Views from elsewhere in Tennessee
The following is a roundup of recent editorials from Tennessee members of The Associated Press. In some cases, the editorials have been edited for length. They do not reflect an editorial position of the AP but represent the opinions of the newspapers from which they are taken.
The Jackson Sun, Jan. 29
State Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, has it mostly right, but he needs to make up his mind. “It” is legislation that represents the first significant change to Tennessee’s Sunshine Law since it was passed in 1974.
McNally has taken the unusual step of introducing two versions of the bill — one the official version created by the study committee, of which McNally was chairman, and the other a scaled-back version that removes the provisions he doesn’t like.
Among the provisions he wants to remove is a controversial plan that would allow up to three officials of a public body to meet privately to discuss public business. We agree with his decision here. This is an ill-thought-out provision that would have the effect of gutting the existing law. If this provision were enacted, all it would take to legally sidestep the law would be for public bodies to meet in groups of three, then send a runner between them.
If there’s one area where we disagree with McNally, it’s in his desire to allow city councils and county commissions to close meetings where the purchase or sale of land is being discussed. The question we have is, why shouldn’t the public be privy to information about which land is being bought or sold?
McNally has the right idea. Open government is better government. We urge him to abandon this dual-bill approach and throw his considerable weight behind the version he really wants — legislation that guarantees more open government for all.
The (Clarksville) Leaf-Chronicle, Jan. 23
People who abuse animals should be subject to criminal charges and prosecution. No doubt about that.
Not only should such cruelty be punished because of what is done to the animal, but people who abuse animals oftentimes go on also to commit offenses against humans. By catching abusive tendencies early on, it’s hoped offenders can be moved off that destructive path.
All of this being said, we question a need to set up an animal abuser registry in Tennessee.
The state Legislature, however, is considering just that — a bill to create a database where convicted animal abusers would be registered. Among information available to the public would be the abuser’s name, age, convictions, address and photo.
But is there truly a public need to invest state resources in compiling and maintaining such a database?
The legislation says, “There is a compelling and necessary public interest that the public have information concerning persons convicted of severe animal abuse offenses … to adequately protect themselves and their animals.”
Tennessee has searchable databases for both a sex offender registry and a meth offender registry.
Both of those can be shown to produce a “compelling and necessary public interest.”
But an animal abuse database?
The bill’s sponsors may not be able to sell the need for that to the people of Tennessee.
Bristol Herald Courier, Jan. 23
Tennessee lawmakers will try again this year to close a loophole in the open container law that is costing the state money.
State Rep. John Lundberg, R-Bristol, is leading the latest charge to modify a portion of the law that critics deride as the “pass-the-bottle” provision. The law earned this moniker because it allows passengers to possess and consume alcohol in a moving vehicle and, presumably, could encourage a driver to hand off his open bottle of beer or other spirits to his passenger.
We urge lawmakers to follow Lundberg’s lead and fix the law. The present law provides needless wiggle room for drinking, but not yet intoxicated, drivers.
Simply put, drivers don’t need to be drinking. Their passengers don’t either.
Distracted drivers are now recognized as a primary factor in many crashes. And, a car full of partying passengers would certainly qualify as a distraction.
The law change wouldn’t encroach on the enjoyment of those who can hire a driver. It would make the state’s highways safer.
Already, Tennessee has forfeited federal highway dollars because lawmakers refused to tighten up the law. Tennessee is one of 11 states with laws that are less strict than federal requirements.
The state was projected to lose about $60 million in federal highway dollars as a result of the lax law by the end of last year, according to The Associated Press. That’s not an insignificant amount and there’s no real justification for it.
Also under Lundberg’s proposal, a passenger who possesses an open container of alcohol in a moving vehicle would be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. The present law allows this behavior.
Tennessee needs safer highways and it needs the funds to maintain them. For both of these reasons, closing the loophole makes sense.
Published in The Messenger 1.31.08