Monday, June 06, 2005

From Spousal Rape to Racial Profiling - What Tennessee Lawmakers Did & Tried to Do in 2005 (Other Than Take Bribes)

Life is always less stressful when legislators go home. Every year at about this time, people all over the state breathe a sigh of relief. In my house, we celebrate with Champagne. After all, when legislators finally go home, we know they won’t be passing laws that punish the innocent and just generally make life hell for everyday working citizens.

This year’s legislative session ended with more of a bang than usual. With four sitting lawmakers indicted for taking bribes, it almost felt like the Revenge of the People. Revenge against a legislature that routinely wreaks havoc on the lives of innocent people by playing a game called, “how many hate-filled or harmful bills can I file this year?”

It’s true; many were shocked and dismayed when the FBI/TBI sting resulted in the arrest of lawmakers at the end of the legislative session. But most of that shock and dismay was confined to the legislative chamber. It was the old, ‘if it happened to my colleague, it could happen to me’ feeling in the pit of the corrupt legislative stomach.

On both the Left and the Right, respect and trust in government has become a very novel concept, something you might be exposed to if you are a fan of very old black and white movies.

Folllowing are the results on just a few of the 3,000 (!) bills that legislators filed this session. The results are taken from two sources, 1) my memory; 2) a story in the local daily, the Tennessean (the story does not appear to be online, "Quick look at 2005 legislative action," 6-5-05, p. 14A). They are in no particular order, cause that takes more time, and I have to earn some money sometime, damnit.

Bills that Passed

Spousal Rape - Miraculously the penalty for raping a wife will now be the same for raping any other woman. This bill has been before the Tennessee legislature for ten years now. For some reason, they finally got it. We’re not sure what legislators were smoking when they passed this one, but we hope they smoke it again.

Gay Marriage Ban – This proposed constitutional amendment passed the final legislative hurdle this year. Dems and Repubs, alike, voted for it in droves, cause you can barely tell the difference between Dems and Repubs in this state. The homophobic measure will be on the ballot come election 2006, unless the ACLU succeeds in its effort to stop the hate via its lawsuit.

Ethics 101 – Newly elected legislators will take a four hour ethics and campaign finance course, cause the old-timers are beyond hope.

Racial Profiling – Data will be collected and a study produced to determine the extent of racial profiling - by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. We’re not sure if the study will be produced BY the Highway Patrol or ABOUT the Highway Patrol, could be both.

Pre-K Program – This creates a voluntary pre-Kindergarten program for a small number of the many at risk 4 year olds in this state.

Voter Database – This will establish a state-wide voter database.

Check Fee Increase – Banks can increase the fee for bounced checks to $30, cause poor people don’t have it hard enough in this state.

Parental Interpreter – Like if you don’t speak English, and face the prospect of having your child taken away by the all powerful State, you can now have an interpreter. Hopefully you will also get an interpreter when the chronically under-funded and dysfunctional State informs you that they have lost or abused your child.

Governor’s Anti-Health Care Budget – This will cut a few hundred thousand of Tennessee’s elderly/sick/poor/disabled folks from the state health care program, cause Governor Phil Bredesen has been masquerading as a Democratic Governor, but we know better.

Bills that Didn’t Pass, But May Return to Torment You in Election Year 2006

Gay Adoption Ban – Would have outlawed adoption by gays, even if heterosexual parents wished it. It was eventually amended to give preference to heteo Ozzie & Harriet type families. Look for this one to return as an election year special.

Gay Foster Parenting Ban – Would have outlawed foster parenting by gays, cause the State has a long history of putting children into abusive hetero foster parent homes and why should it change now?

Abortion Ban – A constitutional amendment that would remove the state guarantee of abortion rights, even for victims of rape or incest, even for women whose health or life is endangered by pregnancy. This one will definitely return as an election year special.

Civil Union Ban – Would outlaw the recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, cause every family needs a patriarchal cowboy in charge.

Hot-dog Rodeos – Would have outlawed a ‘sport’ in which dogs and swine are forced to fight it out for the entertainment of alleged humans.

Voting Rights – Would have made it easier for persons convicted of felonies to regain voting rights, cause punishment is forever in this state.

Emergency Contraception – Would have required hospitals to inform rape victims about emergency contraception and even make it available, like if rape victims requested it. Cause rapists deserve to have children too, damnit.

Wild West Bill – Yahoos with gun permits would be allowed to carry guns into bars and other liquor serving establishments, as long as they promised (crossed their hearts, hoped to die) not to drink.

Sales Tax Holiday – Would have given parents 72 hours of tax free shopping for purchasing school supplies, cause the sales tax in this state is the highest in the nation, at almost 10%, and why should children, or their parents, get a break?

Academic Bill from the Right – Would have protected Right-wing and Christian students from any and all knowledge that conflicts with their irrational beliefs.

Power to the Pharmacists – Would have permitted holier-than-thou pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions on the basis of religious or political beliefs, such as the belief that rapists should be fathers too, damnit.

Covenant Marriage – The young and naive would be able to sign up for state interference in future divorce proceedings.

Under Your God – Would have created a fantasy license plate: One Nation Under (One) God.

Presumption of Joint Custody – Would have instructed judges to start with the presumption that mothers and fathers are equally qualified to care for children. Supported by right-wing fathers’ rights groups, this is the usual effort of right-wing dads to get out of child support payments.

Adultery Penalty – Would have allowed court awards for pain and suffering if spouses cheated. We think Sen. Jeff Miller – anti-gay marriage crusader whose wife has accused him of adultery – persuaded his good-old-boy colleagues to wait on this one. After Miller’s divorce is finalized, this one may return.

Medical Marijuana – Would have allowed the very sick to alleviate pain and suffering with the use of the herb. Cause marijuana is for wimps, and if you can’t alleviate your pain with beer and whiskey, you should move to Canada.

Open Meetings – Would have required State legislators to stop holding secret meetings behind closed doors. What? Did you want them to take bribes right out in the open?

English Only – Would have required the written driving test to be taken in English only, cause immigrants should just go to Canada.

Capitalism in Schools – Advertisements/Billboards would be displayed on school property, including buses, cause MacDonald’s and Coca Cola want to support schools too

Domestic Violence Shelters & Utilities – Utilities could be sued, like when they provide abusers with maps to domestic violence shelters.

Medical Malpractice Cap – Would cap malpractice suits at 2 million, otherwise known as the Frist First bill.

Unborn Victims/Pre-birth Persons – The fetus, and possibly the zygote, would be counted as a person in assault and homicide laws – yet another effort to prevent women from making their own choices, like if we want to take birth control pills and thus interfere with the sperm’s or ‘person’s’ right to life and liberty in our wombs. Bound to come back as an election year special.

Here’s hoping for a brand new crop of candidates in election year 2006. Maybe some of them will even be able to read and write. Could some of them please look like the people on my street? Gay? Feminist? Buddhist? Green? Black? Capable of critical thinking? Humility? Empathy? Honesty?

Yeah, I know, I should just move back to Canada.