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More legislative superlative awards for 2015 TN General Assemly

More superlatives from the 2015 session of the 108th General Assembly:

Supermajority Legislator of the Year: Shared by the two majority leaders, Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga in the House and Mark Norris of Collierville in the Senate. At the start of the year, Norris set the tone for defeat of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee initiative by refusing to sponsor it, as is traditional for majority leaders on administration bills. Later, he was point man in derailing the most-debated bill of the year, a House-passed measure to proclaim the Holy Bible as Tennessee’s official state book.

McCormick did sponsor Insure Tennessee, ably arguing for a lost cause, but did not stop the Bible bill in the House (though opposing it). Together, the two adroitly steered the most of Haslam’s legislative package through some troubled waters, compromising and cajoling along the way and generally keeping the somewhat splintered Republican ranks headed in the same direction. And they jointly sponsored a bill requiring all high school students to take a civics test before graduation. There were some questions about whether some legislators could pass such a test, but the two leaders would doubtless get a perfect score.

Superminority Legislator of the Year: Shared by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley and Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville. Banker Fitzhugh displayed both passion and strategy in presenting the minority viewpoint, yet always in a rather diplomatic manner. In contrast, Jones is the Democrat most willing to roar against the Republicans as an outspoken champion of medical marijuana, abortion rights and troubled children. Together, they produced several House floor amendments designed to make GOP lawmakers uncomfortable, and in that respect succeeded even as their efforts failed.

Orator of the Year: Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, a preacher, for his impassioned sermon on the Bible bill, which generally triggered the most memorable rhetoric of the session. Runner-up to freshman Rep. Sabi “Doc” Kumar, R-Springfield, a native of India, for his speech in support of the Bible bill, recounting his mother’s respect for Christianity though reared in another religion.

Freshman Legislator of the Year, Democrat: Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville, who sponsored 69 bills, more than any other member of the minority party, and actually got a few passed. His amendment to the guns-in-parks bill, allowing guns at the Legislature as well, surprised most everyone by passing the Senate. Though ultimately rejected, the proposal was an annoyance there for a while.
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Columnist Ties Teen Suicides to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

Opinion from Gail Kerr:
Two Middle Tennessee gay teens have killed themselves in recent weeks, and friends and family members say both were the objects of persistent bullying in school because of their sexuality.
Which is the best reason Tennessee lawmakers need to examine their hearts and put a screeching halt to the “don’t say gay” bill, which would contribute to a toxic atmosphere in schools. By telling teachers that they cannot discuss homosexuality, the legislature would be endorsing free-for-all bullying of gays.
The bill breeds hostility in the highest halls of power in Tennessee. There’s no excuse for it.
Funeral services were held Monday for Phillip Parker Jr., 14, an eighth-grader at Gordonsville High School. He hanged himself in the upstairs bathroom of his home Friday night. Family members said they complained to school officials about the constant bullying he experienced because he was gay.
In December, Cheatham County High School senior Jacob Rogers, 18, killed himself. He, too, was gay. He, too, complained about being bullied because of it to school officials. He had other troubles as well.
Could any elected official look in the eyes of one of those two teens’ relatives and defend a vote in favor of this horrific “don’t say gay” bill? If teachers and guidance counselors are forbidden from using the word “gay,” how can they respond to bullies?