After what seemed to be a forever of Tourism testimony, which was interesting but seemed like a stalling tactic, we got another three hours of testimony from a couple of scientists, and a coal industry advocate, who, as one might expect, wasn’t too keen on the proposal.
There was talk of “reclaiming mines” a process whereby old surface mines abandoned from the era before the Feds got involved in mining, are restarted under current guidelines, which everyone seemed to agree left the mountain in a better state than it was after the first round of mining. Some on the committee seemed to say that mining activity was good for all mountains, something Zach Wamp alluded to in the GOP primary, a position that defies logic.
There were offers and counter offers and tries to make the thing go. The Chairman of the committee said that if the two sides could get together and come up with a compromise that he’d reopen the committee to get it to the floor. One member seemed to ask the coal advocate if there was any chance of a compromise, to which he replied no, a sure signal that no matter what happened, it wasn’t going to pass anyway.
But Sen. Eric Stewart put in a valiant effort, with some pretty awesome assists from Sen. Beverly Marrero whose pointed wit at times, seemed to tell the members engaging in a cat and mouse game, where the could stick their ball of yarn.
Ultimately, the bill failed on a party line vote. Sen. Herron left before the vote occurred, citing another appointment and the unusually long time frame of the committee session.
The House version of the bill is scheduled to come up in committee on April 12th. I’m not sure what Rep. McDonald has in mind for the bill. I’ll contact his office and see what’s on the horizon.
I want to thank all the people who took time out of their day to call or write the members of the House and Senate Committees about this. We didn’t win this round, but I am convinced that if we persevere and continue to advocate for common sense reforms like this one, we will be successful in our push to preserve the natural beauty around us.
As was noted in the meeting, this is the fourth year a version of this bill has come before this committee. Truth be told, from the very beginning it was evident to me here in Memphis, and friends in the audience in Nashville that folks had made up their minds before they even got there. The three hours of testimony was more about choking out the bill than anything else. It’s a time tested tactic to make things that folks don’t want to vote on go away.
That this bill hasn’t passed yet is not an indication that there’s something wrong with the bill, but that there’s something wrong with the people voting on the bill. Republicans have ruled the roost in the State Senate since 2006 when the balance of power shifted dramatically. Until that balance of power shifts again, bills like this are going to be next to impossible to pass.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It simply mean that elections matter…a whole lot more than we often think they do. Every battle lost today is a lesson learned for tomorrow, and should re-ignite our resolve to elect officials that are more in line with our Tennessee values.
I want to give a shout out to TN LEAF who I am in no way affiliated with, but became acquainted with in the process of learning about this issue. You can follow them on on the twitter @tnleaf. Their direct advocacy inspired me to encourage others to do the same. Keep the faith folks.
This isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning. I think you’ll be seeing more of this kind of advocacy in the future seeking to build coalitions on issues of common cause. That’s the way things are supposed to happen, and hopefully, through this hard work they will.
The House Conservation Sub rolled HB0291 until April 12th. That means that there’s still time to contact the Representatives on the House Committee, as well as your own Representative even if they’re not on the committee. It also means that there’s plenty of time to plan a trip to Nashville in support of this bill, something I highly recommend. Nothing says support quite like a room full of supporters.
Of course, what happens today in the Senate Committee is also very important. Based on the calendar it doesn’t look like there are any deer farming bills on the agenda, so, if all goes well, we should be able to see where they stand. But don’t wait to find out, give them a call, send an email. Heck, you can even fax some of them (you can find their fax numbers by clicking on their names).
Let them know how important it is that we protect not only the mountaintops, but also the streams, plants and animals that live on those mountains.
I’ll have another update on this after the committee meeting this evening.
Committee Meeting – Wednesday, March 30, 3:30PM – Room 12 LP
Steve Southerland – Phone (615) 741-3851 – email
Jack Johnson – Phone (615) 741-2495 – email
Jim Summerville – Phone (615) 741-4499 – email
Mike Bell – Phone (615) 741-1946 – email
Mike Faulk – Phone (615) 741-2061 – email
Roy Herron – Phone (615) 741-4576 – email
Beverly Marrero – Phone (615) 741-9128 – email
Kerry Roberts – Phone (615) 741-1999 – email
Eric Stewart – Phone (615) 741-6694 – email – Bill Sponsor