The Peoples Business?

This is all too typical, alas, of your legislature in action. On a cold Friday morning in February, the House of Representatives devoted most of its time debating and then passing HR 1034, a meaningless resolution that urges the NCAA to implement a playoff system to determine a national champion in college football.

So what’s wrong with that, you might ask?

Well, our state’s public schools rank among the bottom 10 percent in just about every indicator that compares the 50 states. Our highways are overcrowded to the point that Georgia drivers face longer commutes to work, on average, than drivers in just about every other state. Our air quality is nothing to write home about, in large part because of those congested highways jammed with internal combustion vehicles. We’re being overrun with suburban and exurban sprawl because of runaway development that no one will try to rein in. Partly because of that sprawl, we’re also running out of potable drinking water.

But, hey, not to worry – our elected representatives evidently feel it’s more important to spend their valuable time working on the really important issues, such as a college football playoff resolution that addresses exactly none of the problems listed above and is little more than a shameless attempt to suck up to voters who are Georgia Bulldog football fans.

The debate on the football resolution occurred 24 hours after House members spent a large part of the afternoon approving a string of amendments to the state’s gun carry laws that would allow you, if you should feel the urge, to bring a .38 police special along when you go to a state park or a sporting event, an airport, a restaurant that serves booze, or even a church.

Georgia is a state whose medical facilities are so poorly equipped and situated that we rank even behind Alabama in the quality of our trauma care system. Our lawmakers believe that the solution is to allow more people to bring guns into volatile situations where a shooting incident is more likely to break out, resulting in persons suffering severe gunshot wounds who will then need trauma care – putting even more strain on an already inadequate trauma care system.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

In times like these I remember an old legislative favorite from the past: Vinson Wall, a man from Gwinnett County who served in the Legislature as both a Democrat and Republican and was involved in a slew of political incidents that were as goofy as the grin on his boyish face.

During his first year as a House member, the 25-year-old Wall pulled out a pistol during a floor speech on capital punishment and waved the gun at one of his colleagues (the resulting news photo went around the world almost as quickly as the picture of Denmark Groover ripping the clock off the House gallery in 1964).

Wall once introduced a bill that would have required coffins to bear the name and Social Security number of the deceased resting inside – in case the coffin was ever unearthed during a flood, you see. He also tried to persuade the Gwinnett school system to remove a seven-year-old special education student from a county school bus on the grounds that the child had physical limitations and “slobbered.”

After Wall switched from the Democrats to the Republicans in the 1980s, one of his GOP colleagues accused him of being a spy for Democratic House Speaker Tom Murphy, and the caucus members tried to throw him out of the party. The state chairman of the Republican Party actively campaigned against Wall in the GOP primary, capping a tempestuous race in which Wall was arrested on election day on charges of destroying the signs of his opponent, who called Wall a “scumbag,” among other things.

Waving a gun on the floor of the House … unconventional behavior bordering on the self-destructive … introducing bills that have little to do with the serious problems at hand. With a background like that, it’s obvious that Wall was just a little bit ahead of his time. In today’s political environment at the General Assembly he would not only fit right in, he’d probably be part of the leadership.

Come back, Vinson. All is forgiven.

Categories: Political Notes