UPDATE: In “Taking His Lumps,” this past week’s Politics column, it was described how Governor Phil Bredesen’s energy efficiency bill, designed to establish uniform statewide building codes for residences, had run aground in the state House of Representatives. In that chamber last week, representatives from various rural constituencies sought to exempt their areas in amendment after amendment., and action on the bill had to be postponed until this week.
The good news for the governor is that the bill finally passed. The bad news is that any county that wants to is empowered to opt out of the code’s provisions. Got that? A law gets passed saying that you’ve got to do such-and-such, unless you say you don’t want to do such-and-such. That truly is a new one.
From the governor’s point of view, there’s one small counter-catch: Each newly elected county commission in a self-exempted county is required to opt out all over again by a two-thirds majority.
In other words, every four years, eah scofflaw county (and, to judge by last week's debate, there are bound to be many, many of them) will have to keep its guard up to keep from coming under the state law. So, while it is clear that this is virtually a textbook definition of a law without teeth, arguably, just maybe, it has tooth.