A proposed “Higher Education Equality Act,” designed to end most affirmative action programs at state colleges and universities, fell one vote short of passage in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
The bill by Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, (SB8) had been debated at length over two previous weekly meetings of the panel with officials of the University of Tennessee and Board of Regents systems saying it could have unintended consequences hurting various college endeavors.
Before the final vote, the committee adopted an amendment proposed by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, that he described as addressing “every single objection” raised by higher education officials.
Still, only Campfield and three other senators voted for the bill on final vote. Two voted no and three abstained. A bill requires five yes votes to move out of the committee.
The Cleveland City Council deadlocked Monday on a nonbinding request that Councilman Charlie McKenzie resign over racial slurs he allegedly made while working for the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Chattanooga TFP. The council voted 3-3 on a proposal of formal disapproval of McKenzie’s actions and a call for him to abandon his position as District 1 councilman. Councilmen Bill Estes, Avery Johnson and Richard Banks supported the measures; Councilmen David May, Dale Hughes and George Poe opposed them
The proposed sanctions, introduced by Estes, came two weeks after McKenzie, fellow councilmen and members of the Bradley County NAACP met about the situation. At that meeting, McKenzie said he apologized if he had ever said anything to offend anyone.
“I’ve said and I’ve said and I’ve said,” McKenzie responded Monday to a request for a statement.
Two white deputies with the sheriff’s office, Anthony Liner and Kristi Barton, both of whom worked alongside McKenzie when he served as a part-time deputy, filed statements Jan. 18 about racial slurs they maintain they heard McKenzie make, records show.
“Over the last several months, while training Deputy Charlie McKenzie, I have heard him make a number of derogatory statements regarding race,” Liner wrote. “I have heard him refer to African-Americans as spook, coon, spade and n —- .”
State and national NAACP leaders held a news conference Saturday in opposition to Tennessee’s voter identification law, which passed last May. The Tennessean reports they said the law, which requires residents to submit a photo ID to vote, is a “racial disparity issue.” “This state is seeking to go back to the days before we had the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said NAACP state President Gloria Sweetlove. “We stand here and ask every person to fight with us.”
Under the 1965 law, voting practices and procedures discriminating on the the basis of race, color or language were prohibited. The NAACP’s take on the current law is that it is discriminatory against certain populations, including African-Americans, the poor, immigrants, women and senior citizens.
But proponents of the law, including state Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, say that’s not the case, adding that legislators modeled the Tennessee law after a 2005 Indiana law that has been challenged and upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“In that case, the justices found that the burden for an election to be pure and true was more important than anything,” Maggart said. “The burden of having to go and get a photo ID was not greater than the burden of having a true, honest election.”
State Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, said Friday that Councilman Manny Rico should immediately step down after making what she perceived to be racial remarks in a City Council meeting, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “His comments and his behavior, I was just appalled,” Brown said. “I can’t forget that. I won’t ever forget that.”
Rico said he was expressing his freedom of speech and has no intentions of stepping down.
“Do I get in trouble for speaking the truth for what I feel?” he said Friday.
The controversy started Tuesday night during the City Council’s Legal and Legislative Committee meeting discussion about redistricting. Several council members expressed disappointment in a redistricting plan Brown and other community leaders supported.
Rico abruptly told the audience he felt there were racial overtones in the community group’s presentation. He said he is sick, tired and resentful of racial suggestions and comments.
As a Hispanic, Rico said he has worked hard to earn what he owns.
“White people have been more fair to me than anyone else,” he said. “White people have bent over backward to make right what’s wrong.”