NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A little-known Tennessee law banning bars and stores from including beer brands or sales on outside signs could be unconstitutional.
State Attorney General Herbert Slatery says in a legal opinion that it’s unlikely the law would survive a legal challenge on free speech grounds because it bans “truthful and non-misleading commercial messages about lawful products.”
Slatery also notes that beer retailers are allowed to display information about available beer brands and drinks promotions in other ways such as window displays. He adds that exceptions for people with temporary beer permits, stadiums and entertainment complexes also raise questions about whether the state can make a consistent argument about promoting public health and safety.
Republican Rep. Ryan Haynes of Knoxville says he requested the opinion on behalf of a constituent.
State Attorney General Robert Cooper has emerged as a secret weapon for Gov. Bill Haslam and state lawmakers seeking to douse some of the fiery legislation put out this year, according to Chas Sisk. But his legal advice may have put his office in jeopardy. A string of high-profile opinions has shown the political clout the attorney general wields.
Though seldom a focus of public attention, the state’s top lawyer has influenced some of the year’s biggest debates, touching on topics from animal cruelty to Vanderbilt University’s nondiscrimination policy. This was not the first time the attorney general’s legal acumen carried weight. But with Republican clout on the rise, support appears to be growing for legislation that would strip the attorney general’s office of some of its duties or change how he is selected.
Cooper, a Democrat with a studious air and a lawyer’s conciseness, seems unruffled by the possibility….
“This is an issue that’s been discussed for decades,” he said. “I think it really comes down to what sort of an office do you want the attorney general’s office to be — nonpartisan or partisan?”
…Cooper refused, for instance, to add Tennessee to a legal challenge against the Affordable Care Act three years ago, even as polls showed that a large majority of Tennesseans opposed the health care reform law. Cooper argued — correctly, it turned out — that the law was constitutional.
That decision and others like it prompted lawmakers to file seven separate bills this year seeking to change the attorney general’s duties or who decides to fill the office. In April, the state Senate approved one resolution that would give the legislature the power to pick the attorney general.
…(P)olicy considerations do not come into play, Cooper said. His staff of 173 lawyers simply respond to the questions they are asked by turning to the letter of the law.
“The history and tradition of this office has been that we provide nonpartisan, nonpolitical advice,” Cooper said. “That’s how we run the office. That’s how we are perceived, and I think people value the advice they get from us because of that.”
……After nearly seven years in office, Cooper says he is uncertain whether he will seek reappointment next summer.
“One of the beauties of this not being an elected office is that I don’t have to worry about getting ready for an election campaign, don’t have to be out raising money, doing anything of that sort,” he said. “So, at this point, I’m focused on the job.”
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.
The Tennessean today has op-ed pieces from two state senators with conflicting views on the voter photo ID law passed by the Legislature earlier this year, which will take effect Jan. 1.
On the supporter side is Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, the Senate Republican Caucus chair. On the opposing side is Sen. Lowe Finney of Jackson, the Senate Democratic Caucus chair.
Basically, of course, they’re echoing debate during the session.