Local governments shouldn’t be allowed to play with knives, according to a bill pending before the General Assembly. And there are several pieces of legislation declaring, to one degree or another, that the federal government shouldn’t be trusted to handle guns.
Such measures, it seems, are part of a growing trend in Legislatorland to assert state supremacy. Dangerous devices may be cutting-edge issues in this regard, but it gets into some duller things as well. They might be more significant.
Now, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, has a point in his “knife rights” bill. If a national retailer is afraid to mail a blade longer than 4 inches into Tennessee, fearing criminal prosecution under state law, that law probably does need to be carved into better shape.
And if we allow citizens to possess rifles, shotguns and pistols, well, it doesn’t take piercing intellect to reason that legalizing ownership of a “switchblade” is not really slashing public safety concerns. Bell’s bill slices “4-inch blade” and “switchblade” provisions from current state law.
It also cuts local governments’ ability to enact ordinances that conflict with state knife laws. Bell says that if you leave Knoxville with a knife having a 4-inch blade in the car and drive to Clarksville, that’s fine, legally speaking, until you reach your destination, whereupon you are in violation of a local ordinance banning blades longer than 3 inches.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A coalition of Nashville poll watchers on Monday called for an audit of problems they documented with Election Day voting.
Tennessee Citizen Action organized the poll watching effort and its director, Mary Mancini, said that while some precincts were run effectively and smoothly, many were not.
The Election Protection Coalition command center fielded more than 600 calls reporting problems that included too few poll workers, poll workers who gave voters inaccurate information and polling places that ran out of provisional ballots and change-of-address forms.
In one case, a polling place at the Napier Community Center had more than 1,500 registered voters assigned to it. Long lines formed early while the five (and at one point six) poll workers struggled to keep up. But a polling place next door, the Napier Elementary School, had only 10 registered voters assigned to it, and the three poll workers there had almost nothing to do all day.
A nonpartisan watchdog group has filed a complaint against Republican state Senate candidate Mark Green, claiming he used a political action committee to bypass limits on campaign contributions, reports the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. Tennessee Citizen Action filed the complaint with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.
The group alleges Green used “Green PAC” as “an illegal conduit” for donations from an employee and a business associate so they could exceed the maximum allowable contributions.
Tennessee Citizen Action is a consumer rights and public information organization that enlists volunteers to look through campaign finance reports for signs of inappropriate activity.
“In this climate of unlimited campaign money being allowed to be funneled into a campaign, we look out for the people whose only voice is their vote,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of the group, in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
Green PAC’s treasurer is Rachel Barrett, a partner at Barrett Johns Strategies, a firm that has been employed by the Green campaign, the complaint says.
…Green PAC has had only three donors: Green ($250); one of his employees, Win Winegar ($3,000); and Rich Street, owner of a medical billing company ($5,000).
On the same day Street made his donation, the bulk of the Green PAC money ($8,000) was deposited into the Mark Green for Senate Campaign, the complaint says.
Winegar, Leigh Winegar, Street and Leesa Street had each previously donated the maximum of $1,400 to the campaign.
The PAC was created just a few days before its biggest contribution, and there has been no activity since, the complaint says. Note: A Republican news release on the complaint and Mancini’s response to the release are below.
News release from Tennessee Citizen Action:
Nashville, Tenn. (October 24, 2011) — A new poll issued by the MTSU Survey Group reveals that most Tennesseans are aware of new voter ID law, but many confused about the details. Tennessee Citizen Action released the following statement:
“We’re not surprised that many Tennesseans are confused about the details of the new photo ID to vote law because it’s in the details that the devil lives. The requirements necessary for Tennesseans to comply with the law are restrictive, excessive, and extremely confusing.
For instance, the law states that the ID must be a “Valid government-issued photo ID” but we’re being told we can use an expired drivers license. We’re not sure when “valid” and “expired” started to mean the same thing. We’re also being told that certain government-issued photo IDs, such as those issued by state universities and colleges, cannot be used, while others, such as gun permits, can.
Adding to the confusion is the very specific and excessive ID requirements needed for Tennesseans to obtain the necessary ID. You need proof of U.S. Citizenship, a primary proof of identity with full name and date of birth (like an original copy of a birth certificate) AND a secondary proof of identity AND a proof of name change if different from name on primary ID AND TWO proofs of Tennessee residency.
Basically, this law is taking away a person’s right to vote, telling them they have to get a government-issued photo ID to get it back, and confusing the hell out of them in the process. This is NOT what democracy looks like.”
Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization focused on justice for all. As part of the No Barriers to the Ballot Box coalition, TNCA is working to repeal the photo ID to vote law.
A new Tennessee law requiring voters to show photo identification at polling stations may hinge on whether it discourages voting by the elderly, according to Chas Sisk. The proposition is that, if anyone is disenfranchised from voting by the law, it could lead to a successful legal challenge. And seniors are the most likely to be disenfranchised. The requirement is especially controversial among senior citizens, many of whom have been voting for decades in Tennessee without having to produce a picture ID. While some seniors believe the law will combat voter fraud, others say its main purpose is to suppress turnout among older voters by requiring them to revisit driver’s license stations.
“It is a 2½-hour wait just to get somebody to see you,” Mary Lou Pierce, 73, said over a taco lunch Tuesday in Bellevue. “It is ridiculous (when) you’re talking about somebody’s who’s got a walker. … That is just awful, and it is to disenfranchise.”
…Like other states, Tennessee has based its law on a 2008 Supreme Court review of Indiana’s voter ID law. In that case, the court ruled that state officials’ interest in protecting the integrity of elections was important enough to allow an ID requirement.
But that ruling also left some wiggle room for opponents to challenge ID laws again.
The original suit challenged Indiana’s law on its face, arguing that it was inherently unconstitutional. But three justices said then that they might have ruled differently if opponents could have shown that some voters could not get picture IDs.
Goins acknowledged that any disenfranchised voters could lead to legal action. But he said the campaign’s main purpose is simply to make sure Tennesseans know what they have to do to vote.
“I can’t find anybody that’s going to be disenfranchised,” he said. “But if there is somebody that’s been disenfranchised, there are enough opponents, I’m sure it’s going to be loud and vocal.”