Originally created 03/03/98

House names bridges for two-term legislator



ATLANTA -- The naming of bridges after a two-term GOP legislator led to a skirmish between increasingly torn Georgia House Republicans on Monday as critics charged the General Assembly had "lowered the bar" for honoring politicians.

The House voted 152-7 to name a bridge over Interstate 285 in Atlanta for former state Rep. Matt Towery, the GOP's unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 1990.

State Rep. Randy Sauder, R-Smyrna, who sponsored the resolution, called Mr. Towery "a natural leader, a great orator with a sixth sense for politics."

And as payback, the House also voted to 111-42 to name a bridge after Mr. Towery in the district of state Rep. Dan Lakly, R-Peachtree City, one of Mr. Towery's Republican critics.

Mr. Lakly handed out copies of a newspaper article detailing how Mr. Towery was among five legislators who went on a lobbyist-paid golfing excursion to Daufuskie Island, S.C. Nude dancers also came along on the trip.

Mr. Lakly also handed out a copy of a campaign financial disclosure showing Mr. Towery contributed $1,000 to the campaign of House Speaker Tom Murphy, D-Bremen.

"I bear no malice, no ill will to Mr. Towery," Mr. Lakly said. "We've lowered the bar so that two terms in office entitles you to a bridge- or road-naming."

State Rep. John Yates, R-Griffin, was more critical of Mr. Towery, saying the former lawmaker went along with the Democratic leadership instead of aiding his own party.

However, the resolution had bipartisan support. Mr. Murphy and House Majority Leader Larry Walker, D-Perry, defended Mr. Towery.

"There are no spotless people in here," Mr. Walker said.

"This is a petty, childish thing we're arguing over in this House," said House Minority Whip Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs.

More than 60 road- and bridge-naming resolutions have been filed during this two-year legislative cycle.