Tag Archives: Watson

Evolution in the Senate; Commandments in the House

The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of evolution and other scientific theories while the House approved legislation authorizing cities and counties to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
The Senate voted 24-8 for HB368, which sponsor Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, says will provide guidelines for teachers answering student questions about evolution, global warming and other scientific subjects… Critics call it a “monkey bill” that promotes creationism in classrooms.
The bill was approved in the House last year but now must return to that body for concurrence on a Senate amendment that made generally minor changes. One, says the law applies to scientific theories that are the subject of “debate and disputation” — a phrase replacing the word “controversial” in the House version.’
The measure also guarantees that teachers will not be subject to discipline for engaging students in discussion of questions they raise, though Watson said the idea is to provide guidelines so that teachers will bring the discussion back to the subjects authorized for teaching in the curriculum approved by the state Board of Education.
All eight no votes came from Democrats, some of whom raised questions about the bill during brief debate.
Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Clarksville, said he was concerned that the measure was put forward “not for scientific reasons but for political reasons.” And Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said teachers were doing just fine teaching science without the Legislature’s involvement.
“We are simply dredging up the problems of the past with this bill and that will affect our teachers in the future,” Berke said.
Watson said the purpose of the legislation is to encourage teachers in helping their students learn to challenge and debate ideas to “improve their thinking skills.”
The bill authorizing display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings (HB2658) is sponsored by Rep. Mathew Hill, R-Jonesborough, who said it is in line with court rulings. In essence, courts have often declared displays of the biblical commandments unconstitutional standing along, but permissible as part of a display of “historic documents.”
The bill authorizes all local governments to display “historic documents” and specifically lists the commandments as being included.
Hill said the bill will prevent city and county governments from “being intimidated any further by special interest groups” opposed to display of the Ten Commandments.It passed 93-0 and now goes to the Senate.

TN Scientists Oppose ‘Monkey Bill’

News release from National Center for Science Education:
All eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences — including a Nobel laureate — have signed a statement (PDF) expressing their firm opposition to House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893. Both bills, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” HB 368 was passed in April 7, 2011, but SB 893 was stalled in committee until March 14, 2012, when the Senate Education Committee passed a slightly amended version.
The scientists object to the misdescription of evolution as scientifically controversial, insisting, “As scientists whose research involves and is based upon evolution, we affirm — along with the nation’s leading scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences — that evolution is a central, unifying, and accepted area of science. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming; there is no scientific evidence for its supposed rivals (‘creation science’ and ‘intelligent design’) and there is no scientific evidence against it.”
The scientists also object to the encouragement to teachers to present the so-called scientific weaknesses of evolution, which, they contend, “in practice are likely to include scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution. As educators whose teaching involves and is based on evolution, we affirm — along with the nation’s leading science education organizations, including the National Association of Biology Teachers and the National Science Teachers Association — that evolution is a central and crucial part of science education. Neglecting evolution is pedagogically irresponsible.”
Their statement concludes, “By undermining the teaching of evolution in Tennessee’s public schools, HB 368 and SB 893 would miseducate students, harm the state’s national reputation, and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy.” The statement is signed by Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986, Roger D. Cone, George M. Hornberger, Daniel Masys, John A. Oates, Liane Russell, Charles J. Sherr, and Robert Webster; all eight are members of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific organizations.

Note: As explained by Sen. Bo Watson in committee, his amendment (which had not been posted on the legislative website four days after adopted in committee) deletes the word “controversial” and replaces is with “debated or disputed.” That may well be, as the release suggests, a matter of ‘slightly amending” the original version.

House Votes 70-26 for Bill to Evict Occupy Nashville

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Republican-backed proposal aimed at stopping Occupy Nashville protesters from staying overnight on the Capitol complex passed the House on Thursday despite opposition from Democrats who say the legislation’s penalty is excessive.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland was approved 70-26 after a lengthy debate on Thursday. All 26 votes against the bill came from Democrats. Seven voted for it.
The companion bill was to be heard on the Senate floor, but it adjourned before hearing the legislation.
Protesters have camped at the plaza since early October. At one time there were as many as 60 tents, but that number is now less than half, mainly because of the proposed legislation.
The measure would make it a misdemeanor to lay down “bedding for the purpose of sleeping.”
It refers to items associated with camping, “including tents, portable toilets, sleeping bags, tarps, propane heaters, cooking equipment and generators.”
Under the legislation, violators would be fined as much as $2,500 and face up to nearly a year in jail.
Opponents say the penalty is extreme and unnecessary.
“It seems like there was a special effort here to be punitive,” said Democratic Rep. Gary Odom of Nashville.
Critics questioned the bill’s lack of a fiscal impact, considering individuals could be arrested and placed in local jails. An effort to send the legislation back to the House Finance Committee to discuss the financial issue failed.
“Fiscal impact is something we know we have to be concerned about,” Odom said.
Some protesters acknowledge the legislation is a factor in the reduction of occupiers on the plaza, but it hasn’t diminished their resolve.
“They’re not going away,” said protester Bill Howell. “The problems have not been solved. This is a distraction. We’ll get pass this and get back on subject.”
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Online:
Read HB2638 at http://capitol.tn.gov.

Occupiers Want an Apology for Urination Oratory

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Occupy Nashville protesters are demanding an apology from the sponsor of legislation aimed at stopping them from staying overnight on the Capitol complex.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland could be up for floor votes in both chambers this week.
The legislation would make it a misdemeanor to lay down “bedding for the purpose of sleeping.”
The proposal refers to items associated with camping, “including tents, portable toilets, sleeping bags, tarps, propane heaters, cooking equipment and generators.”
The protesters have camped at the plaza since early October. There are about 60 or so tents on the plaza and at least two portable toilets nearby.
Watson said in the House Judiciary Committee last week that the proposal is necessary because of criminal activity and lewd behavior where the protesters are encamped.
He said someone believed to be associated with Occupy Nashville urinated on a state employee. Watson said those sorts of things tarnish the protesters’ efforts to have a “peaceable assembly.”

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Bill to Evict Occupy Nashville Clears House, Senate Committees

(Note: Updates, replaces earlier post)
Unauthorized camping on state property would be subject to a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail under legislation inspired by Occupy Nashville protesters.
The bill passed committees of both the House and Senate on Tuesday.
In the House, Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, guided the bill to 14-2 approval by the House Judiciary Committee — which Watson chairs — over objections from Occupy Nashville protesters and the two Democrats who voted no.
IWatson told protesters at one point, “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.” He cited the “sickening” case of a legislative staffer in a courtyard who was sprayed with urine, allegedly from a protester overhead.
About 60 protesters are currently staying in tents on the outdoor Legislative Plaza, which is also the roof over meeting rooms for the Legislature. There are two portable toilets.
“If you approve of that and you think that’s peaceable assembly, you need to be peed on and see how you like it,” Watson said.
The chairman and other backers of the bill said it would allow protests to continue, but not the establishment of living quarters on public property. The bill in some respects copies federal legislation that bans unauthorized camping in national parks, backers said.

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Occupy Nashville Eviction Bill Advances

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A proposal that seeks to prevent Occupy Nashville protesters from staying overnight on the plaza next to the state Capitol advanced in the House on Wednesday.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland was approved on a voice vote in the House Judiciary Subcommittee. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The legislation would make it a misdemeanor to lay down “bedding for the purpose of sleeping.” The proposal refers to items associated with camping, “including tents, portable toilets, sleeping bags, tarps, propane heaters, cooking equipment and generators.”
The protesters have camped at the plaza since early October. There are about 60 or so tents on the plaza and at least two portable toilets nearby.
“They can stay out there all they want to, they just can’t build anything that’s a dwelling,” Watson said after the vote.

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Rep. Watson on Watching Occupiers, Moving to Evict Them

By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lawmakers concerned about the Occupy Nashville encampment next to the state Capitol are promoting a bill that would criminalize camping on public property across the state.
House Judiciary Chairman Eric Watson, who has a clear view of the 60-or-so tents from his office window, is sponsoring the legislation. He mentioned several reasons for wanting the encampment gone, including a couple last year having sex near his windows.
“A fight broke out yesterday,” he said in a Wednesday interview, “and there was a guy streaking today, running out here naked.”
But he said the main reason for the bill was to ensure equal access to the plaza for other groups, including schools that put on musical programs there.
“They’ve been reluctant to come up here. We’ve even had weddings put off,” Watson said.

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Bill Would Outlaw Occupy Nashville

State lawmakers have proposed making it illegal to squat on public property – a move to get rid of the “Occupy Nashville” protesters, whose tents line the War Memorial Plaza just outside the General Assembly’s offices.
From WPLN’s report:
Rep. Eric Watson, a Republican from Cleveland, filed a House bill to make it a misdemeanor to “maintain living quarters” on publicly owned property not designated for residential use. It also makes it a misdemeanor offense to “pose a health hazard or threat” to public safety.
Violators could be thrown off the property and be liable for any damages. The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Dolores Gresham, a Republican from Somerville. Both Watson and Gresham declined to comment until next week.
Protesters at the “Occupy Nashville” site say they had been expecting the move to try to force them off the Plaza. So far they’ve been protected by a federal court order that keeps the state from removing the demonstrators. They’ve been there for 104 days.
…The bill is SB 2508 Gresham/ HB 2638 Watson.
The Occupy Nashville group has about 45 tents on the Legislative Plaza, two Porta-potties, and several Metro Nashville rolling trashcans. Demonstrators say they routinely clean up after themselves.
Offenses of the proposed law would be Class C misdemeanors. Law enforcement officers say that a Class C misdemeanor would entail a $50 fine and potentially some jail time – although that’s not a routine punishment at that level of offense.

Watson Scuttles Transgender Bathroom Bill

Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, on Thursday withdrew the Senate version of a controversial House measure requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms and dressing rooms that match their birth gender, reports Andy Sher.
Watson, who is chairman of the Hamilton County legislative delegation, said he sponsored the bill as a standard courtesy to local House members. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.
“I understand Rep. Floyd’s passion about the issue, but we have more pressing issues before us that we need to focus our attention on and we don’t need to get sidetracked,” Watson said.
Floyd said earlier Thursday he introduced the bill after reading a news story about a Texas woman who said she was fired from Macy’s after stopping a male teen dressed as a woman from using a dressing room.
“It could happen here,” Floyd said. “I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.
“Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk,” he said. “We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.”
The bill would charge violators with a misdemeanor carrying a $50 fine.

Note: Previous post HERE.

Bill Mandates Transgender Use of Birth Gender Bathroom

A Chattanooga lawmaker says he makes no apologies for his bill that prohibits transgender people from using use public bathrooms and dressing rooms that don’t match the gender listed on their birth certificates, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, said today he introduced the bill after reading a news article about a Texas woman who said she was fired from Macy’s after blocking a male teen dressed as a woman from using a dressing room.
“It could happen here,” Floyd said. “I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.”
Floyd’s bill, sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, in the Senate, makes such acts a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine.
The legislation is already triggering condemnation in the gay and liberal blogosphere.
Jonathan Cole of the Tennessee Equality Project, dubbed it the “Police the Potty” bill, noting state law already prohibits anyone born in the state from amending their gender of birth certificates.

Note: A news release on the matter from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is below.

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