There are few maxims in the western tradition that are more misunderstood than this one:
“First, do no harm”
I say misunderstood because it is often difficult for people, in their haste or excitement, to see the impact of their actions beyond the immediate thrill.
It is, of course, most prevalent in the “gotcha” politics of today, where everyone’s a hypocrite.
There are ways to make a point, beyond the most blatantly obvious.
There are ways to make a stand without making it look like a purely political device.
There are ways to bring change without needing to take full credit for it.
In politics, more than half of message is the messenger. When the messenger is more interested in self-interest than public interest, the message will turn against him.
There’s an arrogance in wanting to get credit for certain things. An arrogance and a lack of recognition of other people’s realities.
That’s where the harm, now two-fold, is committed…upon yourself, and your victim’s victim.
And through that harm, so too is lost the opportunity to make a larger point, that would have served the public good rather than your short-term self-interest.
One of the more onerous bills that passed out of last year’s session was HB0600 dubbed the “Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act”.
Sponsored by Glen Casada (R) of Franklin, the bill sought to remove the ability of a local government to set certain ground rules in contracts.
That’s shorthand for enacting non-discrimination ordinances.
Here’s Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D) Ripley from last year laying out one of the critical flaws of HB600.
Almost a year since the passage and nullification of Nashville’s CANDO ordinance, Sen. Jim Kyle (D) Memphis is leading a push, sponsored by Metro Nashville and Shelby County government to repeal the repeal.
Here’s his opening statement:
A member of the Nashville Metro Council also spoke in favor of the bill, but what is more interesting to me are some of the questions for the sponsor. Here’s an exchange from Sen. Mike Faulk – (R) Church Hill:
You’ll notice that at the end of the clip, Sen. Faulk seems to get it. I don’t know if he agrees or disagrees, but he gets it.
Even Sen. Majority Leader Mark Norris (R) Collierville seems to be somewhat swayed, despite past efforts to overrule local control of government.
Of course, some were just trying to get a few specific words. In this case Sen. Stacey “Don’t Say Gay” Campfield – (R) Knoxville tries and fails to extract the words “discriminating against religion” out of the sponsor and supporters. Watch if you dare:
You can see video of the whole discussion here.
At the end of the day, we have to decide if we’re going to let local government…you know…govern. In the wake of the passage of HB 600, that’s a lot harder.
I’m not sure if the bill has a chance in hell, but I’m glad Sen. Kyle is pursuing it and I hope his colleagues on both sides of the aisle will too.
Update: Please contact the members of the House Environment committee and tell them you support the Scenic Vistas Protection Act.
Tennessee General Assembly – House Environment Committee Link
Original Post follows…As reported by the AP, yesterday the Tennessee State Senate delayed a vote on Scenic Vistas Protection Act, sponsored by Senator Eric Stewart – Belvedere.
The bill, which has been buried for the past five years was delayed once again in an attempt to kill it, despite claims by the Senate Majority Leader to the contrary.
In fact, they’re trying to do it on the anniversary of successfully killing it last year. I’m sure its just a coincidence.
Coal mining in Tennessee isn’t one of our core industries. In fact, Tennessee ranks 21st in the nation in coal production (25 states produce none, meaning there are only 4 states in the US that produce less). There are fewer than 650 people employed in the coal industry in Tennessee. These individuals typically operate specialized equipment or have specialized explosives expertise. In short, opening up the coal industry in Tennessee isn’t going to produce any real jobs.
In fact, while Tennessee was producing the greatest amount of coal in its history, jobs were being cut due to increased mechanization. This was 1972. I guarantee it hasn’t gotten any better, despite the empty rhetoric of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.
Last week, a Senate committee voted to gut the bill with an amendment. This week they’ve sought to delay that gutted bill until April 2. The GOP leadership in the Senate is terrified of having a vote recorded in the full Senate on this measure. I seriously doubt there will be any vote on it April 2nd either.
That said, if you want to see this bill passed, I suggest you make plans to be in Nashville on April 2nd. We need to fill the Senate gallery to overflowing, and make a show of support for this bill. And if they try to delay it again, we need to make sure they know we’re not happy about it.
Barring any bill schedule changes, I’m planning to be there. Hopefully you will too.
So why does a guy in Memphis, hundreds of miles away from the affected mountains care about this bill? Because even though its not in my backyard, it impacts me. If water quality suffers in East and Middle TN, then the health of folks in those areas suffer. Legislators intent on reducing water quality standards will use water quality levels in other areas to lower the standards here, which means we’ll have more undesirable things in our water. It’s a downward spiral that I don’t want to happen to anyone. Not here in Memphis, or Monteagle, or Mountain City.
Tak a moment to call or write every one of these State Senators. Tell them you support the Scenic Vistas Protection Act, that you’re upset that the bill was watered down in committee, and that you’re going to be there April 2nd to make sure they do the right thing: restore the original language, and pass the bill.
Getting this done is going to take a show of strength. I hope you’ll take a little time out of your day this week, and make plans to be in Nashville on the 2nd.