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.
For those of you who weren’t following along HB0600 was drafted just days after the introduction of Nashville’s CAN DO ordinance, an ordinance that requires vendors who contract into business with the city to follow rules against GLBT workplace discrimination.
The point of HB0600 is to roll back any such local ordinances and make it impossible for any local government to provide any more protection for any class of citizen beyond the protections the state allows.
This was billed as a “pro-business” bill, which is why its strange that David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee helped on the legislation, until you remember the whole anti-gay part, then it makes perfect sense.
As with so many of these hastily written, discriminatory bills, HB0600 not only stops cities and counties from enacting non-discrimination ordinances that are in line with their community standard, it also effectively hurts people from all walks of life.
Yesterday at the Justice for All Rally those in attendance heard about one group of people who were never mentioned but who could be targeted as a result of this bill.
Today, I stand here at First Congregational Church as we unite with various non-profit organizations, work groups and interested citizens in our community to voice our concerns at the “Justice for All Rally”.
The SAD (Special Access to Discriminate Act) HB600/SB632 Act, which will affect many individuals in our community with disabiliteis or without a disability. The SAD Act will affect individuals, who use Section 8 vouchers or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) as a means to obtain housing in the community. The SAD Act will allow landlords to refuse housing to individuals, who are disabled (like me) or depend on Section 8 or SSI as their only source of income.
How will the SAD Act affect me and especially my brothers and sisters with disabilities? It will affect me because if my physical conditions get worse and I am needing to quit my full-time job then most likely will lose my apartment. If I lose my apartment and major source of income then will become homeless on the streets of Memphis once again for the fourth time. If for some reason I lose both job and incoem then will need to find another place to live because of not being able to afford apartment.
The SAD Act will cause me to become homeless again especially since I have no family, who will take me into their home so I wouldn’t become homeless again. I would need to depend on SSI so the SAD Act will cause another traumatic experience in my already complicated life.
In my heart it makes me very sad and upset at times the SAD Act was passed in the first place. How can our political leaders create such a monster in the first place? Were the citizens made aware of the SAD Act being considered to pass before they voted on the bill? I never heard anything about it and this makes me very sad to know our political system is failing those individuals (like myself) with disabilities, who at times have no choice but to depend on our government for respect but at the same time protection from danger or discrimination. Is it too late to change the SAD Act like it use to be so our citizens with disabilities and other groups can get the respect and diginity they deserve as citizens?
I stand here today representing individuals with disablities along with my brothers and sisters represented by other groups in the community. We need to make our voice heard loud and clear this afternoon the SAD Act is wrong and needs to changed to its original act.
Thanks for your time in listening this afternoon.
“The state legislation was disguised as an effort to ensure consistent business regulations across Tennessee counties. But that was a Trojan horse pretext for getting this passed. Every county has unique zoning regulations, unique employment regulations and so forth. Why is it only now, and only on the issue of discrimination, that we suddenly need uniformity? If every county now needs to be identical, should we abolish city councils across the state?”
So yeah, this may be the worst bill the legislature passed this year.
Of the 132 legislators in the State House and Senate, only 7 Democrats voted for the bill. Their names and links to their legislative offices follow. Maybe you should ring them up and ask them what they have against city governments, home rule charters, the disabled and God only knows what else. Ask them why they would vote for a bill they
Senate – Charlotte Burks.
There’s still a lot of legislation to pile through from this session, but as it stands HB0600 may be the most widely destructive bill that was supposed to be “targeted” at a specific constituency.
Lets hear it for unintended consequences.
You can find many of the bills that have been enacted simply by searching the word enacted on their site. However, the list that is displayed doesn’t show all of their actions. Some bills that have been signed, HB600 for example, either haven’t been changed to reflect their status, or may never be changed.
You can also check the Tennessee Secretary of State’s list, though they seem to be even further behind than the legislature.
At some point we’ll know exactly what they did to us, but by then it will be too late and it will be getting done to us. I’m working on a rundown now, but with my work and school schedule, it may be a while coming. In the mean time you can check out Joe Powell, Southern Beale, and TN Citizen Action, as well as some others I probably missed.
Of the 233 currently published acts, many are procedural. Lots of now defunct commissions being taken off the books, the Governor is now required to designate some days as “such and such” day. Stuff like that.
There are also a lot of bills, now law, that will have a direct or indirect impact on people in this state, and it doesn’t matter how many newspapers you read, you probably never heard about them.
Truth is, most of the daily newspapers and the media in general in the state did a pretty bad job at reporting the session, until after something was passed. I read most of them online, so maybe their print editions had upcoming bill information, but considering how much real estate they’ve lost in their print editions, I doubt it. In the end, the 4th estate got caught up in the flash and trash, and that hurts everyone.
Online there was a much more vibrant discussion. Tennessee Report, an online journal, had some pretty awesome coverage on the big issues. As far as I know they have a very small staff, so lots of things still fell through the cracks. Also, there is some question about who funds them since they have no advertising on their site.
Many of the deadwood journos also have blogs and twitter accounts, so if you happen to follow them you got a little better idea of what’s going on. I won’t even try to list all of them here, but Tom Humphrey is still an absolute must read for anyone interested in the day to day slog that is session.
There was some pretty good coverage from indie blogs, though, as volunteers without a staff, and often without much time or direct access to the majority of elected officials, coverage is going to be spotty. At some point in the near future I’ll update the blogroll to reflect the more active bloggers on state issues.
On the Democratic side of the blogosphere there’s a pretty solid core group of consistent bloggers who lift a pretty heavy load during session. I know from experience, keeping up is a full time job, and even then a best effort is going to miss something. It doesn’t help that the folks who write the captions do so in such a way as to make the real impact of the bill obscured. Another win for open government.
I stopped following the right side of the blogosphere this year for the first time since I started blogging. Honestly, it was just too much to keep up with and my patience for their rhetoric was severely tested early on. I’ll get back to them at some point.
In addition to the individual activist crowd, this year saw a lot of stepping up from activist groups, and its a good thing because there was plenty to keep them busy.
While there were many single issue groups that worked their butts off to raise awareness of bad bills, I think the rock star for the little guy this year was Tennessee Citizen Action. Under the guidance of former Liberadio! hostess with the mostest Mary Mancini, TNCA kept people informed about all the dumb stuff that the General Assembly could muster. It was a huge job and I really appreciate the work they put into it.
Another group that was all over the place, and for good reason is Tennessee Equality Project. From HB600 to Campfield’s ridiculous “Don’t Say Gay” bill and more, TEP harnessed the power of just about every media delivery system, from their website, Facebook page, twitter and email, to the phones and snail mail, they did it all, and got some good attention for their efforts, even if the majority of the General Assembly ignored their efforts.
There were several other focused issue groups that had their hands full, but still managed to get the message out there. TEA was under continuous assault and kept on fighting away. They lost the battle on collective bargaining, but swayed some Republicans in the House, something that looked impossible earlier in the session.
Another honorable mention is TN Leaf, a faith based environmental group that fought the good fight against mountain top removal mining. Go read their story, it’s pretty neat. They’re small but vocal and ambitious. I don’t know much else about them, but I can say on this issue they’re spot on.
Last but not least, a late entrant to the session, Mike McWherter and Trace Sharp launched The Daily Buzz, a daily email detailing some of the happenings and upcoming happenings around the state. Even though the session is over, The Daily Buzz continues. Give ‘em a follow, it’s good stuff and not anywhere near as wordy as one of my screeds.
Overall, there was a lot that happened since January that no one, but the members of the General Assembly, actually know about. We’ll likely start feeling these new laws pretty soon. Hopefully, as the influx of bad bills starts impacting people on a more personal level, more people will get and stay involved, expanding interest and coverage. Until that happens, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see what new law is lurking in the background waiting to bite you in the ass. It’s there, and it won’t be pretty.
There are a lot of problems with the bill. One I addressed here regarding Home Rule Charters, and just how meaningless they become in the wake of this action. Another is related…hampering a government’s right to contract, which I touched on yesterday.
But yesterday’s post took a bit of a turn too far. I wanted to talk about ways to help those wayward Democrats who voted for the bill, and more importantly, their counterparts in the State Senate, find a way to support it. In doing so, I forgot the most important part…the part where we’re legislating discrimination.
Here’s exactly what the bill says about discrimination:
(1) No local government shall by ordinance, resolution, or any other means impose on or make applicable to any person an anti-discrimination practice, standard, definition, or provision that shall deviate from, modify, supplement, add to, change, or vary in any manner from:
(A) The definition of “discriminatory practices” in § 4-21-102 or deviate from, modify, supplement, add to, change, or vary any term used in such definition and also as defined in such section; or
(B) Other types of discrimination recognized by state law but only to the extent recognized by the state.
In short, as Rep. Richardson noted in the video clip I posted, no City or County in the state of Tennessee can do more than the state allows to protect a class of people.
So while that does impact the way a city or county might want to contract, and it does call into question just how much Home Rule comes with a Home Rule Charter, it ultimately negatively impacts the security of a person’s job based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
Somehow, I managed to leave that out in my 1000+ word screed, and it wasn’t until I read this post that I even realized it.
That’s a huge error on my part.
Finally, one more word about that post. Certainly, I would never mean to say people shouldn’t make their own decision about how to hold the people who voted for this bill accountable. God knows, I won’t be rushing out to volunteer, or send my money to support them…but I suspect they may not want my support.
I will, however, work to find as many reasons for someone to vote the way I want them to as I can find, even if that means deviating somewhat from the ultimate issue. If it changes even one mind to vote my way then that’s all the better.
But at the end of the day, I understand it’s not up to me. If these folks don’t think its important to protect all people from discrimination, I guess they’re not going to be making that case to their constituents. That’s not only unfortunate for their constituents who may be impacted by this legislation, it’s also unfortunate for them. Chances are they’re not making their case to their constituents on a whole lot of other issues, and that’s a sure fire way to lose.
It’s hard to lead when you’re afraid of your own shadow. No, it’s not hard…its impossible.
In reality, the bill was proposed by a guy who was offended that an entity who contracts with a government can’t discriminate at will, something the Federal Government has restricted since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In the wake of the vote, there was a lot of anger at the 8 Democrats that voted for the bill. That’s understandable considering both the discrimination element of the bill, and the removal of local control over local contracting that the bill ultimately sustains.
Because none of the Democrats that voted for the bill took to the floor to speak, we can only opine as to their rationale. It’s sad, however that they chose the will of a guy who has been hell bent on increasing discrimination rather than allowing local governments the latitude to decide what’s good for them.
Here are three Democrats who voted against the bill, with 3 similar rationales. I’ll talk more about their message after the videos.
|Mike Stewart||Jeanne Richardson|
The one thing all three of these legislators point out is that this is about a local issue that a group of legislators that don’t live in the county in question didn’t like. Further, they follow the frame that this local issue is well within the purview of a local government to control. From that vantage point, one could and should argue that this action by the Tennessee House is just one of a number of issues where the state has sought to insert itself into a local issue.
While I understand the anger at the 8 Democrats that voted for the bill, I’m more angry at the 64 people who lifted this non-issue to the precipice of becoming Tennessee law. That is not to excuse the 8 for their actions, but to frame the issue more appropriately. Ultimately, with or without those 8 votes the bill was going to pass. It doesn’t make much sense to train our ire at those 8 legislators when there are far more targets on the other side of the aisle that ultimately forced the issue causing a bad bill to pass.
It’s natural to be more mad at people on your side that vote against you. They’re right there. That other side is so far away. But to what effect? Do you really think any of those 8 Democrats are going to listen to you after you throw them under the bus? Probably not. So the question I ask myself before I start, “what is my intended outcome?”
More often than not, my intended outcome is to change the way the conversation is held, because that’s the root of the problem. On many issues, but social issues in particular, Southern Democrats have ceded the debate to social conservatives using conservatives’ very own words to frame the issue. By giving up on this important part of the debate, we’ve given up 30+ years of rhetoric that has become the conventional wisdom in many areas and political circles, which, in turn, has made it harder for those who represent more conservative areas.
In short, we haven’t consistently made our case to our people using our language. We’ve fallen in line with the screamers on the right because we didn’t think we could drown them out, and that’s a critical error.
I’m reminded of a talk I attended last year. A conservative member of the State House, from a reliably conservative district was explaining his position on women’s issues and described himself as “pro-life”, to audible groans from the audience. But going further into his position, it became clear that his intention was not to restrict women’s access to healthcare options, but one of perception. The term “pro-life” illicits a certain response from people who may not fully understand the issue beyond abortion. For instance, conservative women may not understand that the traditional “pro-life” position includes limiting access to very regular and normal healthcare procedures. From that frame, he puts the issue in the context it should be, “Do you want unrestricted access to safe and reliable healthcare, or do you want your options restricted?”
At that point, he has their attention. No one wants their options restricted, particularly with healthcare. While it may seem like there’s a good deal of nuance required, it’s really quite simple, “I respect your right to privacy and I think you’re smart enough to make your own healthcare decisions. I won’t vote for anything that keeps you from making them, and that’s my definition of Pro-life.”
This does two things; first it changes the definition of what it means to be “pro-life”. Since the 70′s the right has tried to frame choice advocates as “pro-abortion” or “pro-death”. In reality, the choice position is “pro-life” in that it is life affirming. Second, it places the traditionally understood “pro-life” position right where it should be, as “anti-choice” and “anti-woman”.
That is, in effect what Stewart, Fitzhugh, and Richardson were doing, making their statements about the bills ultimate effect, restricting the right of local governments to set a higher bar for their community. And while it didn’t sway these 8 conservative Democrats this time, maybe it will sway them the next time.
Maybe arguing that Nashville is Nashville and Prospect, Sparta, Dunlap, Portland, Clarksville, Dickson, New Johnsonville, and Livingston are their respective cities, and neither can govern the other… maybe that isn’t the most compelling argument. Maybe affirming that this state wants to have the latitude to discriminate against a class of people is really what these 8 legislators wanted. We’ll never know because they didn’t speak on the issue.
Discrimination aside, at the end of the day, this bill restricts the ability of a community to hold itself to a higher standard for the good of the community, and removes a community’s ability to contract according to local standards. This bill restricts Nashville to a lowest common denominator, which is ultimately anti-competitive in a world where community standards are constantly being raised.
I’m certain that if asked, the leaders of these communities would not like to be forced to a lower standard of living for their people. Why should Nashville, or any other city in the state be?
And for me, that’s the question to the 64. Why are you forcing a local government to lower their standards? Why are you hell bent on interfering in a local issue?
That’s why the 64 are my targets rather than the 8. Because it’s easier to hit 1 of 64 that never vote my way than it is to hit 1 or 8 that occasionally do.
Maybe, by not shooting my own people, maybe I’ll have a chance to change their minds for the next time. Better yet, maybe I’ll be able to help elect someone new to one of those 64 seats that will do it for me. Because at the end of the day, 64 people who always vote the wrong way is a much bigger problem than 8.
You can watch the whole debate here.
See also this editorial in the Tennessean.