Jun 13 2011

Is HB0600 The Worst Bill of 2011 Session?

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

Taken at the Justice for All rally yesterday

Possibly.

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.

Marian Bacon
Memphis Tennessee

This morning Nashville Metro Councilman Mike Jameson as well as several other citizens and TEP filed a lawsuit in state court.

Councilman Jameson asked a pretty pertinent question in the In Session post, one that I asked myself during the debate over the issue:

“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.

Soon after session ended Sen. Jim Kyle filed a bill to repeal HB0600. Head over to his new snazzy website to thank and encourage him.

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

HouseEddie Bass, Charles Curtiss, John DeBerry, Michael McDonald, Joe Pitts, and John Mark Windle.

SenateCharlotte Burks.

As for the Rebulblicans? Call any of them. Not a single Republican voted against the bill. House | Senate

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.

Apr 28 2011

Calling a Horse a Horse

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

Not your best side

So yesterday I wrote this post about this bill that basically says to a class of people “not only will the state of Tennessee not protect you, we won’t allow our Counties and Cities to extend any kind of protection to you”.

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.

Apr 25 2011

Home Rule, Schmome Rule

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

This bill prohibits any local government from imposing on any person an anti-discrimination practice, standard, definition or provision that varies in any manner from the definition of “discriminatory practices” under present law or other types of discrimination recognized by state law but only to the extent recognized by the state. Under present law, “discriminatory practices” means any direct or indirect act or practice of exclusion, distinction, restriction, segregation, limitation, refusal, denial, or any other act or practice of differentiation or preference in the treatment of a person or persons because of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin. (Summary for HB0600)

This afternoon, it is highly likely that the Tennessee House of Representatives will take away a County or Municipality’s right to include anti-discrimination protections in their contracts with third parties.

Dubbed the “Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act”, the bill actually prohibits a local government from including additional protection for groups who may experience some kind of discrimination that are not currently included in the protected classes stated above.

In short, it’s the Equal Access to Discriminate Act”, and nothing else.

Why is this something the Tennessee General Assembly is spending their time on? That’s a good question considering all the challenges facing the state, but in reality, this is a knee jerk reaction to the passage of Nashville Metro’s CAN DO ordinance.

What’s this really all about? In reality is about a couple of homophobic legislators that just can’t stand the idea of having one more class of people they can’t discriminate against, and that’s it.

See, Rep. Casada, the sponsor of the bill, also introduced HB0598 a bill that would end living wage provisions that several local government have enacted, as well as any discrimination provisions. That bill has been sent to summer study. Apparently the General Assembly isn’t sure they can beat up the working poor and members of the LGBT community in one fell swoop.

What’s more, according to an opinion by State Attorney General Robert Cooper this is all above board and there’s nothing local governments can do about it. So while communities all across Tennessee sought Home Rule Charters after the 1953 adoption of Article XI Sec. 9 of the Tennessee Constitution, this bill, which is a “general law” in the most liberal interpretation of the word, can overrule Nashville, Shelby County, or any other government that exists at the pleasure of the state government.

But the reality is, while this bill is posing as a general bill, it is targeted squarely at Nashville’s CAN DO ordinance. While the ordinance passed on April 5th, both HB0598 and HB 600 were introduced in reaction to the proposed ordinance in January. So while the language of the bill may be general in nature, the intent is clearly targeted.

This isn’t the first time this group of legislators has sought to override local governments. In fact, it’s become quite a habit for these folks. As Tom Humphrey notes, counting as many as five measures that would effectively override local government (h/t Silence).

While I’m in no position to question the legislature’s ability to pursue these measures, one has to wonder, to what end? Where does it stop, and how much longer will people stand by while a state legislature runs amok tossing local community standards aside for their own personal political preferences?

I would say they should be ashamed, but I’ve become painfully aware that they have no shame. As a quick cross-reference of their donor lists and their bill sponsor list clearly shows.

Good thing that State Ethics Commission still doesn’t have a quorum.

Apr 19 2011

Stacey’s Small Fee

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

Stacey Campfield - (R)
Knoxville

Being an elected legislator means you have lots of responsibilities.

You’ve got to represent your constituents to the best of your ability. You’ve got to propose and help craft legislation that ultimately benefits those constituents in some way. You’ve got to meet with your constituents so you can hear their concerns, and update them on what you’ve been doing.

Sometimes you have to talk to the media. Sometimes you have to appear at events because, that’s what politicians do. Sometimes, you may not want to.

But that’s the job, and if you spend all that time getting elected, you darn sure ought to take that into account.

So when a member of the State Legislature is asked to debate a bill they are sponsoring, you would think they’d be more than happy to do so. But what if they wanted a fee?

That’s where it gets dicey.

Below are screen captures from a Facebook note posted by Del Shores in which he challenged State Senator Stacey Campfield to debate his bill SB0049. Campfield agrees, but wants $1000 for a “retainer” and reimbursement for unspecified “expenses”.

Wha? He wants a grand to debate a bill he’s sponsoring? That ain’t right.

Capture 1 - Click to enlarge

Capture 2 - Click to enlarge

Capture 3 - Click to enlarge

I’m not sure what planet Stacey Campfield is from, but where does he get off demanding for a grand to defend a bill that he’s proposing in the State Legislature? If this isn’t an ethics violation, it sure is in bad taste.

The people of Knoxville should be outraged that one of their elected officials would demand money from constituents in return for executing the duties of his office.

It is absurd.

There are a lot of questions this should bring up:

Is any of this “retainer” going to him personally, or to his campaign coffers? What reporting requirements would there be in receiving this money? And what “expenses” could State Senator Campfield possibly incur? Why would he even ask that?

In the end, this seems like a way for Senator Campfield to avoid a debate he knows he can’t win. Put a price on it that is so out of reach its unattainable.

Way to represent the public Senator Campfield. I’m sure your constituents will feel secure in the knowledge that you are seeking to profit personally from executing the duties of your office.

Here is the full text:

TENNESSEE EQUALITY PROJECT TURNS DOWN SPONSORING DEL SHORES/STACEY CAMPFIELD DEBATE
by Del Shores on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 12:04pm
As most of you know Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield has agreed to debate me regarding hisDON’T SAY GAY BILL – and homosexuality and the Bible. Campfield has asked for a $1000 fee (to be paid in advance) and his expenses paid for the debate. In two separate facebook messages, he wrote to me:

* I will happily debate you. I require a $1000.00 retainer fee and all expenses covered. You can do with the rest all you want.
* I will debate you where ever you set up and pay my expences to go to (In advance). Just let me know.

Senator Campfield is based in Knoxville and I think that would be a good place to have this debate. I felt that it would be best to partner with a Tennessee Equality organization, to raise awareness, to send a strong message to our gay youth and to expose this man and this ludicrous bill.
Yesterday, I contacted the Tennessee Equality Project to see if they would sponsor the debate. This seems to be a great organization and I thought would be a great fit. Here are are exchanges:

FROM DEL SHORES TO TEP:
Stacey Campfield has agreed to debate me regarding homosexuality and the Bible. This could create huge awareness and raise money for TN Equality. Wondering if you would like to sponsor, promote and make this a very big news deal. He has asked for $1000 plus expenses… I will take nothing, but could promote the hell out of it with my fanbase… del shores (sordid lives, Queer as Folk, Southern Baptist Sissies, etc) http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150215908617189
TEP’S JONATHAN COLE’S RESPONSE
Dear Mr. Shores,
Thank you for contacting Tennessee Equality Project regarding a debate with Senator Stacy Campfield on his Don’t Say Gay bill, homosexuality and the Bible. After discussing your offer with TEP’s Executive Committee, we have concerns about such an event.
TEP’s PAC struggles to raise campaign funds for legislators who are equality advocates in Tennessee, especially during a recession. TEP cannot justify raising money for an event that would financially benefit Sen. Campfield in his pursuit of anti-LGBT legislation to its donors. The fact that Campfield refused to debate his bill or homosexuality and the Bible without a $1000 retainer fee plus expenses demonstrates to us that his only purpose is to use LGBT issues to fund his political and personal ambitions. His request for a fee may violate ethics rules. Sen. Campfield is a public servant who is paid by the State of Tennessee for his time as a legislator which includes debating his proposed legislation.
We are thankful to you for exposing Campfield’s true motives and your willingness to take him on at your own expense. However, based on Campfield’s criteria for agreeing to a debate, Tennessee Equality Project cannot justify sponsoring or promoting a debate that would financially benefit Senator Campfield.
Kind regards,

Jonathan Cole
TEP Board Chair

MY RESPONSE TO TEP’S RESPONSE
Jonathan:
Thanks for the reply.
So you are basically turning down an opportunity for huge nationwide exposure and coverage to benefit your organization because of his request for $1000, which I agree is inappropriate, but this is something that could be used in every press release, every interview, every article for more exposure of his true self. And if it violates ethics rules, why wouldn’t you want that scandal and possible investigation?
I can see where you could take the position that Stacey Campfield may be using the LGBT community, but we would be using this amazing opportunity to raise awareness and money for Tennessee Equality.
I was not asking TEP to pay for Campfield’s fee, just to sponsor and reap the benefits. Very very short sighted, in my opinion given what this could do for our community, our youth and the exposure of this man and his hate and this ludicrous bill.
My main purpose for this debate is to show our youth know that they are not less than, they are not alone.
Oh well. Thanks for considering.
Best,
Del Shores
“To be understood is to be exposed.”

READERS: In all this, please let me know your opinion and PLEASE disagree with me if you do! Also, I support TEP and just sent them a donation because I believe in what they are doing! Please do likewise if you are so inclined! And please know that all opinions are valid.

http://tnep.org/donate/

I certainly do NOT want this to divide our community, but unite it. I still need to find a way to debate this man, with the greatest exposure for LGBT Equality and to show our youth that they are not alone. Suggestions, thought are welcome.

May 30 2009

Either You Support Discrimination, or You Don’t

Posted by Steve Ross in Shelby County

Really, it’s that simple.

Opponents of the proposed Shelby County Non-Discrimination Order, protecting members of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) community may want to shift the debate from public policy to scripture, but scripture ain’t public policy, period. Either you support discrimination, or you don’t. End of story.

Wendi Thomas had a great article about this Thursday.

This puts Joe Ford, the only African American member of the County Commission to vote against the order in a strange position. He now has to reconcile his support for Civil Rights legislation, some of which helped him and many other African Americans rise up from oppression into positions of power, against his opposition to, what amounts to the very same thing for a group of people who have no protections, and can be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity with impunity.

I don’t think Joe Ford really supports discrimination. I think Commissioner Ford got caught up in the scriptural argument, and forgot that one of the things that makes America great is the separation of church and state, and that scripture ain’t public policy.

As Thomas notes, Commissioners Chism and Harvey abstained from the vote last week. It is my hope that they will see just how simple this issue is and vote for civil rights protections for a group of people who are currently living at the whims of their supervisor’s potential prejudice.

Finally, I just want to say one more thing about the whole argument against protections for members of the GLBT community. The video below was produced by the Commercial Appeal in their report of the demonstration held in opposition to the Non-Discrimination order last week.

First, this order isn’t about giving and “special” protection, it’s about giving equal protection. Should people be fired or affected in some way that hampers their ability to make a living due to their sexual orientation? What ever happened to judging people based on the quality of their work? Also, this order doesn’t cover most of the incorporated areas of the County. It does cover County Government employees, and contractors that do work with the county. That’s it.

Secondly, this proposition has NOTHING TO DO WITH GAY MARRIAGE, or relationships, or anything other than providing discrimination protections for a group of people who are currently without a safety net. People who tell you this is about protecting a group based on their life choices know NOTHING about the issue, but just for fun, let me ask all the straight folks out there who are against this ordinance this simple question, “Did you wake up this morning and DECIDE to be heterosexual?” I’m sure you made or are making a choice as to whom you will be heterosexual WITH, but I know I didn’t “choose” to be heterosexual, I just am. I’ve never once met a person in the GLBT community that made a conscious choice as to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Saying members of the GLBT community made a choice to be who they are is a sign of ignorance.

In the end, it still comes down to this simple question, “Do you support discrimination or not?” If not, then you are duty bound to vote for this order. If you do, I would submit that you’re going to have a helluva time later on in life. Discrimination knows no bounds; eventually it will come to your door. If you support it now, you may find yourself the one without a safety net. Will that change your mind, or will you do what you’re asking members of the GLBT community to do and just deal with it? I think we know the answer to that question.