Those who rise to power in government soon learn: Everyone wants a piece of you. And they're willing to buy you lunch to get it.
A tally by Morris News Service shows how lobbyists' money flows toward Republicans now that they've taken over the state Legislature.
For Columbia County lawmakers, highest on the there's-no-free-lunch list is state Rep. Barry Fleming, who received $4,006.53 in spending from lobbyists. As the majority whip in the state House, Fleming holds one of the top leadership posts and thus attracts attention from big spenders.
At the bottom of the list is state Sen. Jim Whitehead, who received just $73.18 from lobbyists. Maybe that explains why he's lost 11 pounds since the session started.
In the middle are state Reps. Ben Harbin and Sue Burmeister. Harbin, who in some respects represented an even more important ally when the Democrats were in power, has received $2,254.75 in spending from lobbyists; Burmeister has benefited from $2,665.60 in lunch-money spending.
Lobbyists with conservative values certainly are getting their money's worth from Burmeister. She's managed to push through the abortion waiting period that under Democrats never budged an inch.
I'm not nearly as anti-abortion as some people, but I've never understood why anyone would oppose a waiting period on a procedure that could compound an impulsive mistake by impulsively killing the kid created by it. These are two horrible wrongs that will never add up to a right.
Next on Burmeister's agenda is an effort to move through the Legislature a bill to require newspaper publication of the photo of anyone whose sentence orders them to register as a sex offender.
This is one of those bills you just love to see. Not only is it a great idea -- why in the world would we require drunken drivers to be identified, and not child molesters? -- but it frames an argument in such a way that anyone dumb enough to vote against it just about guarantees their own election defeat. "What?" the voters would say, "You voted against making sure parents know what the child molesters in their communities look like?"
Burmeister was unable to get this bill moved through the Democrat-run House. She'll have no trouble at all getting the Republicans to pass it.
Afterward, maybe I'll buy her lunch. Of course, that could be a problem, too; in response to whiny complaints that only "the media" oppose a bill to allow more secrecy in government, one lawmaker has authored legislation requiring journalists to register as lobbyists.
Yes, it's unconstitutional. But since when has that stopped blowhards?
Speaking of the annoying media, we've been subjected to plenty of it regarding the war in Iraq. Sen. Johnny Isakson, in town this past week for the Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, set some of them straight.
Having just returned from a tour of the country, Isakson said there are two Iraqs: Reality, and the one we see on TV.
The best thing he saw, Isakson said, came in meetings with Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions. Asked if they were worried about being outnumbered in the newly elected government, the Shiite said he was told they were protected by the same provisions as the U.S. Constitution: A two-thirds majority is required for ratification.
"I didn't expect to get a quote from the Constitution from a Shiite Muslim in downtown Baghdad," Isakson said.
He was slightly less heartened by the Kurd, who said their interests would be protected by a dreaded American-style provision: The filibuster.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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