Gail Kerr devotes a column to urging Gov. Bill Haslam to use his popularity and position to start leading the state on a number of pending issues. Maybe the governor is waiting until after the holidays to present a layered legislative package of proposed laws. But if Haslam were smart, and he is, he would use this time before the legislature convenes to start selling the public on the specifics of his agenda.
The governor’s tendency has been to proceed with undue caution most of the time. He oh-so-carefully tosses small stones into the water to see if they make waves. Haslam and other party leaders are visibly nervous about the newly elected Republicans. Will they side with the administration? Or fall back on get-elected language and out-there social positions? Will they care more about guns in trunks than they do the safety of Tennessee children and people who are dying because they sought help for back pain? Haslam would be wise to show his popularity numbers to lawmakers as a way to keep the kittens in the box.
There are those from the tea party persuasion who stand by their “no government regulation” mantra. But the goal needs to be good government, not no government. And sometimes, as with hiring enough people to answer the child abuse reporting hotline, those things cost money. That does not have to mean a tax hike. It does mean a leader must be willing to look at what is needed, find a way to get it done, and have the gumption and skills to get enough lawmakers to vote yes.
Sanford on Gunfights
Otis Sanford envisions a college course on Legislative Politics 101 — “the fine art of grandstanding and hubris by duly elected legislators” — with a lecture theme on the current gun bill standoff. Kerr on Guns, Don’t Say Gay
Opening line of Gail Kerr’s Sunday column: If the 2012 Tennessee legislative session were a horror movie, it would be called The Things That Wouldn’t Die. Two bad proposed laws — the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “guns in trunks” legislation — continue to head toward floor votes despite widespread opposition. Thomas on GOP Going After Democrats
From Wendi C. Thomas’ Sunday column: Today’s gripe concerns a trio of bills championed by Republican legislators. Taken individually, they seem well-intentioned. But look more closely and you’ll see that these the bills are part of a pattern to beat back marginalized constituencies, who, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democrat.
Monkeying With Evolution on Easter
Sam Venable’s Sunday column starts like this: How ironic is it that a bill about evolution would wind up on the governor’s desk on the cusp of Easter weekend?
Easter is a celebration of Christian faith, not science. Yet the majority of Tennessee’s lawmakers persist in mixing the two under the preposterous notion they are protecting students and teachers from what is being termed the “scientific weaknesses” of evolution and global warming.
Hoo-boy. How does Tennessee manage to keep stirring this pot after nearly a century? Don’t our lawmakers have real work to do? Rep. Hurley Suffers Snark Bitte
Scott McNutt clamps his satrical teeth into state Rep. Julia Hurley’s venture to the Roane County courthouse with her dog. (If you don’t know what he’s talking about, previous post HERE.) His column begins thusly: Hundreds of dogs and humans gathered on Roane County’s courthouse lawn recently to play and chase each other in support of dogs in government. The ersatz dog park was a reaction to the ejection from the courthouse of Pepper, a hairless Chinese crested breed, along with her human, state Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Must Love Dogs.
Mizzles, a Dorgie from Loudon County and member of the Hilltop Kennel Club in Lenoir City, wore a tag reading “She stood for us. We sit for her.” as he sat on the courthouse walk, watching the crowd gather. Thomas to Legislature: Butt Out
Wendi C. Thomas quotes both sponsor Rep. Joe Towns and legislators who voted against his “saggy pants” bill before giving her opinion in a Sunday column: Legislators are not elected to be the fashion police, particularly when the style is likely a passing fad.
“The school system, there’s a lot going on and a lot…it may not be a priority,” Towns said.
Exactly. If school districts can ban saggy pants and haven’t, then why should the state step in?
Pursuing such legislation is a waste of our elected officials’ time. Bills like these only reinforce the perception that our representatives in Nashville are majoring in the minors.
If legislators think any such non-problems require legislative intervention, maybe they need a swat right above the area where saggy pants usually start. A Columnists’ Report Card
Gail Kerr ha written a Sunday column based on the question, ” Is the state winning or losing under the current General Assembly? ” and the answer, “Well, some of both.”
A Basket of Grenades
A Clay Benne cartoon depicts the 2012 General Assembly as an Easter bunny with a baket full of hand grenades instead of eggs. Link. HERE.
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?
Gail Kerr has some advice for “the new, improved Gov. Bill Haslam” — He should use his new leadership to urge solutions to what is a messed-up voter photo ID law. He’s dropping hints that he might intervene, saying the state’s driver’s license stations were not ready for the lines of voters seeking a photo ID so they can vote.
Haslam is not asking lawmakers to postpone the law. But he used an interesting little word: “yet.”
“We haven’t made that recommendation to them yet,” Haslam said. The driver’s license centers need to be “a little more customer friendly,” the governor told reporters, and “they’re not where they need to be yet.” (Note: Actually, it was just one reporter.)
Haslam could do this and offer political cover to both parties. He could, for example, ask that the legislature push back the start date by a year to make more improvements to reduce driver’s license station wait times. He could float an amended bill, allowing college students to use their student IDs at the polls and exempt seniors.
He could push lawmakers to grandfather all existing registered voters in, and begin requiring a photo on voter registration cards from here on out. He could create a new system in which you get a new registration card with a picture taken at the time you go vote. That would phase in a new system nicely over time.
From a Gail Kerr column: Early voting in Nashville’s local election has been cooking along for eight days, with nary a problem. There has been no voter fraud. No identity theft. No dead people voting.
“It’s smooth,” said Albert Tieche, Davidson County administrator of elections. That delivers solid proof that the new law that will force voters to show a picture ID is worthless and unnecessary.
The law was not instigated to protect the integrity of elections. It was a targeted attack aimed at keeping the poorest, oldest and least educated from going to the polls.
“The law doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2012,” Tieche said. “So we are not dealing with photo IDs for this election.”
There is a virus spreading like dandelions caught on a breeze in the Legislative Plaza, according to Gail Kerr’s most recent column, and it’s called Illogithink. Here are the basic building blocks of Illogithink 2011: Gays are bad. Guns are good. Businesses are all good. Limits on businesses are all bad. More government is bad. More government like Mr. and Ms. Elected Legislator wants it is all good. Local autonomy is sacred. Except when state government decides to big foot it. Whether it’s the General Assembly’s business. Or not.
Meanwhile, Pam Stickland focuses on Republican-backed”sideshows” dealing with homosexuality: Insecure power grabbers are easily recognized by taking silly, unreasonable stands cloaked in false righteousness. My mama warned me about them years ago, and President Barack Obama reminded us all about them Wednesday.
I couldn’t have agreed more when Obama said Wednesday that “we do not have time for this kind of silliness.” The president was talking about the bat-wing crazies who insist, in spite of solid evidence to the contrary, that he is not a native-born American. I, however, am talking about our state legislators, who insist on treating the lesbian, gay and transgendered as less than equal when the state has serious budget problems and major education issues that need tending.