|inks on bristol / 2010|
Our state has a long and drawn out history of absurd laws. I remember in 1999 when I was fresh out of high school, Tennessee passed the Roadkill Bill making it perfectly legal to take home and consume wildlife struck by a vehicle. Fender-licking good recipes and other commentaries on the possibilities brought about from this law quickly took the internet and media by storm. Of course, other classic gems of legislation still exist here as well. The punishment for stealing a horse is still listed as a swift execution by hanging. Also, ladies don't forget more than eight women living together in one dwelling is illegal as it constitutes a brothel.
Lawmakers have gone much further this year in deciding what is best for women. House Bill 3517 applies murder and assault laws to harm being placed upon a child during pregnancy, no matter how soon after fertilization. Many argue the loose language of this bill (a TN staple) could be interpreted to bring about charges against women for abortion and even miscarriages. I have a feeling this law will play out on the courtroom floor in the near future and almost certainly put a spotlight on abortion once again. Republicans have already shown how underhanded and sneaky their language can be as shown earlier this month with the new Monkey Law, which sneaks creationism back into the classroom by allowing open debate of evolution.
A flood of insanity has ensued these pass few weeks in the 107th General Assembly as even more laws have been passed without approval from the general public. Such new statutes include the "Don't Say Gay" bill banning talk of homosexuality from Tennessee classrooms. Ironically, state lawmakers feel sexuality is a discussion best suited for home and not school, although they've decided that the subject of evolution should be questioned in the classroom and NOT at home. Another law makes it illegal for students to sag their pants at school, targeting minorities. As if this wasn't an obvious enough racial profile, the state also decided to opening place restrictions on the number of immigrant employees who worked at the coveted state charter schools. Our Governor Bill Haslam recently proclaimed himself the leader in education reform for states who recently failed No Child Left Behind after Tennessee was caught cooking the books by shamelessly lowering standards on state-wide student testing in order to raise the scores. So far, all of his ideas center around policing classrooms rather than raising the bar on the level of education the students receive.
(Click HERE for my portrait of the good Governor and his wife in response to last year's Internet Decency Law.)
After shoving their hands in the mother's womb and the teacher's desk, our Congressmen have also put their sticky fingers to work on their favorite subject- taxes! Patting themselves on the back for their ingenuity, our representatives have declared they are repealing the Estate Tax on the richest Tennesseans. Estates valued at over $1 Million have always been taxed in our state, generating $18.2 Billion in revenue over the past 10 years. By doing away with these taxes, Republicans are touting their theory on drawing more rich business owners to Tennessee who will create jobs. By their estimation, repealing these laws would have grown the state economy by $7 Billion over the past 10 years! Wait, that's $11.2 Billion less than what was collected by the Estate Tax but Republican math doesn't always make sense, right? Remember, these are the good guys you voted into office to protect your- er... special rich kinda interests.
So where does the state expect to get this tax money back from since the rich folks will get to keep all that money? By taxing online companies such as Amazon! Tennessee has also decided to start collecting sales tax from online transactions, which comes out of YOUR pocket! Amazon is required to being collecting these taxes by 2014 but in the interim, Tennesseans are required to pay their own taxes from online purchases themselves to the state as a "usage fee." This week, Amazon has announced it will begin notifying Tennessee customers of what they owe the state in taxes by email. Of course, this will generate over $22 Million a year and $220 Million over the next ten years but still doesn't even begin to close the gap left by repealing the estate tax on uber-rich millionaire families such as Governor Haslam's, heirs to the Pilot convenience store chain. With all of the spin put on this issue over the past several months, am I the only one who can do simple math? Am I the only one who is seeing this as another broadening of the gap between the rich and the rest of us?
Capitalism got into bed with Democracy and kicked her out the door after a good tussle decades ago. The vast majority of residents of any American state, when given the facts would oppose most of these laws. When will our overpaid, bribed and bought representatives stop making laws which determine what goes on in our lives and classrooms without our consent? Where do we draw the line? We are no longer given a voice by officials who have our best interests in mind. What can we do to regain our own voice as a people? Don't be blinded by the red enveloping glow. Don't be afraid to speak up. Democracy starts with a raised voice against your back yard being used as a testing ground for the most extreme Right Wing agendas in our Country.