Monday, March 23, 2015

TN Legislature Continues to Erode Personal Rights

Is it time for 'death with dignity' in Tennessee?

Tennessee House to debate abortion ultrasound bill this week

Tennessee ranks fourth-worst state for voter turnout

House subs shutting down this week

Most state House subcommittees plan to hold their final meetings of the 2015 session this week, which means that hundreds of bills pending in the panels will either advance to the next step or quietly die.
A review of scheduled for the subcommittees seeking a shutdown indicated the House State Government Subcommittee has the longest list of pending votes with 84 bills on notice for Wednesday’s meeting.
They range from Gov. Bill Haslam’s move to abolish longevity pay for state employees — a measure (HB647) that the administration has agreed to revise substantially in hopes of eliminating objections from several lawmakers — to a bill (HB615) that would proclaim the Holy Bible as Tennessee’s official state book.
The latter bill would seem to have a good chance of passage if it clears the subcommittee since a majority of members of both the House and Senate have signed on as co-sponsors. In the House, 53 of the 99 members have joined sponsor Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, in officially backing the bill. In the Senate, 19 of the 33 senators are co-sponsors along with Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown. LINK

Tennessee House to debate abortion ultrasound bill this week

A proposal that would require ultrasounds before any abortion is one of several abortion bills set for debate this week at the Tennessee General Assembly.
The ultrasound bill from Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, is headed to a House committee this week. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, also plans to push forward with an amendment that would enact mandatory counseling — called "informed consent" — and a 48-hour waiting period between the time a woman seeks an abortion and when she can go through with the procedure.
The measures come in the wake of Tennessee voters adopting a constitutional amendment in November that nullified a 15-year-old state Supreme Court ruling and opens the gates to abortion restrictions.
Despite the attention and dollars the amendment campaign received in 2014, few abortions bills have progressed very far or at all through the legislative process. But with bills from Beavers, Womick and others set for discussion Tuesday and Wednesday, abortion-rights activists are planning to protest any new regulations.
As introduced, Womick's bill requires an ultrasound be performed on a woman before she can go forward with an abortion. The doctor must describe the image and make any audio from any heartbeat available to the woman. LINK

Tennessee ranks fourth-worst state for voter turnout

When it came to voting in the 2014 elections, Tennessee voters weren’t flocking to the polls, according to a Nonprofit VOTE report.
Tennessee ranked as the fourth-worst state for voter turnout during the past election season in Nonprofit VOTE’s “America Goes to the Polls 2014” report. In fact barely more than a quarter — 29.1 percent — of the Volunteer State actually voted.
The state showed a small improvement from the 2010 elections when it was the third-worst state.
The only states (including the District of Columbia) that ranked worse than Tennessee were New York at No. 49, Texas at No. 50 and Indiana at No. 51 LINK

Exemption in 'Tennessee Whiskey' Law Raises Legal Flags

An exemption for Prichard's Distillery from new legal requirements for selling spirits as "Tennessee Whiskey" is raising constitutional concerns with state Attorney General Herbert Slatery.
The state Legislature in 2013 excluded Prichard's from the law passed at the behest of Jack Daniel's that for the first time established rules for which products could label themselves as Tennessee whiskey.
Those rules codified what is known as the "Lincoln County Process," which requires whiskey to be filtered through maple charcoal before being aged in unused charred barrels made out of oak. The filtering requirement makes up the principal difference from making bourbon.
Distiller Phil Prichard gained his exemption after arguing that he shouldn't have to follow a charcoal filtering requirement because it does not follow the technique used by his grandfather.
"If I subscribe to this rule that Jack Daniel's has imposed on us all, then I would then be paying homage to Jack Daniel's and not paying homage to my grandfather Benjamin Prichard," he said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Prichard has since opened another distillery in Nashville, creating the odd scenario in which his product made at the original location is grandfathered out of the Tennessee whiskey law, while spirits flowing from the new still are not.
"The fact that I can't make whiskey according to my grandfather's techniques at the Nashville location is a bit of a slap in the face to me," Prichard said. "It's still the same grandfather, and I'm still Phil Prichard."
Slatery said in the legal opinion that Prichard's exemption could run afoul of the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution's ban on suspending "any general law for the benefit of any particular individual."
The state law exempts Prichard's by saying it does not apply to distilleries established between certain dates that match when Phil Prichard began doing business.
"There is no discernable reason to distinguish one distillery from other existing distilleries on this basis, especially since the exemption at issue is purportedly the one that distinguishes Tennessee Whiskey from bourbon," Slatery said.
The fight over the Tennessee whiskey law has drawn in global liquor giants Diageo PLC, which owns George Dickel, and Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp. LINK

Bob Corker Cautions Against bad nuclear deal

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said on Sunday an agreement on a “broad framework” for an Iran nuclear deal may be close - but warned, if nuclear talks fall apart, the U.S. could continue “the status quo.”
“We can … maintain the status quo for some period of time until Iran becomes more serious about allowing us to know they’re not conducting covert activity,” the Tennessee Republican said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “that their research and development activities aren’t moving to a place that accelerates their ability to create nuclear weapons.”

Beyond negotiating with Iran, Corker said, “the other options are certainly not pleasant.”Link

Tennessee church sign: ‘Remember, Satan was the first to demand equal rights’

A Tennessee pastor said this week that his church was “not trying to offend anyone” when it put up a sign linking “equal rights” to Satan.
Members of the community expressed outrage over the weekend after photos of marquee outside the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle Church were circulated online. The sign read, “Remember, Satan was the first to demand equal rights.”
“Who was your target audience? Who were you speaking to when you put it up there?” Knoxville resident Rick Staples, asked, according to WBIR. “And when you say you’re asking for your equal rights, who’s asking for their equal rights and who are you comparing to Satan? That was very strong language.”
Andy Henry said that the church was trying to make a statement about gay rights.
“It’s clearly a sign that was meant to offend a particular community – the LGBT community. Because of (the church’s) lack of foresight, they ended up offending everybody who had ever fought for equality or civil rights in general,” Henry observed.
But Pastor Tony Greene insisted that everyone misunderstood the message. LINK

Is it time for 'death with dignity' in Tennessee?

John Jay Hooker has been a colorful political figure and legal gadfly in Tennessee for many decades. The Democrat has run for governor several times. And when Hooker wasn’t running for governor, he was periodically engaged in litigation against the state over one constitutional matter or another.
As both a political candidate and attorney, Hooker is known for his sense of humor and tenacity. The 84-year-old Nashville resident says he will need both those traits to wage what might well be his last battle on a statewide stage. Hooker wants the state General Assembly to approve a law allowing assisted suicide in Tennessee.
He recently told Frank Daniels III, a writer for The (Nashville) Tennessean, that he has a strong legal standing in the issue. Hooker was diagnosed in January with terminal malignant melanoma.
Daniels wrote earlier this month that Hooker “wanted to dedicate his remaining months to passing a Tennessee Death with Dignity law, and suing for the right to choose the time of his death.”
Hooker also told Daniels he believes dying with dignity to be the “ultimate civil right.”
Hooker will have some help in pushing for passage of the Death with Dignity act. State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, has filed a caption bill to pursue the matter.
Passage of a Death with Dignity act in Tennessee will most likely be a long shot. Tennessee is currently one of 40 states with laws that expressly prohibits assisted suicide. LINK

Crockett Policy Institute

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