End comes with little done

ATLANTA - The 2007 legislative session - one of the longest in the state's history - could well be remembered for what state lawmakers didn't do.

Republicans, who are now firmly in control of state government after decades of Democratic rule, struggled to unite behind any cohesive agenda. And it showed.

A bill that would have allowed local communities to permit alcohol sales on Sunday was bottled up. Another that would have made it easier to impose the death penalty was scuttled. An effort to revive payday lending in Georgia fell flat. There was no promised apology for slavery. And Republican efforts to revamp PeachCare became ensnared in House-Senate bickering.

Some advocates are thrilled with the gridlock, saying it prevents harmful changes to programs such as PeachCare.

Then there was the headline-grabbing meltdown over the budget. GOP discord over the 2007 midyear spending plan, with its $142 million one-time property tax cut, led to a rare veto from Gov. Sonny Perdue.

That means lawmakers will have to return to Atlanta for a special session, deeply embarrassing for a party that last year prided itself on being so efficient it could finish the session early.

The budget battle grew so bitter that after the legislative session hurtled to a finish at midnight on Friday, a clearly irritated House Speaker Glenn Richardson let loose with a rant against Mr. Perdue, accusing the governor of "acting like a child."

"Apparently hunting season is over, and he's got time to hang out at the state Capitol," he said.

Mr. Richardson's chamber rallied to override Mr. Perdue's veto, but the Senate did not follow suit.

Some said the do-little session was a stunning turnabout for the once disciplined Republicans, who have held control of both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor's mansion since 2005.

"They sort of came off the rails," University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said.

"You haven't heard much from Democrats. They've been able to just watch from the sidelines as they (the Republicans) went at each other."

The five-day special session will cost an estimated $225,000.

"I think it's a sad day," Mr. Perdue said as he signed his name to a budget veto Thursday night. "I don't think that speaks well for any of us."

He said he will announce dates for a special session in the coming week.