Bashing the Tennessee Legislature and legislators has become quite popular in some national media circles, but the state’s homegrown writers are pretty good at it, too – as illustrated in two Sunday pieces from opposite ends of the state. Scott McNutt’s satire blast begins thusly: As time runs out on the Tennessee General Assembly’s 2013 session, some lawmakers are pushing for Tennessee to secede from the current century.
Although much legislation that would have thrust Tennessee backward in time failed this time around, lawmakers advocating temporal secession argue that the fact that they keep promoting these regressive, time-warping bills only proves how awful the present is and, by extension, how wonderful the past was,
And here’s one excerpt: Tennessee’s ostensible lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey, R-Happy Days, informed titular Gov. Bill Haslam that he had decided not to dissuade the Legislature’s time-secession movement.
Ramsey said, “I’m going to let them loose. We might land in the 19th century. It might be the 20th. We might overshoot and hit the ‘Land That Time Forgot.’ The governor said he’d prefer the ‘Land of the Lost,’ but I can’t control them.”
Haslam said that, while he liked some of the anachronistic legislation lawmakers had proposed, he was still taking time to study the possibility of considering the potential feasibility — while weighing the advisability — of determining if it were within the realm of theoretical probability that he might perhaps decide before the end of the century whether any 21st-century secession bills were plausible contenders for his veto.
“Or not,” he added firmly.
Over in Memphis, Wendi C. Thomas compares the Tennessee General Assembly to the Mississippi legislature – and not favorably. The Mississippi legislature waited until February to formally ratify the 13th Amendment, which in 1865 abolished slavery.
A 148-year-old oversight is embarrassing.
What the Tennessee legislature has done to the poor and working class is reprehensible.
Thomas mentions in her piece a fine example of Tennessee-trashing on the national level, which appeared in Salon.com (HERE). It begins: If you’re worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee. Its lush mountains and verdant rolling countryside belie a mean-spirited public policy that only makes sense if you believe deeply in the anti-collectivist, anti-altruist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It’s what you get when you combine hatred for government with disgust for poor people.
Scott McNutt’s satire gun is pointed this week is pointed at the tourist industry… but it’s sort of a shotgun approach with several targets taking pellets. So far, Haslam’s only tourism accomplishments are securing regular, annual tourism funding, promising to have marketing proposals by year’s end and replacing the tourism slogan used for the last eight years (“The Stage Is Set for You”) that no one knew existed with a slogan used from 1987-1995 (“We’re Playing Your Song”) that no one knew existed, either.
That is why, say the anonymous sources, Haslam wants to promote Tennessee’s most recognizable attribute: our embarrassing, headline-grabbing extremist officials.
“After U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., alleged the impossibility of women getting pregnant from ‘legitimate rape,’ Missouri’s tourism rate probably shot up 30 percent just from journalists rushing there to leech onto that sound bite,” noted one anonymous committee member.
He said regular citizens seeking “alternative” vacations also would be lured by such objectionable remarks. “They think, ‘Wow, I thought our state’s politicians were the most ignorant, offensive jerks, but he’s worse. This, we got to see!’ ” he explained.
Another committee member believes Tennessee is well-positioned to tap that potential alternative market.
“Tennessee has the assets to profit from people yearning to personally affirm that their politicians aren’t the nation’s worst,” the second source said. “Tennessee is blessed with an abundance of jack-in-office jackanapes, like Knoxville’s state Sen. Stacey Campfield and U.S. Rep Marsha Blackburn.”
Scott McNutt has a vision of what things will be like when Republicans achieve a “super majority” in the Legislature after this fall’s post-redistricting elections
that manages to skewer Democrats as well as the GOP.
An excerpt from the laugh-out-loud read: House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Mission Accomplished, said matters important to constituents would be quickly addressed, including bills expanding on legislation passed this session.
“We plan crucial bills on mandatory student suspender installation, gun suffrage, promoting alternative evolutionary theories such as the flat Earth theory and the world-on-a-big-turtle’s-back theory, means testing for voting — ‘those of means get to’ — and issuance of scarlet letters for women on birth control,” she explained.
Given the Democrats’ likely electoral annihilation, one bill Republican legislators intend to launch will relocate the rival party’s survivors to a wildlife refuge.
“Some memorial to the state’s two-party system is necessary, so people can still get a taste of the bad old days,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Arc de Triomphe, said.
The plans include carving out a replica Capitol on one of Tennessee’s beautifully strip-mined scenic vistas. There, the remaining Democratic officials will oversee a lifelike but nonfunctional government, so sightseers can observe how government with liberal policies once operated.
The superfluous functionaries would live on food stamps and unemployment benefits — a grim homage to the perils of big government.
“Voters will see free-range liberals in their natural habitat, wantonly taxing and spending other people’s money, except that it’s Monopoly money. We hold the true monopoly,” said Harwell.
Scott McNutt lampoons the governor’s push for cash grants to businesses – and the lieutenant governor’s push for unlimited PAC donations – in his Sunday satire column. Excerpts: Gov. Bill Haslam, R-One Percent, recently announced a plan to lure businesses to Tennessee by throwing massive amounts of cash at them without public knowledge.
Haslam’s proposal would change the focus of Tennessee’s FastTrack program from tax incentives and infrastructure installment to simple bribery to draw companies to relocate or expand in the state. The program would be renamed the FastCash program.
Haslam explained that lots of cold, hard cash, preferably in small bills secretly delivered in discreet brown paper bags, is the surest way to incentivize businesses.
“Businesses don’t care about tax breaks or infrastructure,” he said. “I’m from business; I know what businesses want. We want money — gobs of money, oodles of money, geysers of money, money coming out of our noses. Companies will only be lured by an avalanche of cash — a cashalanche.”
In defiance of the just-ended Sunshine Week, which celebrates open government and freedom of information, Haslam said the public should remain in the dark about his business cashalanches.
“If you ask other states, they’ll tell you, ‘We don’t tell the little people about our big-business cashalanches,'” he said.
Haslam proposes building giant cash slides to direct money across the state to companies he has targeted. He noted that these slides might overrun existing infrastructure and services.
The governor’s plan prompted the Tennessee Buyway Patrol to issue a statewide cashalanche watch. The TBP said citizens should be alert for waves of bills sweeping past the state’s crumbling infrastructure and underfunded services on their way to the targeted businesses.
…Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was not pleased with Haslam’s proposal. He said the FastTrack program should entail “doing for businesses what they don’t care to do themselves.
“By that I mean, when new employers come in, we ought to pick up their dry-cleaning, provide valet service, maybe shine their shoes and bring them breakfast in bed,” he said. “We shouldn’t just throw money at them. That will make them feel cheap.”
Ramsey’s opposition to Haslam’s FastCash proposal may stem from his support of a bill repealing limits on how much of itself politically active cash (PAC) can throw at legislative candidates.
Under current law, PACs can throw no more than $107,200 of themselves per election at a House or Senate candidate — or $214,400 for a primary and general election combined.
Ramsey wants to eliminate all limitations on political contributions and simply require that recipients disclose amounts received by scribbling a note on the refrigerator door.
“Limits are silly because government officials’ appetite for money is limitless,” he said. “Businesses should throw us money, not vice versa. If the governor gives cash to private employers, then we must make them funnel it back to us via PACs. It’s like E=MC2, where matter is neither created nor destroyed; only this formula decrees employers’ cash equals our money. We need an endless money-back feedback loop.”
Satirist Scott McNutt has taken on the photo ID flap. His Sunday column starts like this: A Tennessee law set to take effect in January requiring people to present a photo ID to vote appears to address a nonexistent problem, but locally, officials say it could help identify recruits for the Knox County Election Commission.
According to a recent Associated Press story, few cases have been found around the country of people trying to vote with false identification. While voter photo ID laws seem to be, at best, examples of wasteful government spending on unneeded layers of bureaucracy, or, at worst, attempts to discourage those without photo IDs from voting, state Election Coordinator Mark Goins says that’s not so.
“For example, in the primaries you just held in Knoxville, we caught the largest rash of voter ID fraud cases ever to occur in Tennessee!” he exclaimed. “No, wait! My bad — there wasn’t voter fraud, was there? I imagined that, didn’t I? OK, but there was the time an illegal immigrant tried to vote with a fake ID, and I caught the perpetrator red-handed — No, wait; that was just another of my fantasies. Uh, um.”
Knox County Election Commission Chairman Christopher Heagerty acknowledged the only instance of local voter malfeasance he could immediately recall was that of Rob McNutt, a local Republican activist who voted several times in the wrong precinct from late 1999 to late 2001.
“He was so proficient at it that this year we put him on the Election Commission,” Heagerty said.
Goins said being required to show an ID would not have prevented McNutt from voting at the wrong precinct, but that the case still highlighted the utility of the law.
“If, through the photo ID requirement, you begin to recognize fraudsters, you’re finding good candidates for the Election Commission, aren’t you?” he said.
A man nominated to serve on the Knox County Election Commission voted outside his precinct more than half a dozen times, reports Mike Donilla. Rob McNutt, picked Thursday by county Republican legislators for the commission slot, sold his Northwest Knoxville home in March 1999 and moved to South Knoxville. He never changed his address with the county’s election office, and he voted seven times from September 1999 to November 2001 before updating his registration.
…”I’ve never intentionally done anything wrong,” McNutt said Friday. “I try to vote in every election, but I would never violate anything. I’d show them my ID and they’d point me to a booth. I didn’t do it with any malice.”
According to Tennessee law, someone who intentionally votes at the wrong precinct could be charged with a felony.