Mar. 25, 2002: Just when we think the Legislature can’t drop any lower in our collective esteem,

they how us once again that there are no depths to which they can’t sink. Consider the recent antics of Senator Robert Brown, (D-Macon), chairman of the Senate Insurance and Labor committee. I’m not sure how the State Senate selects their leadership, but after what Brown did, I can only assume they flip a coin or draw straws. Surely, this guy didn’t land this chairmanship on merit.

Brown had a bill in his committee that would allow people who had lost their jobs due to domestic abuse to collect unemployment benefits, which sounds like a reasonable proposal to me. For reason to which I am not privy, the committee Brown chairs defeated it on a voice vote, according to a number of people who were present. That result didn’t suit Chairman Brown, who declared the bill had passed and then scampered out of the room, refusing to allow a show of hands. He later claimed he had to catch a bus to Macon. Yeah, right. The Greyhound bus station is always packed in the afternoon with legislators trying to make it home before dark.

Does anybody in state government understand? Does anybody comprehend how disgusted we are with that kind of behavior? Or does anybody care what we think? First, the General Assembly rigs redistricting to accommodate their personal political needs and then the leadership refuses to accept a legitimate vote of the representatives you and I elected because the answer the representatives gave wasn’t what the leadership wanted.

The fault is ours, you know. We have become so apathetic that we have allowed a democracy of the people, by the people and for the people to become the private province of a bunch of arrogant and self-serving politicians, who think they are accountable only to Governor Roy Barnes and House Speaker Tom Murphy. You and I sit on the sidelines and tell ourselves that the whole system stinks but we won’t do anything to change it because we have come to believe that we can’t. People like Robert Brown are not only reelected but they actually serve in positions of leadership, God help us.

The reaction to Brown’s underhanded methods was interesting. The Republicans, who opposed the bill, were handed a ready-made issue that they used to the best of their limited abilities. They strung up crime scene tape and made a lot of speeches about how the Democrats mistreat them. The Democrats for the most part ignored the Republicans – and Brown’s actions – and went on with business as usual, which is passing whatever legislation suits them. Just another routine day under the Gold Dome.

Both sides should have come together in joint session and agreed that what happened was unconscionable and unforgivable. They should have censured that bozo of a chairman and stripped him of his position and put him on the first bus back to Macon in time for supper. Then the whole crowd – the Governor, Lt. Governor, the Speaker and everybody in the Legislature – should have publicly apologized to us all for abusing the responsibilities we have entrusted to them. After that, everybody could have gone back to work, knowing they had done the right thing and had gained some much needed respect from the public. The first order of business would be to debate the merits of unemployment benefits for domestic violence victims, except to go about it the right way this time.

Of course, all of the above will happen when pigs fly. If the government is a food chain of power, you and I are the amoebae. Our job is to keep mindlessly reelecting these people and then stepping out of their way so they can spend our tax dollars as they choose – subject to input from lobbyists and political consultants, of course – and with no accountability for their actions.

I have said on more than one occasion that the majority of men and women we elect to public office are honest and hard-working people intent on doing the right thing. Regrettably, they are overshadowed by the likes of Senator Robert Brown, who gives democracy a swift kick in the groin whenever the process doesn’t work the way he wants it to.

The good news is that a bus ready to take this guy to Macon. The bad news for us is that Greyhound goes both ways, and that Brown always seems to come back.