many of Barton’s themes writing in an Athens Banner-Herald column that compared to the now-adjourned 2009 Georgia General Assembly session, the disappointing 2008 legislative session that ended in a stalemate between the House Speaker Glenn Richardson and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle was “an era of tremendous vitality and progress” [Source: Athens Banner-Herald, “Capitol clowns causing calamities and crises”, April 4, 2009].
The verdict is in, ladies and gentlemen, and even the hometown newspaper of our illustrious Lieutenant Governor agrees; the forty days our 236 state representatives and state senators spent under the Gold Dome were a complete waste of time [Source: Gainesville Times, Our Views: Another 40-day feud, wasted time, April 5, 2009].
To paraphrase something said by then-Gov. George W. Bush at the 2000 Republican National Convention, “[The Georgia GOP] had its moment. They had their chance. They have not led.”
“[The Democrats] will.”