For years, Republican leadership in the State of Tennessee has touted the Republican party in general as the best friend of Tennessee firearms owners, hunters, collectors, and dealers. That pattern may have been genuine for some who fall under the Republican umbrella but it certainly cannot be rejected at this point that for others it was nothing more than an empty campaign slogan to obtain votes at a time when Democratic leadership was highlighted by Jimmy Naifeh and his vendetta with the NRA and thus Tennessee’s firearms owners.
Despite these and other often repeated assurances to Tennessee’s conservatives, constitutionalists and advocates of individual freedoms, very little has materialized as reality once the Republicans gained total control of the Governor’s office, Senate and House in 2011. Compared with the benefits and attention paid to “big business” such as AT&T and Amazon, Tennessee’s rank and file citizen voters have been left wondering what happened to the promises that they were made on issues like smaller government, tax reductions, illegal immigration reform (prosecution), opposition to an ever expanding federal government, resistence to federalized mandates, and removal of the infringements on 2nd Amendment rights.
On the eve of the 2012 session, we see public announcements from the House leadership that Speaker Beth Harwell (who has never had an acceptable voting record on firearms issues) has assembled is the word that the House does not plan to spend time working on 2nd Amendment issues. This was easily predicted knowing that Beth Harwell was speaker and in light of the 2011 legislative session.
Channel 4 News in Nashville reports:
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) –
Lawmakers won’t waste any time before tackling some controversial issues when they come back to town next month.
When they come back in a matter of weeks, one of the first things they’ll take up could be one of the most controversial.
They will unveil the lines they’ve drawn for legislative and congressional districts.
“We’ll be prepared and ready to move the first week in session,” said House Speaker Rep. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.
Every year the only thing lawmakers have to do is balance a budget, so obviously that will be a priority.
Following the governor’s formation of a task force on vouchers, lawmakers plan to slow down on that issue.
While the Senate wants to pursue a bill to allow carry permit holders to leave their guns in their workplace parking lots, House leaders said guns won’t be a priority.
“I think our focus will not be on gun issues, it will be on economic development and jobs, job creation,” said Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.
So what can you expect?
Expect to see some changes to the unemployment system and worker compensation.
Lawmakers also favor drug testing those who receive state benefits as long as it’s financially feasible.
“We want to make sure that the people that benefit from the state are living up to their part of the deal,” said Harwell. “We have to weigh the cost factor there. How costly will it be to drug test the recipients.”
Perhaps state lawmakers’ biggest goal doesn’t have anything to do with legislation at all. They are hoping to get out of session early, targeting the end of April.
Last week, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, floated the idea of a special session on health care reform.
Harwell said no one wants a special session. She understands it’s difficult to vote on a health care program when an election or Supreme Court ruling could change everything.
House Republicans can learn, and perhaps already have, that it was a mistake from the perspective of constitutionalists and conservatives to select Beth Harwell as speaker and to allow her unchecked discretion in the appointment of substantially all leadership positions in the House. As to the other caucus leadership seats which are filled by vote of the caucus, some of the rank and file may now be better aware as to whether those seats were filled with the best conservatives for the tasks.
Now certainly, there are big issues of government which require attention other than firearms issues. These include the budget, the 10th Amendment sovereignty of the state, illegal immigration, political corruption, fair and logical redistricting for similar communities, a cost-effective education system, and other functions which are properly the venue of state government.
But does this mean that constitutionally recognized and protected rights deserve no attention? Does this mean that promises to repeal infringements can be placed at most on a back burner? Does this mean that pet projects and “big business” demands (greased with financial support and perks) should take a priority?
When the primary mission is partisan politics, the constitution, the role of government and the rights of the citizen take a second seat to re-election and making decisions based primarily on the political perception thereof for campaign enhancements.
If Tennessee’s firearms owners and other conservative groups want to see a government that functions with priority on constitutional and conservative standards as the litmus test of proposed legislation rather than “how can this be used against a Republican in the next election” then perhaps Tennesseans need to elect and demand leadership who can put those priorities of stewardship first.