A bill to forbid United Nations representatives from observing Tennessee elections, approved by to state House panels previously, was killed when it came before a third on Tuesday.
The bill (HB589) would have made monitoring of a Tennessee election by a UN official a misdemeanor crime. It was sponsored by Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, who has said the idea came from tea party members in his district.
A UN-affiliated group sent two observers to Nashville last year to monitor elections – part of 42 persons sent around the United States to see if laws requiring photo ID to vote impacted elections.
“Frankly, the United Nations has no business doing that,” said Van Huss on Tuesday.
The bill was approved earlier this year by the House Local Government Subcommittee and the full Local Government Committee. But when it came before the Calendar Committee for scheduling a floor vote, it was instead sent to the Civil Justice Subcommittee on motion of Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol. who chairs that panel.
When it came up there Tuesday, Lundberg told the panel that keeping the state’s election process open to observers is a way of showing others that the United States and Tennessee have “the best form of government” and that “we don’t have systematic problems.”
Some other members voiced similar sentiments, but Reps. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, said their distaste of UN tactics led them to support Van Huss’ bill.
Carter said “those nuts issue reports saying we’re committing fraud and we’re doing it right.”
“They’re sending individuals in for the sole purpose of destroying our system, to declare that we have human rights violations,” said Womick. “We’ve got some real nutjobs in charge of the UN and we don’t want them in here.”
Legislation making it a crime for United Nations representatives to observe elections in Tennessee has suffered a setback in the House while a bill banning all noncitizens from polling places has won approval in the Senate.
Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said he introduced HB589 after learning the U.N. sent observers to Nashville for last November’s election to monitor for “human rights violations.” It makes election observation by a U.N. representative punishable as a misdemeanor.
News reports indicate a total of 44 U.N. observers were dispatched to the United States last fall, partly out of concern over laws requiring a photo ID for voting. One of those sent to Nashville was from France and the other from Armenia.
Van Huss’ bill had cleared the House Local Government Committee by voice vote after about 10 minutes of discussion with Democrats questioning the idea and Republicans generally praising it.
“The United Nations has no business in our polling places telling us anything,” declared Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.
“If they’re looking for human rights violations, they’ve got hundreds of countries they can go to instead of America.”
But when the bill got to the House Calendar Committee, which routinely approves bills for the House floor with little discussion, Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said he has “constitutional questions” about the measure. He made a motion to refer the measure to the House Civil Justice Committee, which Lundberg chairs.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Thompson’s Station and Rep. Matthew Hill, chairman of the Local Government Committee, both objected to the move. Casada said “this is kind of unprecedented” and Hill said the bill had already been “fully vetted” in his committee and a subcommittee.
But Calendar Committee Chairman Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said he believed there was “no ill will” on Lundberg’s part and it was appropriate to resolve any questions before a measure is sent to the floor. Lundberg’s motion carried and the bill goes to his committee this week.
The Senate, also last week, approved 24-3 a bill by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, (SB549) that prohibits people who are not citizens of the United States from entering a polling place in Tennessee.
The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, is up in the House Local Government Subcommittee later this week.
The United Nations wasn’t mentioned in Senate debate.
Bell said the bill was motivated by his belief in “American exceptionalism” and protecting the integrity of the ballot box. The bill includes a provision saying a noncitizen may enter a polling place to “provide assistance” to a qualified voter, which Bell said could include an interpreter or someone helping a voter with a disability.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, asked Bell if the bill would ban people from other countries observing elections to learn about democracy and how it works.
Bell said it would, though he said such people could still observe political campaigns and visit election facilities before voting day.
Van Huss was asked a similar question by Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, in the House Local Government Committee. Van Huss said he agreed with Ronald Reagan that “America is a shining city on a hill” for the rest of the world and his bill would not impact such observers because it is “specifically directed at the United Nations.”
In filing two bills in the legislature, freshman state Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesboro, is fulfilling a 2012 campaign promise to protect Tennessee from the United Nations if elected to the state House, reports Hank Hayes. Van Huss made that pledge at a tea party event in Kingsport last October and specifically spoke out against Agenda 21, a 20-year- old United Nations initiative advocating sustainable development.
The 34-year-old military veteran, who now serves House District 6 in Washington County, has filed two bills with intentions of keeping the United Nations out of the state.
Van Huss, in an e-mail, said he authored the bills “out of a desire to reinforce our eroding national sovereignty.”
He added: “I feel, as a lot of my constituents do, that the United Nations continues to put forth agendas that would infringe on our personal liberties; that’s not the freedom that I fought for, and not the freedom that my buddies gave their lives for.”
He cited a news story noting that the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sent a 44-member multinational delegation to the United States to monitor and observe America’s election process for human rights violations, voter suppression and election fraud.
Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese, however, said Van Huss’ bills are a prime example of the GOP-controlled legislature not working to create jobs.
“They are concentrating on bad ideas that distract our legislature from doing the important work of putting Tennesseans back on the job,” Puttbrese said.
…When asked for a response to Van Huss’ bills, United Nations spokesman Farahn Haq emphasized his organization does not get involved in domestic legislation.
“In any country we try to follow a policy of noninterference with domestic legislative affairs,” Haq pointed out. “At the same time, we do work with the government of the United States, the federal government. … Since its founding in the 1940s, the United Nations has had a strong and productive relationship with the government of the United States and we hope to continue to do so.”
Gov. Bill Haslam has declined to sign a resolution that denounces “the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21,” passed by Republican legislators over Democratic complaints that it buys into a bogus conspiracy theory.
The resolution, HJR587, was approved 72-23 in the House and by a 19-11 vote in the Senate.
“Resolutions are position statements by the General Assembly, not a law to be implemented,” said Haslam spokesman David Smith in an emailed response to a question. “The governor doesn’t support Agenda 21, but he didn’t feel compelled to and isn’t required to take any action on the resolution.”
“Some could construe the resolution as promoting a choice between business and the environment, which he thinks is a false choice,” Smith said.
Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, the lead sponsor of the Agenda 21 resolution said he was disappointed that Haslam had declined to join in showing his support for the measure.
“We would enjoy his signature and maybe we can find a way to see eye-to-eye on it in the future,” said Brooks. “I look forward to that discussion.”
Apparently, HJR587 is the first resolution Haslam had refused to sign, though Smith declined to confirm that is the case. WPLN radio said it has reviewed “hundreds” of resolutions and could not find one previously that the governor did not sign.
Resolutions have no legal effect and amount to statements of opinion by the Legislature. Governors may sign resolutions and, as a matter of courtesy, usually do so though no signature is required. Typical resolutions, for example, express condolences on the death of a constituent or praise for some accomplishment, such as a high school basketball team’s win in a tournament.
In the recently-completed legislative session, however, Republican lawmakers adopted several resolutions expressing politically-oriented viewpoints. But Haslam has signed them as well — examples including HJR614, which denounces U.S. Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and HJR614, which criticizes President Obama and calls for repeal of “the indefinite detention bill” passed by Congress last year.
Brooks’ resolution declares that “United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control” adopted at a U.N. gathering in 1992 that “is being covertly pushed into local communities throughout the United States.”
The resolution was roundly criticized by some Democrats who said Agenda 21 has laudable goals of easing poverty and hunger. The resolution wildly exaggerates the import and effect of Agenda 21, which has never been accepted by the U.S. Congress.
“Children have imaginary friends; Republicans have imaginary enemies,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville after the House vote.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that calls for the rejection of a United Nations agenda on the environment and poverty has passed the Senate.
The resolution, which “recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21,” was approved 19-11 on Tuesday. The House passed the measure 72-23 last month.
The agenda came out of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 following discussions on “sustainable development.”
Republicans say the agenda is a veiled attempt to take away property rights.
They say the 300-page document contains catch phrases such as “sustainable development,” which they say actually means Tennesseans could lose their land or businesses.
But Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga said the agenda is about caring for the environment’s future, “which is exactly what we should be doing.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Republicans are calling for the rejection of a United Nations agenda on the environment and poverty, even though Democrats say their actions are silly and amount to fear-mongering.
The resolution, which “recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21,” was approved 72-23 in the House on Thursday. The agenda came out of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 following discussions on “sustainable development.”
Rep. Kevin Brooks of Cleveland said the resolution is similar to one that the national GOP passed and “encouraged all their state Republican parties to follow suit.”
Republicans said the agenda is a veiled attempt to take away property rights.