Welcome to New Georgia!

A Dummy's Guide

Welcome to New Georgia! I’m your tour guide. I’m a relative newcomer, too. I arrived here Nov. 6, 2002, the day after the election — the one that destroyed Old Georgia. I lived in Old Georgia for a long, long time before I came here.

A word of warning. The jungle is full of wild donkeys and elephants, all angry. You might get hurt in one of their frequent stampedes. In Old Georgia, stampedes seldom occurred. The donkeys were dominant; the elephants knew their place.

Now, let’s take a look at the governor’s lodge. The new governor is a Republican. His name is George E. Perdue III, but he likes to be known as Sonny. In a way, he is the father of New Georgia. He named New Georgia in his campaign to become chief. But New Georgia hasn’t turned out as he imagined. He is not universally adored.

For instance, hardly anyone cheered at the end of Governor Sonny’s first remarks to the New Georgia Legislature. He looked a bit hurt after he demanded enactment of a $1 billion tax increase, and a few people laughed. When you’re in the presence of the new governor, try to use the phrases “Roy Barnes” and “blame him” in the same sentence. Those code words will let the New Georgia guv know you’re a friend.

Over there is the No. 2 chief. His name is Terry Coleman. He is the first speaker of the New Georgia House — a Democratic speaker who is totally at odds with the father of New Georgia, who tried to banish him. Speaker Coleman can’t get many new laws passed in New Georgia. But he can see to it that the father of New Georgia doesn’t get any passed at all. Legend has it that Speaker Coleman ordered a new sign for his desk when Governor Sonny proposed raising everybody’s taxes. The sign reads, “I told you so.”

I’d like to introduce you to the “Big Guy” — Mark Taylor, the lieutenant governor of New Georgia. In Old Georgia, he ruled the state Senate, appointed senators to committees and directed the flow of legislation. In New Georgia, he cuts ribbons, kisses babies and plots the downfall of the New Georgia government. Some folks say “Big Guy” would like to replace “Mountain Man,” his old friend and mentor, Zell Miller, in the U.S. Senate. He is not alone. At least a dozen other denizens of the New Georgia Dome are hoping to find a spot in Congress. Or take Miller’s place. Or get a professorship. Or open up a Dunkin’ Donuts. For many, the gold-topped funhouse has lost its charm.

For others, it is a great place to live and work. The press corps loves it. For entertainment, Speaker Terry and the father of New Georgia put on daily tests of strength. Besides, lobbyists can’t find any New Georgia legislators who will go to lunch with them. (They’re afraid of Governor Sonny’s Ethics Police.) So the lobbyists are courting the reporters.

Lots of other attractions await you in New Georgia. See those fellows over there in gray uniforms milling around on the Capitol lawn? They are waiting for the father of New Georgia to run the Confederate flag up the pole again. They used to like Sonny, but now they think he is trying to trick them. Keep an eye on that bunch, and you’ll see some real fun by the middle of summer.

Those sad-looking people over there are teachers. They did all they could to help Sonny create New Georgia. Now he has sent word that he has frozen their pay and subscribes wholeheartedly to President Bush’s education reform plan — which is the same plan they hated in Old Georgia.

And that bedraggled lot in the parking garage are convenience store owners. They went all out to help Sonny build New Georgia. In Old Georgia, King Roy took their video poker away. Now George III — Sonny — wants to add taxes to cigarettes and beer, which might take away their livelihood. Who’s their new hero? Speaker Coleman, of course. He’ll save them — or will he?

By the way, take note of one small detail: In Old Georgia, King Roy rode in a Ford sedan driven by an armed bodyguard. In New Georgia, Governor Sonny goes about the kingdom in a giant official SUV with three armed guards.

Categories: Political Notes