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The one and only 'idea guy'

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POSTED: September 4, 2007 5:03 a.m.
You’ve probably heard of Larry the Cable Guy, but what about Glenn the Idea Guy? Glenn is nearly as funny as Larry. He also whips out more big ideas than Larry does one-liners. You’re likely to hear more of Glenn in the future. He may be trying to run for governor.
We’re speaking of House Speaker Glenn Richardson, known in some quarters as Romeo. He picked up that moniker after Democrats alleged the speaker engaged in “improper conduct” with a corporate lobbyist who turned out to be a leggy blonde from the gas company. She needed Glenn and his boys in the House to approve a costly pipeline bill for her bosses.
Our spies report that Glenn recently took a cold shower and decided to spend less time on his libido and more on his vision for Georgia. Sounds like things might suddenly turn calm for a week or two in the Richardson-run House that should have “Anything Goes” inscribed over the door. Even so, the Speaker has come up with more fresh ideas than monkeys have bananas, which might be an appropriate metaphor for his current impulses.  
He tossed out a blockbuster a few weeks ago - a total overhaul of Georgia’s tax system that would abolish property taxes, raise sales taxes and reduce local officials to high-priced ribbon cutters. Glenn and his minions would take care of collecting taxes and dispersing the revenue statewide.
Hardly anyone disagrees that Georgia needs a cleaned-up tax code. But centralizing government in Atlanta and reducing mayors and county commissioners to door openers for House members is a bit like - how shall we put this? - what the Russians were planning just before the Soviet Union fell to pieces.
That’s OK, though. Glenn the Idea Guy was trying to make us laugh. He just needs more work on his material. Maybe he ought to change the title of his latest sketch from Glenn’s GREAT Tax Plan - I’m not kidding - to something else.
As soon as Glenn and his press secretary, Celia Davis, returned from a state tour to promote the GREAT plan to civic leaders and the press, the Speaker pulled the lanyard on another salvo.
He unveiled a $20 million proposal to establish an alternative career education program to serve students who might otherwise drop out of high school. Georgia has the second-worst dropout rate in the nation.
The program, to be known as Glenn’s BRIDGE, was so colossal that most local educators were left speechless when they heard about it. For a moment, school boards forgot Glenn the Idea Guy was about to take away their taxing powers.
(As you probably have guessed, BRIDGE and GREAT are acronyms for names that would take the rest of this column to spell out.)
Gov. Sonny Perdue, of course, must be in shock. Richardson took a mean poke at Perdue earlier this year when the governor vetoed a pet bill of the Speaker that would have returned millions in surplus funds to taxpayers. The Idea Guy asserted, respectfully, of course, that the chief executive had showed “his backside.” The Sonny-Glenn battle is expected to resume in January with a stunned governor trying to keep from being swamped by the Idea Guy.
More recently, Glenn’s right-hand man and closest pal, House Rules Chairman Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs, labeled Perdue’s proposal to subsidize health care for small businesses as “an entitlement,” a fighting word in the GOP.
In any event, the most entertaining act in the state Capitol in 2008 is likely to be the Idea Guy.
In some ways, Richardson is a smaller-than-life version of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Both employ an iron-fisted leadership style, inspiring whispering and dissent among rank-and-file Republicans. Both like to roll out big ideas that dominate the landscapes of the day. Both have been tarred by ethics problems that led directly into their personal lives. And despite their spectacular brainstorms, both will probably come up short in attaining executive success (the governorship or presidency, respectively) because their sometimes mean and wild-eyed personal styles scare the public to death.
P.S. Nothing came of the Democratic-inspired misconduct charge against the Idea Guy. He controlled the ethics panel that threw the accusations into the wastebasket. In addition, according to a reliable source who asked to remain anonymous, Republican leaders did not want to give credit to then-Democratic State Chairman Bobby Kahn for bringing down a Republican speaker, no matter what the speaker did. We see the same kind of party blindness in President Bush, who refuses to fire Alberto Gonzales, the dumbest and most incompetent attorney general in the history of the world, only because the Democrats want him gone.

Contact Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net
 

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