When is a Democrat not a Democrat?

And I don’t mean Zell Miller, though this story does originate in Georgia.

Seems as though the Georgia Legislature is having problems telling which side of the aisle it’s lawmakers are from (click for story). Displaying the Ten Commandments in public places, school prayer, gay marriage state Constitutional amendment. All things that you come to expect from a narrow minded, Republican hypocrit. But lately, it seems that the Democrats in Georgia are taking plays out of the Republican’s playbook.

WHY?!?! Posted Sunday, March 7 at 2:17 PM

Some Georgia Democratic legislative proposals mirror GOP plans

ATLANTA – It goes a lot like this around the state Capitol these days: Republicans pitch an idea, ready to accuse Democrats of blocking it if it doesn’t pass. Then along come Democrats with a rival plan of their own that mirrors the GOP proposal.

From gay marriage to ethics reform to the Ten Commandments, Democrats have proposed legislation this year that looks a lot like Republican plans.

It’s all part of the Democrats’ strategy to prevent criticism in this fall’s campaigns that they’re standing in the way of the Republicans sitting in the governor

“The ideas out there, by and large, are our ideas.”
Glenn Richardson
9;s office and state Senate.

“We have tried very hard not to be obstructionists,” said House Democratic Leader Jimmy Skipper of Americus.

The rival proposals are starting to grate on the GOP. They say Democrats are simply trying to appear agreeable, while secretly trying to undermine Republican initiatives.

For example, Skipper and other Democrats proposed a constitutional amendment last week that would allow the state to give tax dollars to faith-based charities. The measure is similar to the one Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue has been pushing for months.

The Republican-controlled Senate quickly passed Perdue’s proposed amendment early this session. The House, ruled by Democrats, has not acted on Perdue’s proposal, and may vote on Skipper’s idea instead. The problem, Republicans say, is that the Democrat version waters down the plan because it bans any possibility of private school vouchers.

“They’re putting window dressing on the issues,” said Rep. Mark Burkhalter, R-Alpharetta, who is one of Perdue’s floor leaders in the House. “They’ve got their versions, but they put in language we can’t live with. It’s like they’re putting out all these ‘lite’ versions.”

But, some observrs say there could be more to it than Democrats simply trying to take credit for the GOP’s ideas. They point out that Republicans may be trying to exploit weaknesses in the Democratic ranks by focusing on social issues like gay marriage and the Ten Commandments, topics that bring out the differences between rural and urban Democrats.

The high-profile gay marriage debate in the House last month is a good example. The most liberal Democrats were near tears over the push to ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution, even though it’s already illegal. Rural Democrats largely agreed with the amendment, and a handful of black lawmakers were so conflicted they decided not to vote at all.

On the GOP side, only one of 71 House Republicans broke ranks and voted against the gay marriage amendment.

Social issues make Republicans look united. This year, they’re making Democrats look downright wobbly.

“They’re floundering,” said William Boone, a political scientist at Clark Atlanta University. “They’re acting like a party that’s unsure of itself.”

A week after the gay marriage debate, where Democrats narrowly defeated the amendment, a conservative rural Democrat proposed her own gay marriage amendment. Rep. Jeanette Jamieson, D-Toccoa, called her version a better-crafted amendment. But asked whether she would’ve suggested it if the GOP hadn’t brought up gay marriage first, Jamieson conceded, “Probably not.”

Boone said the Georgia Democrats are in a near-crisis because they can’t figure out how to write their own agenda when they’re out of power. Although Democrats rule the House, they lost control of the Senate and governor’s office last year, the first power switch in modern state history.

“There seems to be no leadership, and Republicans are exploiting that,” Boone said. “Sonny Perdue came in with no real plan, but because Democrats don’t have any leadership either, they’re just reacting, reacting, reacting.”

Democratic party leaders concede they’ve been following the Republicans lead, but insist they haven’t lost the will to govern.

Skipper said that in a weak economy, when there’s little extra money in the state budget to occupy lawmakers time, social issues tend to come up. And no doubt about it, Democrats are less cohesive than the GOP on the social front.

“One of the strengths of our caucus is that we all don’t think alike,” Skipper said. “Not everybod’ys going to walk lockstep. I don’t think its a problem having diversity.”

Another top Democrat, Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus, said his caucus would rather push bottom-line initiatives like job creation or cutting the budget, not emotional issues like gay rights or abortion.

“It’s difficult for us, when you have such a big tent as we have, to come to areas of commonality,” said Smyre, who leads the agenda-setting Rules Committee.

If his colleagues tend to match ideas first pitched by Republicans, Smyre said, it’s just because they want to improve on the GOP’s ideas.

“Were trying to stop their bad policy and make it good policy,” Smyre said.

House Republican Leader Glenn Richardson promised a gritty campaign season this year where the GOP will accuse Democrats of hijacking their proposals.

“The ideas out there, by and large, are our ideas,” he said.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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