My bill on ethics reform was killed today in house state and local govt. sub committee. It dealt with conflicts of interest, for instance where a member is voting on a bill that would directly benefit the legislator financially, or benefit an immediate family member or business partner. The bill also addressed the use of public funds, time, or personnel for personal gain or political activity except where already provided by law. It also addressed using the state seal on stationary for fund raising purposes.
I knew the Democrat controlled committee would try to kill the bill as quickly as possible in order to create as little attention or “mess” as possible. I asked for a roll call vote on the bill so everyone had to go on record. I also asked to divide the bill into parts to force voting section by section.
Some questions were asked in an attempt to muddy the water on the bill-and those questions were answered and clarified. Next, representative Rinks started to speak and ask questions.
It transpired something like this:
Rinks: What about the use of the state seal on a blog? We have to watch out for them, these blogs can be a problem.
The legal staff responded that the bill had nothing to do with that.But evryone got the point.
A few more comments were made and then there seemed to be agreement by the majority that they would need to study this bill over the summer (a way of killing bills.) I brought up the fact that I had asked to divide the question (so they would have to kill the bill piece by piece showing Tennesseans their insincere desire for accountability in ethics and transparency in government) but Chairman Miller said I was out of order.
The bill was killed--all Republicans voted yes to save it, Democrats voted no. As I was thanking the committee, a State Representative on the committee(I believe it was Rep. Jones) laughed and said something to the effect of “go write that in your little blog.”
Well Representative Jones, I've written it. More obstructionism and stalling on ethics legislation, and possibly as bad, the revelation of a general feeling of disdain, if not antagonism for open government. To criticize a blog-which is only a tool to communicate with Tennesseans-- should speak volumes to Tennessee taxpayers.
It is ironic to hear such antagonism about a means of telling Tennesseans what is going on in Nashville--after all, government belongs to the people. Nashville isn't the personal playground for a privileged few elected officials at least it shouldn't be.