Measure to punish legislators who fall behind on taxes fails after speech from Brown

Most senators vote in favor, but vote falls short of needed majority

March 5, 2009 

ATLANTA - An effort to give the state Senate more power to punish members who get behind on their taxes failed this afternoon after a personal speech from Macon state Sen. Robert Brown.

Brown, also the Senate's Democratic Minority Leader, discussed recent health problems, which led to problems with his business, which he said kept him from filing for his taxes.

He also called state Sen. Eric Johnson, who had proposed a new ethics rule to punish senators who don't pay their taxes, a "bloodsucker" who is pandering to voters as he runs for lieutenant governor in 2010.

During most of his speech, Brown placed on the Senate video boards a picture of Johnson smiling and holding the former Georgia flag, which prominently featured the confederate battle emblem. He also chastised Johnson, R-Savannah, for pushing in recent years to have the state apologize for slavery. If Johnson is interested in slavery, Brown said, he should take gang members to Africa to fight slavery on that continent.

Johnson said that, in his 17 years at the Capitol, he had probably "never been as shocked" as he was to the reaction to his proposal. He made it after it came to light that 19 legislators - a number that has since grown to 22 - owe the state back taxes or have failed to file for their taxes at least one year going back to 2002.

Most of those legislators have not been named, due to privacy rules. But Brown volunteered some details about his tax issues, though he has not made it clear how much, if anything, he owes or for what years. He has said he failed to file, though he has also said he's applied for extensions.

Johnson's measure failed, though most senators voted for it. It needed a two-thirds majority, and went down 32-16.

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