Apr 06 2011

The “Anything But Jobs” Legislature

Posted by Steve Ross in activism, elections, State Politics

There’s been a whole lot of stupid coming out of Nashville this year, but based on what bills are flowing through the General Assembly, we’ve only seen the appetizer.

Rep. Debra Maggart (R) - Hendersonville

First on the list is Representative Debra Maggart. Following a line of Republican led disenfranchisement legislation, Maggart believes that your voter ID card, a document that has been used to identify voters for decades, is not enough. Nope, you have to have a photo ID no matter what.

Now, for a lot of us that doesn’t seem like a big deal. If you drive, you’ve got a picture ID, if you’re employed you probably have one too. But lots of people, whether you know it or not, don’t. For whatever reason, they don’t need one. Most of them are older, low-income, and minority voters. The act of going out to get a government issued photo id, where none has been required before, is an undue burden.

Further, there’s some question about the constitutionality of the bill. Similar efforts have been pushed in states like Georgia, Missouri and New Mexico, and all have been ruled unconstitutional.

The only way this bill would be constitutional is if there was a way for these individuals to get a free ID, if obtaining that ID was free of undue burdens (meaning additional locations and extended hours), and if there was substantial voter outreach (Source).

This, of course, presents two problems for the Republicans proposing these efforts. First of all, none of this is included in the bill and doing so would create a huge fiscal note, or additional cost to the state. Right now the fiscal note on this bill says not significant.

As Democratic House Caucus Chair, Mike Turner noted in this article the bill “amounts to a back door poll tax”.

Way to go. If this thing passes without some way to get free ID’s to people, it’ll end up in court.

Ahh, but the legislature is messin’ all up in that too.

This afternoon in the House Judiciary Subcommittee they’ll tackle the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, aka the Miscarriage of Justice Act of 2011.

Basically, all this bill will do is take away your right to sue if you’ve been wronged. Nothing big there right?

Here’s what one mother had to say about the bill.

Y’all, this is something even former Senator and Republican Fred Thompson is against.

So what does it do? It basically says that if you are the victim of some kind of malpractice you can’t file suit because you are no longer a “consumer”, you’ll have to go to the Attorney General’s office to get them to file suit. Good luck with that.

Oh yeah, if a Bernie Maddof wannabe takes all your money and runs, you’re screwed there too. Nice stuff.

All this goes back to what Republicans call “tort reform”, or what I would call the “Don’t Need No Accountability” movement. Because, as everyone knows if you don’t get caught you’ve done no wrong right?

WRONG

And if the legislature takes away the ability for people to hold others that have harmed them accountable then no one is hurt right?

WRONG

Last, but certainly not least, the legislature is ensuring Teachers have almost no workplace protections by introducing SB113 by Republican Jack Johnson of Franklin.

Rep. Maggart is sponsoring the House version of the bill, which moderates the stance somewhat, but Co-Governor Ron Ramsey isn’t budging. In fact, compromise is not an option as far as he’s concerned. Nope, teachers should have no right to work together to improve the working conditions that school boards invariably leave them in. They should just sit back and take it while they watch their salaries and benefits slip away.

That’s a sure fire way to attract the best and the brightest to the teaching profession.

Earlier today, the TEA, which has been leading the fight against this bill, delivered a petition with the signatures of 9000 supporters. Hopefully legislators will take the hint, but I’m not counting on it. They’re hell bent on getting what they want whether the people of Tennessee want it or not.

As far as they’re concerned, they’ve got the numbers in the legislature and until they don’t they’re going to do everything they can to make sure their donors get what they want.

In the mean time, the unemployment rate in Tennessee stands at 10.2%.

Way to bring in jobs Republican Legislators.

Mar 11 2011

Republicans Strike Out Against Ronnie’s Idea of Freedom

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

“Where Free Unions and Collective Bargaining are Forbidden, Freedom is Lost. Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” – Ronald Reagan

Republicans in Tennessee are trying to ensure we lose as much freedom, as defined by conservative icon Ronald Reagan, as possible. Their method, ending the very thing that Reagan himself said was a cornerstone of American freedom in the form of SB 0113 a bill that “abolishes teachers’ unions ability to negotiate terms and conditions of professional service with local boards of education.

While Reagan’s record on unions is a mixed bag in and of itself, what we’re seeing now, the summary dismantling of a whole category of collective bargaining, flies in the face of the words used by a man who, was himself, the President of a labor organization.

From the just signed law in Wisconsin, to moves in State Legislatures across the country, conservatives are working overtime to ensure people, eventually, won’t get paid any overtime, as they attempt to strip collective bargaining, and related workers rights from people in the midst of a recession that has left millions either unemployed or underemployed.

What’s all this about?

It could be political retribution, unions have traditionally supported Democrats rather than Republicans for office.

What about the budget? That’s the rationale they’re using, but cutting money from teachers is like cutting off your leg so you’re not burdened by the weight as you run. By making teaching even less attractive, there’s not much chance you’ll get the best and the brightest turning to teaching, unless their down with a vow of poverty.

Nope, what all this really seems to be about is more tax cuts, at least in Wisconsin. The budget shortfalls that are reported up there are the result of a package of nearly $200m in tax cuts, $117m previously approved, and an additional $82m yet to be approved. So while teachers and students, Medicare recipients and public sector workers are asked to sacrifice, business gets a tax cut in the midst of a $3.6b state budget shortfall. Let’s hear it for austerity.

At the end of the day, this is nothing more than an attack on an already suffering middle class. Conservatives have waged this attack, not just at unions, but every social institution that supports the middle class, a group that carried our nation to a level of prosperity since the 1950’s that no other nation on earth has ever experienced. The result of this and other Republican proposals is a huge tax cut for the 400 people who hold 50% of the total wealth in the nation and a big screw you to the other nearly 311,000,000 of us.

Way to work for the working man Republicans, and start us down the path that ensures, to paraphrase Reagan, this will be the last generation in America that saw freedom.

If you want to see who the real “small government” people are, let me reccomend this post by Economist, Barry Ritholtz.