By Chris Talbott, AP Music Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Carrie Underwood has found her voice on Twitter.
The country music star and former “American Idol” champion admitted 3½ years ago she was afraid to join Twitter, but since deciding to take the leap in 2011 she’s embraced the social media tool in ways that go beyond fan engagement. Recently she used Twitter to oppose the “Ag Gag” bill in Tennessee, reaching out directly to Gov. Bill Haslam with a boldly worded message saying if he signed it “he needs to expect me at his front door.”
(Note: Previous post HERE)
It was the first time she’s taken a political stand so publicly, and it seemed to have an impact. Haslam contacted Underwood to discuss the issue and went on to veto the bill that opponents claimed would have stopped investigation into animal abuse on farms.
“He really just wanted to hear everybody’s point of view, which I really respected,” Underwood said in a recent interview. “So it’s kind of neat that (tweet) led to that, which was really cool.”
Dave Smith, spokesman for Tennessee’s Republican governor, said Haslam spoke to people on both sides and that Underwood’s was the only celebrity counsel he sought.
Underwood also recently declared “Hug a soldier day,” and puts her support behind movements like the “End It” anti-slavery campaign and animals rights. She has 2 million followers.
“Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a thinker and I’m a planner and I would never weigh in on anything unless I know the full story on it,” Underwood said. “So I do my research. I don’t think I’m a bandwagon kind of person. People are always retweeting sort of weird stuff. I do my own research. I’m not a political person at all. I doubt anyone can tell you what party I mostly affiliate myself with. But that was just something that was in my backyard.”
As you might expect, there was pushback. Rather than shrink from it, she responded with some grit.
“I realize it’s not necessarily so scary,” she said. “Most of the comments I get back on anything are positive. There’s the occasional negative one, but I enjoy blocking that person.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has vetoed a bill that would require images documenting animal abuse to be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours.
State Attorney General Bob Cooper last week said in a legal opinion that the measure would be “constitutionally suspect” because it could violate Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination and for placing burdens on news collection.
Haslam said Monday that the opinion is one of the reasons he’s vetoing the bill.
Animal protection groups say the measure they have dubbed the “ag gag” bill is designed to prevent whistleblowers from collecting evidence of ongoing patterns of abuse.
The veto is Haslam’s second since he took office in 2010.
— Note: Here’s Haslam’s statement on the bill, as provided by his office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam released the following statement regarding HB 1191/SB 1248:
“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Tennessee. Farmers play a vital role in our state’s economy, heritage and history. I understand their concerns about large scale attacks on their livelihoods. I also appreciate that the types of recordings this bill targets may be obtained at times under false pretenses, which I think is wrong,” Haslam said.
“Our office has spent a great deal of time considering this legislation. We’ve had a lot of input from people on all sides of the issue. After careful consideration, I am going to veto the legislation. Some vetoes are made solely on policy grounds. Other vetoes may be the result of wanting the General Assembly to reconsider the legislation for a number of reasons. My veto here is more along the lines of the latter. I have a number of concerns.
“First, the Attorney General says the law is constitutionally suspect. Second, it appears to repeal parts of Tennessee’s Shield Law without saying so. If that is the case, it should say so. Third, there are concerns from some district attorneys that the act actually makes it more difficult to prosecute animal cruelty cases, which would be an unintended consequence.
“For these reasons, I am vetoing HB1191/SB1248, and I respectfully encourage the General Assembly to reconsider this issue.”
As part of a lengthy review of the “tricky” politics of the so-called “ag gag bill,” Andrea Zelinski includes a rundown on sponsor Rep. Andy Holt’s ‘shaky’ dealings with TDEC permits on his hog farm. While Holt is pushing hard for these new rules on farm animals, he has a shaky history of following other regulations on own hog farm in West Tennessee.
Since 2009, the state has repeatedly found Rep. Andy Holt’s 1,400-hog farming operation out of compliance with regulations set by two state agencies, according to a review of records by The City Paper, such as operating without a valid permit and failing to submit certain manure quality tests to state officials.
The latest notice came April 30 from the Department of Agriculture, giving him a 30-day window to complete his application for a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit, known as a CAFO. His last permit expired in August of 2009.
“Operating your CAFO without a permit is a violation of state, and possibly federal rules,” read the letter by Sam Marshall from the Department of Agriculture’s Water Resources division.
While the Department of Environment and Conservation has sent Holt two violation notices and three letters urging him to get a permit and warning him against dumping hazardous waste, the department has not leveled civil penalties against the lawmaker, according to TDEC.
“There are a number of operators in the same position as Mr. Holt,” said Shannon Ashford, a TDEC spokeswoman. “It is not that the operators have ignored the process. They made submittals that did not meet the requirements of the regulations. If the deficiencies are not corrected, the department will consider enforcement action.”
Holt’s farm includes contract swine owned by Tosh Farms, which are then sold to a packer, according to the Holt Family Farms website. His operation also includes a cow calf operation and a goat herd, sells brown eggs and includes a pumpkin patch for school and group visits.
Since his permit expired, TDEC has sent Holt several notifications that his permit was incomplete and reminded him he was banned from dumping hazardous waste “under any circumstance” without the proper permit.
“We’re in the process of applying here for a permit, and we’ll finish that sometime here very soon,” said Holt, who added acquiring other farms and testing and analyzing materials has slowed his application down. “There’s several things that take some time. It’s our intention to be law abiding. That’s the purpose.”
…Regardless of him running behind on regulations on his farm, Holt said the attention needs to be on getting livestock abuse reported quickly.
“Sometimes their investigations, which have taken weeks or months to complete, have left several animals in a horrible situation,” said Holt, who the Weakley County sheriff’s office has said has been subject to no animal abuse complaints. “Nowhere along the way does it say that you have to come in with 30 counts to indict an individual.
“I’ll always lose the emotional issue if folks don’t use logic associated with that emotion.”
Gov. Bill Haslam says he’ll decide by Monday whether or not to veto the so-called “ag-gag” bill, reports WPLN. Thousands of people have called and emailed Haslam’s office, and some celebrities are urging him to stop it from becoming law. The proposal would require people who document animal abuse to hand their recordings over to police within 48 hours. Opponents say it would actually make it harder to prove patterns of animal cruelty. The argument has put a spotlight on Haslam’s next move.
“While we’re always interested in peoples’ opinions – I’ve had a whole lot of entertainers and movie stars weigh in – at the end of the day it should be about, ‘Is the bill constitutional? Does it encourage the healthy treatment of animals? And is it good public policy that’s well-written for the state?'”
Haslam says he’s expecting to hear either today or tomorrow whether Tennessee’s Attorney General thinks the bill is constitutional. After that he’ll decide no later than the beginning of next week if he’ll veto the bill, sign it into law, or let it become law without his signature.
One of the latest groups pressing for a veto is the American Civil Liberties Union, with a petition it says more than 33 thousands people have signed, including 350 Tennesseans. The ACLU argues such a law would unconstitutionally hurt the right to free speech for people trying to expose animal cruelty.
News release from Clergy for Justice:
Clergy for Justice Tennessee, a grassroots organization of religious leaders across Tennessee committed to seeking justice in public policy, hand-delivered a letter from its members and supporters to Governor Haslam’s office, urging the Governor to veto a bill designed to prevent the exposure of animal abuse in horse stables and agriculture facilities.
Over 300 clergy members and people of faith have added their voices to the chorus of groups across the state, urging Governor Bill Haslam to veto Tennessee’s notorious “ag gag” bill. Senate Bill 1248, which would criminalize the investigation of animal cruelty and other illegal or unethical activity at agriculture operations while shielding animal agribusiness from public scrutiny, narrowly passed the Legislature. It is now on its way to Governor Bill Haslam’s office to be vetoed or signed into law.
“Genesis 1 tells us that everything on the earth has been created by God, and that God has commanded humans to care for the animals,” said Kathy Chambers, Director of Clergy for Justice Tennessee. “Far too often they are subject to abuse which causes unthinkable suffering, clearly violating that mandate. As people of faith, we are called to speak out against injustice and cruelty in whatever forms they might take. Thus, we urge Governor Haslam to stand with people of faith across the state and veto this bill.”
In 2011, an undercover investigation into renowned Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable in Collierville, Tennessee revealed egregious cruelty to horses. A whistleblower documented horses being whipped, kicked, shocked, and subjected to painful soring using caustic chemicals on their legs.
Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s been learning from both sides about a so-called “ag gag bill” since it was passed by the Legislature two weeks ago, but it hasn’t reached his desk yet and he hasn’t decided whether or not a veto is in order.
The bill has generated thousands of emails, telephone calls and letters to the governor’s office – more than on any legislation that has come up during Haslam’s term as governor – and most have been calling for a veto, a gubernatorial spokesman says.
The Humane Society of the United States has organized a campaign against the bill, including TV ads urging people to contact Haslam and urge a veto. Celebrities including TV host Ellen DeGeneres and country music singer Carrie Underwood have also pushed a veto.
Haslam said he would not simply “tally results” before making his decision.
“Obviously, we value everyone’s opinion. But we’re trying to go beyond that and find the argument,” he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam’s office had counted 4,502 emails and 1,796 phone calls – almost all of them against the so-called “ag gag” bill, reports WPLN. That’s more than Haslam has ever received on a single subject. The proposal that passed the Tennessee legislature by a narrow margin requires that activists turn over footage of livestock cruelty to police within 48 hours. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States say such a law would criminalize long term investigations, like one that led to the conviction of a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer last year.
Animal rights groups have mounted a media blitz, complete with paid advertising in Nashville and Knoxville urging Haslam to veto the bill. TV personality Ellen DeGeneres – a well-known animal activist – had the Humane Society’s CEO on her show to talk about Tennessee’s animal cruelty bill. (More on DeGeneres and ‘Ag Gag’ HERE.)
“These kind of undercover cameras catch a lot of things,” DeGeneres said. “It’s important to keep that kind of thing going.”
It’s unclear how many of the calls and emails are coming from out of state, says a spokesman for Gov. Haslam. Only 16 of the fielded calls have supported the legislation.
— Note: The legislature’s website still says that, as of Tuesday, the bill was awaiting signatures of the House and Senate speakers — a necessary step in the formalities before the bill is officially sent to the governor’s desk. Once on the governor’s desk, he has 10 days — counting Saturday’s but not Sundays — to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
The Humane Society of the United States, lawmakers and two media groups held a State Capitol news conference Monday to urge Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a bill they say would end undercover investigations of animal abuse in the state, reports Richard Locker.
In addition, HSUS began running television ads in Knoxville and Nashville on Saturday encouraging Tennesseans to contact the governor’s office to encourage a veto of what opponents call the “Ag Gag” bill passed by the legislature last week.
HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said his group is spending $100,000 on the TV ads initially. The ads are not running in Memphis, Chattanooga or elsewhere yet but the governor’s office said Monday it had received about 2,000 emails and phone calls on the issue. The governor said Friday that he’s studying the bill.
House Bill 1191/Senate Bill 1248 amends Tennessee’s cruelty to animals statutes to require a person who records, “by photograph, digital image, video or similar medium” for the purpose of documenting cruelty to livestock, to report the violation to the local law enforcement agency and submit any recordings to them within 48 hours.
Pacelle said the bill is part of a national movement to make it a crime to do the kind of undercover work that HSUS did in Fayette County in 2011 when it documented abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses at a trainer’s stable.
Pacelle also disputed statements made by the House sponsor, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, that HSUS “held” its undercover recordings of the abuse for four months before reporting to law enforcement.
Pacelle said his HSUS gave recordings to federal prosecutors within two weeks after its undercover operative got a job at the trainer’s stable and, at the prosecutors’ request, the videos were not publicly released for another 13 months. By that time, trainer Jackie McConnell was already under indictment by a federal grand jury in Chattanooga.
“There were so many false statements from the House author in particular,” Pacelle said. “The investigation began in April 2011 and we began to turn information over to the United States attorney for the purpose of enforcing the Horse Protection Act, a federal statute that dates to 1970, within two weeks.”
News release from Humane Society of the United States:
(April 22, 2013) NASHVILLE, Tenn. – At a press conference at the state capitol, The Humane Society of the United States and Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville District 13, screened a new television commercial showing violent abuse of horses from an investigation into the Tennessee walking horse industry. The commercial is the latest effort by The HSUS to urge Gov. Bill Haslam to veto SB1248, the special interest “ag-gag” bill.
The commercial, which began airing across Tennessee this weekend, is the latest effort by The HSUS to stop the passage of SB1248, which would make it a crime for investigative journalists and organizations to document and expose inhumane and illegal activity in horse stables and at industrial agriculture facilities. The bill narrowly passed the House with a bare minimum of votes and is heading to Gov. Haslam for action.
In 2011, an HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable in Collierville, Tenn., revealed shocking cruelty to horses. The investigator recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face and intentionally burned with caustic chemicals. As a result of that investigation, a federal grand jury handed down a 52-count criminal indictment and a state grand jury indicted McConnell and two others for 38 counts of criminal animal cruelty.
Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director for The HSUS said: “This commercial highlights the import role undercover investigations play in exposing inhumane practices that otherwise would remain hidden from the unsuspecting public. We are calling on Gov. Haslam to veto SB1248 and stop the animal cruelty cover-up.”
The crimes at McConnell’s stables would have never come to light but for The HSUS’ undercover investigation, which exposed a culture of lawlessness and cruelty that has thrived within the Tennessee walking horse show industry.
In 2010, the USDA’s Office of Inspector General released a damning report, concluding that “The practice of soring has been ingrained as an acceptable practice in the industry for decades” and that the “APHIS’ [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] program for inspecting horses for soring is not adequate to ensure that these animals are not being abused.”
The narrator in The HSUS commercial states, “Tennessee politicians have passed a bill to silence whistle blowers, covering up the abuse and protecting the next Jackie McConnell.” The ad also highlights the fact that Tennessee newspapers have joined in opposing this special interest legislation.
News release from Humane Society of the United States:
(April 19, 2013) – The Humane Society of the United States urged Gov. Bill Haslam to veto Tennessee’s notorious anti-whistleblower, or “ag-gag,” bill, SB1248, which would make it a crime for reputable non-profit organizations and journalists to document and expose unethical and illegal activity in horse stables and at industrial agriculture facilities. The bill narrowly passed the House with a bare minimum of votes and will soon be transmitted to Gov. Haslam for action.
In a letter to Gov. Haslam, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, said the bill “appears to be an attempt to enact a policy of covering up abuses, and keeping the public from learning of them. If it is signed into law, it may indeed backfire, and result in more public mistrust and skepticism about the workings of the Tennessee walking horse industry at a time when it is already suffering a drastic decline in popularity due to the stigma of soring.”
In 2011, an HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable in Collierville, Tenn., revealed shocking cruelty to horses. The whistleblower recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face and intentionally burned with caustic chemicals. As a direct result of that investigation, a federal grand jury handed down a 52-count criminal indictment and a state grand jury indicted McConnell and two others for 38 counts of criminal animal cruelty.