First to have real reform, you have to take the power to do this away
from the legislature. I'm not saying that the current group working on reform is bad or not doing the work, but there is, and will continue to be the perception of "the foxes guarding the hen house" telling the other foxes to "get out of the hen house." It does not look good no matter the result.
Other problems involve actual passage--as an example, look at the "reform" attempted last year. It passed both the House and Senate, yet Lt. Governor Wilder stopped reform while giving his flock coverage by appointing it to a summer study committee. Legislators were then able to go home to their districts and talk about how they passed a big reform bill so they could get re-elected. But there is only one little problem: oops! Lt. Governor Wilder never appointed a committee and it all disappeared.
Perhaps this ethics bill is floating somewhere in the cosmos. Maybe, just maybe, Wilder can call upon the ghost of some dead president to retrieve the bill before Tennessee taxpayers get taken to the cleaners... again. Perhaps Senator Ford could serve Wilder as a medium to channel the bill from its undisclosed location back into the halls of the legislature. I've heard of tabling a bill---but if it has been sent to the cosmos...well, that's a bit extreme.
I think a new independent nonpartisan group (maybe a branch of the election commission) needs to have power. A $50.00 fine is a joke for the money some are taking in.
As the late Senator Koella used to say, if we're going to pass a law, let's put some teeth into it. Let's forget about a $50 fine, and instead press real charges.
These criminals should be dealt with as harshly as those they took advantage of. In some cases, a felony charge is not out of the question.
The final piece of reform should be an elected state-wide Attorney General who does not have to tow the line for anyone but the taxpayers. That means not owing his/her job to the Tennessee Supreme Court. If the voters aren't satisfied, he/she can be voted out and someone who will do the job can be put in. That is accountability--and accountability is sorely lacking.
An appointed Attorney General only has to keep a few people happy, that is, the justices who appoint him.
Next time I'll discuss some of the rules I would hope this new group would come up with and why ....