First the Trail of Tears, Now This

If an innocuous-seeming piece of legislation passed Thursday by the Tennessee Senate ultimately proves responsible for launching the state down a corpse-strewn path toward totalitarian dystopia, Sen. Thelma Harper will at least be able to say she didn’t sit silently by When They Came For The Lobbyists.

The Nashville Democrat registered her strong opposition to SB 237 on the Senate floor during discussion of the measure, which would prohibit departing state board or commission members “from lobbying for any organization that had business activities with that board, for a period of one year,” according to sponsor Bo Watson, R-Hixon.

The bill would additionally require anyone serving on a board or commission to “terminate all employment and business association as a lobbyist with any entity whose business endeavors or professional activities are regulated or overseen by such state board, commission or other governmental entity.” Also, no one “who is a member of a state board, commission or other governmental entity shall be permitted to register or otherwise serve as a lobbyist…for any entity whose business endeavors or professional activities are regulated or overseen by such state board, commission or other governmental entity during the person’s period of service as a member.”

Sen. Harper said she senses evil in SB 237’s banal statutory language. “I think what we see is genocide, as it relates to who we want to serve, and who is eligible to serve,” she said.

Continued Harper:

What you are finding is public people who work with the PTA after while will not be able to serve on some of these boards and commissions, simply because they lobby for PTA issues, or Boy Scout or Girl Scout issues. I think we have just (focused) in on certain groups: Those who have the knowledge of what goes on in a certain industry. They know more about about what’s going on in their industry than many of us will ever have the opportunity to read. So, I take it as a cut below the belt.

The measure passed 22-9-1. It has yet to get a hearing in the House.

At least one of Sen. Harper’s chambermates is shaking his head over Harper’s latest use of loaded imagery to highlight her displeasure with relatively mundane legislative action.

On his blog, Knoxville Republican Stacey Campfield — who characterized Watson’s legislation as little more than a “cooling off” provision — indicated he thought it “incredible” that Harper would so casually employ a term generally understood to denote the systematic destruction or extermination of a racial or cultural group.

This isn’t the first time Sen. Campfield — himself no stranger to eye-rolling and scorn from colleagues and political detractors — has said he’s been taken aback and put off by one of Harper’s grim metaphors.

Back in August, Campfield was presiding over a joint Senate-House committee examining various problems and mission failures within the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission when he reminded the panel’s lawmakers that there was a time-limit for asking questions of ABC’s staff on hand to testify. Harper, who chafed at being told how long she could speak, suggested to Campfield that it seemed “you want to put nooses around our necks to keep us from talking.”

Campfield said later he thought Harper’s comment was “a little over the top.”