- Rep. Todd during debate on Norris-Todd bill last winter
A striking feature of the session that just ended was the sheer number of bills introduced — and, in many cases, passed — at the instigation of special-interest sources outside Tennessee itself. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, every now and then, someone actually puts up a fuss — as when, for example, state Senator Roy Herron (D-Dresden) did his best on the last day of debate to derail, or at least amend, a bill that would divert state school funding to “virtual school” entrepreneurs operating elsewhere in the nation.
Most of the time, as in Herron’s case, these Horatio-at-the-Gate efforts fail for the simple reason that the resister is in the minority and is overridden.
But every now and then, and this is the really good news, someone on the majority rethinks the case and is actually in a position to repair the lock and secure the gate.
Give Curry Todd his due. Rep.Todd (R-Collierville) — he of the Mexicans-as-teeming-rats metaphor at a notorious committee hearing last fall, he of the Norris-Todd school-merger bill t — was able to stop one paint-by-the-numbers bill cold.
This was SB1033, introduced by state Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and designed, according to its caption, to prohibit and provide criminal penalties fore “certain union and employee organization activities,” spelled out by Ketron as “bribery, extortion intimidation, and disorderly conduct.”
When the bill came through the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 26, it was stoutly resisted by state Senator Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis), who pointed out the one-sidedness of the measure, which targeted labor only and mentioned potential management transgressions not at all, but the bill was passed through on a 6-3 party-line vote.
On the last legislative day, however, when the bill came through the House for final passage Todd returned to another issue that Marrero had mentioned — namely, that none of the iniquities which it mentioned had turned up in Tennessee itself; that, in fact, the bill was a hobby-horse mounted by the National Chamber of Commerce in each of the 50 states. Indeed, the chief spokesman for it had been a Nashville attorney representing the Chamber.
Somewhat impatiently, Tiodd explained that the bill seemed to have nothing to do with Tennessee and promptly moved it off the calendar and back to the House’s State and Local Government Committee, out of harm’s way, at least for the current calendar year.
Moral of the story? For all of the one-party domination of the 2011 session, there were a few such independent gestures. But not many.
(Note: This is an amended and corrected version of the account in this week's Flyer print edition, in which — through some brain fog on the author's part — the word "Senate" was inadvertently substituted for the correct word "House" in the last two paragraphs./jb)