Well, not exactly do-nothing. They did plenty … of damage. But hey, they cut five weeks off the legislative session, the shortest session in over 10 years! Time to hit the links, fellas!
I guess we’re supposed to be impressed that they tore through their recidivist, anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-Muslim agenda in record time. They didn’t have time to get to any of that jobs stuff, though, but hey! Maybe they’ll get around to it next session!
You know, I have to apologize to my commenters who wonder why I haven’t blogged about things like Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill (which failed this year because the House postponed it until next year). But really, what is there to say about this stuff except to shrug your shoulders and go, “It’s Tennessee! You were expecting progress from the state that brought you the Scopes Monkey Trial and the Klan?”
I mean seriously, we have had every heinous wingnutty culture-war legislation you can imagine: You want to ban Sharia Law, defund Planned Parenthood, “opt-out” of healthcare reform, or show your “long-form birth certificate” to get on the ballot, Tennessee is your state! We’ve moved forward on a bill to ban abortion in case Roe v. Wade gets overturned. We’ve discussed teaching evolution as a questionable theory while mandating Creationism in schools.
We’ve eliminated collective bargaining for teachers’ unions, and we spent a lot of time talking about our version of the Arizona immigration bill only to table it for next year. We still can’t buy wine in grocery stores and we haven’t yet banned mountaintop removal mining. We’ve even had the state legislature step in and overturn Nashville’s non-discrimination ordinance! How’s that for small government for ya?
Not all of this stuff passed, some of it was tabled for next year, some of it passed just one house of the legislature, but we sure spent a lot of time debating this nonsense, and we gave the state a black eye in the process. Who can blame Gail Kerr for observing:
It would have been better for our state, however, if some of these men and women had been whisked from their chairs and tossed into oblivion way before Saturday — before they could do some of the damage we’ve seen.
All of this, of course, masks the true agenda, which is to transfer power from the people to corporations.
Along those lines, this legislative session allowed corporations to donate directly to political campaigns and operate “virtual schools” (whatever the hell that is). We’ve exempted insurance agents and brokers from the TN Consumer Protection Act, and yes we’ve passed “tort reform”:
Awards will be capped at $750,000 in most cases and $1 million when victims suffer spinal-cord injuries that lead to loss of use of two or more limbs.
Seriously! Tennessee government is so small it knows what your appendages are worth to you. Well thank you so much! Because the whole point of punitive damages is to be, ya know, punitive — that’s fancy-pants talk for “punishment.” Because corporate persons can’t be sent to jail, the only way you can punish them for wrongdoing is to hit ‘em in the pocketbook. And now to be more “pro-business” we have to make sure they don’t hurt too much. It kind of misses the point of being “punitive,” doesn’t it, Governor? Wait ’till one of your kids loses her uterus from drinking tainted water, then let’s talk about punitive. This shit never matters until it happens to someone important.
And yes, we even let Amazon.com keep their cushy tax deal, so if anyone wants to know why Nashville, Tennessee has not one bookstore selling new product (except adult bookstores, of course!), look at the behemoth who put three retailers out of business this year. And I’m sure our state legislators will get right on those adult bookstores next session.
Keep in mind, of course, that all of this pro-corporate stuff comes straight from the industry-funded ALEC, which has identical legislation in state legislatures all across the country. But if you want to still believe the fairytale that Tennessee legislators are rugged individualists who don’t take their marching orders from anyone, least of all Washington, D.C., well here’s a glass of Kool-Aid for you.
Look, Gov. Bill Haslam has been a far worse disaster than even I could have imagined. I really thought, along with a lot of other people, that he’d be the least offensive candidate in a parade of far-right wackos and wingnuts and gold-fringed flag phobes. But not so.
Seeing every far-right, anti-citizen piece of legislation our Governor has rubber-stamped, I have to wonder how different anything would have been if we had twitchy, pro-secession Zach Wamp or boot-stompin’ “meet the Feds at the border” Lt. Gov. Ramsey instead? What exactly would have changed? We got the same crap with Haslam, passed with a goofball, aw-shucks grin, which is all the more insulting, if you ask me. It’s like he thinks we’re too stupid to know what he’s really doing. Tennessee is still a national laughingstock, thanks to our wacko legislators like Stacy (Doth Protest Too Much) Campfield, of the anti-gay jihad, and our Islamophobia and our pro-creationism in schools and all the other stuff that gets mocked on The Daily Show with regularity.
All of this has occupied our state legislature instead of what they campaigned on, which was putting Tennesseans back to work, something they’ve failed to do. Tennessee’s unemployment has actually risen during this legislative session, and while the legislature is patting itself on the back for saving $450,000 by ending the session five weeks early, you have to think the folks currently looking for work are wondering why the legislature never got around to doing anything for them.
Well, that’s unfair. We did finally commit to spending $3 million so we could get $60 million in Federal funds to extend unemployment benefits. That was a hard-fought battle, harder than it needed to be considering some counties in this state have over 20% unemployment. And unemployment benefits are a Band-aid not a solution. We need jobs. Why the hell was this not a priority for our elected representatives? Shame on them all, especially the aw-shucks-goofball-grinner-in-chief, Gov. Haslam. My contempt for you knows no bounds. Wipe that fucking grin off your face, you’ve done nothing for the people of this state. You should be ashamed of yourself. You should have been knocking heads in the legislature and telling people to cut the anti-gay, anti-Muslim crap and focus on what’s important. Instead you showed zero leadership. You’re a fraud.
Gov. Haslam, Tennesseans could use one of your silly red umbrellas right about now because it’s raining on the working people of this state and banning gays and Sharia law and abortion and allowing guns on college campuses haven’t helped. Does anyone really think that some company is looking for the most anti-gay state to locate their business? Just some CEO sitting around thinking, “where can I locate my company so I don’t have to deal with those pesky gay people?” I think not.
For that matter, stripping working people of their rights while allowing corporations to rape, pillage and plunder the state won’t help anyone, either. But see, I’ve already written about all of this.
I’ve pretty much washed my hands of Tennessee and you should, too. If you’re like my friend ChiDyke who wants to boycott the state, well, what can I say except, I understand. I don’t visit wingnutty places like Tennessee on vacation, either! I really don’t! I can’t tell you the last time I was in Florida. Oh wait, yes I can: it was in 2003, not long after the Iraq invasion, and I saw a pickup truck with “Nuke The Ragheads” spray-painted on the side. I just decided there were more progressive places with beaches deserving of my money. If that’s the way you feel, then I totally get it.
When your state legislature devotes so much time to an agenda of hate, you really can’t be surprised if people aren’t going to feel welcome here. I get that.
And I don’t know if anything is going to change. There is a black hole over the state of Tennessee drawing all the dead matter that is the heart of the Republican Party here. We are where conservatism has gone to die. I really find it hard to believe that the voters of this state care about half the shit the Legislature devoted most of its energy to but they voted for these assholes, so what can I do except say, you asked for it.