If it's February, it must be silly season in Nashville, as the Tennessee General Assembly starts cranking out bills that serve no earthly purpose other than to pander to the worst instincts of their worst constituents.
My favorite this week is the legislation that's come to be known as the "Mow 'Em Down" bill. Republican (duh) state Senator Bill Ketron came up with this beauty. Under his proposal, if a person is blocking traffic during a protest or demonstration and a driver hits them, the protester would not be able to sue the driver in civil court for any injuries, as long as it was an accident. Huh huh.
This bill certainly answers a real need, but it doesn't go far enough, in my opinion. Drivers should be able to sue protesters for any damage to their vehicles incurred while they are being run over. Hopefully, the legislature will address this oversight.
Then there's the "Make Gay Babies Illegitimate" bill, another classic case of legislation addressing a problem that doesn't exist. Republican (duh) state Representative Terri Lynn Weaver filed legislation that would effectively make any child conceived through artificial insemination by a gay couple "illegitimate" in the eyes of Tennessee law. Why the state would want to get into the business of labeling babies is beyond me, unless, for some crazy reason Weaver wanted to ostracize and penalize gay Tennesseans. But who would want to do that?
Then we have the "California Travel Ban" bill, which is in response to California banning all official travel to Tennessee because of our state's backward LGBTQ laws. If this law passes, none of our esteemed legislators will be able to take a junket to the Golden State — a win-win for California, which has no desire to be visited by those clowns in Nashville, anyway.
And what legislative session would be complete without some simple-minded silliness from good ol' Republican (ya think?) Senator Mae Beavers, who has a crackerjack plan to eliminate pornography. Or something. "My goodness," she said in a recent interview, "you can't even look at my Facebook without seeing something." I sense a Facebook ban in our future. Sad emoji.
The legislators are also considering bills that would ban towns in Tennessee from being able to declare themselves "sanctuary cities," because brown people need to be harassed and made fearful, at all costs. It's the Christian thing to do.
Actually, the anti-sanctuary city law has deeper origins than simple bigotry. With ICE raids increasing around the country and the Trump administration's determination to arrest more undocumented residents, our prisons will be filling up nicely. And who does this benefit? If you guessed the private prison industry, you would be correct, Sparky. And the largest private prison corporation in the U.S. just happens to be located in Nashville: CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America.
Last year, the federal government under the Obama administration moved to stop using private prisons, but that decision is unlikely to stand with the new administration, and CoreCivic's stock is rising nicely as a result.
Yes, many of our legislators are shallow, mean-spirited, and foolish, but even for them, the oldest rule in politics still applies: Follow the money.