There were some eager press reports this week proclaiming that the state legislature had just voted to lower taxes in Tennessee. The truth of the matter is nothing to cheer about. R. Neal lays out the math:
"... to summarize, the 0.1% get a $20,000 tax break and everybody else gets a $3.50 tax break. How very Republican!"
Just watch - this legislature will send out re-election campaign shouts of "We Lowered Taxes!"
Meanwhile, expect more cuts to education, more invasion of your personal lives, zero accountability for campaign donors, etc etc. It's the Conservative state of Tennessee where the state works to conserve money and influence into the smallest number of hands.
I'd been reading about several giant corporate backers of a private nationwide organization - ALEC - which has been steadily writing legislation and getting states to pass them by having members of state legislators become 'board members' of ALEC - and that recently these huge companies are dropping their support for ALEC.
And the Foundation isn't alone - Kraft Foods, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Intuit, McDonald's, Wendy's -- all have stopped the support and made sure the press and the online world knows it. It's good news, but it's quite telling that for many years, these companies have been working hard to increase their control of our cities and towns and our nation as a whole. Two of the best blog writers in Tennessee took up the story today:
R. Neal at KnoxViews: "State Reps. Curry Todd and Steve McDaniel are members of the illustrious
ALEC Board of Directors, and Todd is ALEC's Tennessee state chairman.
You may recall that Rep. Todd recently helped kill the "Influence Disclosure Act" that would would have required disclosing the source of astroturf legislation such as ALEC's."
Southern Beale: "But as ALEC and the Chamber wade into the weeds of extremist ideology,
they’re alienating some of their biggest corporate supporters, whose
profits depend on being a little less reactionary and appealing to a
broad range of consumers."
ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council, is a hardcore conservative group, with more than 2,000 state legislators from all 50 states (about one-third of all existing legislators), some 85 members of Congress and 14 sitting or previous governors. They've been steadily cranking out what they innocently call "model legislation". Pre-written and crafted for easy passage, these bills touch nearly every aspect of your life and of government and get handed out to members and they file the bills in state after state. As Neal pointed out, Rep. Curry killed a law to require legislators disclose how and who funds or writes legislation they present. ALEC demands secrecy, but the secret is finally out.
Repairing the damage done by a national, self-serving and deceptive campaign meant to erase each state's government will take too many years and hours -- and electing new legislators not yet addicted to the corporate trough. As of now, ALEC will fight to keep the power they've taken - and they'll seek other ways to move and act in secret by forming new groups with new names not yet tarnished with deception.
Gov. Haslam took the stand of not taking a stand on science education in Tennessee and has allowed a new law to go into effect which devalues science, education and apparently, the role of Tennessee's governor in the state's politics.
Here's his press release on the new law:
"NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on HB 368/SB 893:
“I have reviewed the final language of HB 368/SB 893 and assessed the
legislation’s impact. I have also evaluated the concerns that have
been raised by the bill. I do not believe that this legislation changes
the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the
curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe
that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our
“The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and
Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring
clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met
this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill but will
allow it to become law without my signature.”
So he won't defend science, he won't demand the legislature be more accurate, he won't fight for the highest levels of educational achievement. He just gave up on all of it.
"There are things that are possible, and
maybe that’s what’s alarming you,” he told his critics during one
subcommittee meeting. “There are things that are probable. It is
possible that Elvis Presley is alive. It’s not very probable.”
Speaker Ron Ramsey blames criticism of the legislature on the news
media, which he says focuses on the weird and controversial."
It is inevitable now that some Tennessee school system will have to fight in court over this law - an expensive battle which is likely to find the law at fault. It's happened quite recently -
reference work would be a 2005 decision by a federal judge in
Pennsylvania striking down a school board policy requiring that students
be made aware of "gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other
theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent
design." In that case, Judge John E. Jones concluded that intelligent
design and teaching about "gaps" and "problems" in evolutionary theory
are "creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms
Religious motives aside, the Tennessee bill
reflects the view that there is a significant scientific controversy
about the basic accuracy of Darwinian theory. There isn't. But what of
the "dissenting scientific views" the Discovery Institute cites? It is
true that a tiny minority of scientists embrace some version of
creationism or intelligent design (an even smaller cohort than the
minority of scientists who question human contribution to global
warming). There's nothing wrong with a biology teacher acknowledging
that fact as long as she makes it clear that evolutionary theory is the
linchpin of the biological sciences, including medicine. It isn't
censoring a point of view to inform students that it is subscribed to by
a tiny fringe.
Like such measures in other states, the Tennessee
bill contains beguiling language about the importance of helping
students to develop critical thinking skills. That is a vital part of
education, especially in the more interactive atmosphere of a high
school (though it is often opposed by religious conservatives who decry
"relativism" in the classroom). But even in high school, and especially
in science class, teachers have an obligation to the truth. The truth in
this case, discomfiting as it may be to some Tennesseans, is that
evolution is not "just a theory."