Thursday, March 07, 2013

Sen. Rand Paul Ignores 30 U.S. States Wanting Drones of their Own

Some faux drama brought out by Sen. Rand Paul wailing about the use of surveillance or armed drones ignored a basic fact - U.S. states want their own drone systems. That includes Tennessee.

"It's a race to see which state will be the first to pass legislation governing domestic drone use. Coming out of the gate first was Florida, which passed a bill through several committees in the Senate back in January. This is notable since the Florida legislature didn’t officially convene until March 5—they thought this issue was so important that they moved the bill during their committee organizing sessions. Then Montana pulled up from behind, passing two drones bills all the way through their Senate by mid-February. But, Virginia raced ahead, sending two bills to their governor’s desk by the beginning of March, where they currently await signature.

"Drone legislation has been proposed in at least 30 states so far. As part of my job working with ACLU affiliates nationwide to analyze and respond to the various proposals, I have read every single one of these bills, and I thought it would be useful to summarize what we’re seeing in this legislation.

The good news is that the vast majority of the bills require a probable cause warrant in order for law enforcement to use drones to collect information to use against someone in court."

The status of all such legislative action is here.

As for Sen. Paul, given that the Senate and House cannot even agree on creating the basic budgetary needs of the nation, perhaps other issues should prompt filibusters first.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Vouchers for Public School: Who Benefits?

Taking Tennessee taxpayer funds away from public schools and giving those funds to private schools - whether you call it "vouchers" or Opportunity Scholarships" - doesn't add up.

A good overview of the plans can be found here at Metropulse.

Other phrases being used in debates include "reform" and "choice" but the bottom line is - does this voucher plan aid students or private schools most?

State Democrats, via Roy Herron, offered the following this week:

"Tennessee is making gains in graduating high school students. Between 2002 and 2010, the state graduation rate went from 59.6 to 80.4 percent, gaining an average of 2.45 percent a year between 2006 and 2010. [Commercial Appeal, 2/25/13]

"And what are these “good schools” they’re talking about giving (with our tax dollars) “scholarships” to? They are private schools.

"Now, if it’s “school choice” you want, we’ve already got that in Tennessee. Nancy and I had the “choice” to send our children to any number of schools, including any number of public and private schools. That’s legal in Tennessee right now.

"We’ve got Governor’s Schools, Magnet Schools, STEM schools, public charters, private schools, and regular public schools like our three sons attended. And I know something about the quality of education they got—and so do their college professors."

Sunday, March 03, 2013

TN House Leader Says No Debate for Legislation

Business owners in TN are facing new orders via the State - employees with handgun conceal permits are allowed to use their vehicles to store weapons on business property.

Any merits aside, TN House Speaker, Republican Beth Harwell banned comments on the bill from any who might be opposed.

"Republican leaders called a caucus meeting before this morning’s session to make sure lawmakers were with the program. Their basic message? Let’s do this fast before voters wake up and realize just how contemptible we are. Reporters, including Pith informant Andrea Zelinski, were allowed into the meeting and happily tweeted away as Speaker Beth Harwell made her case for minimizing media coverage and political fallout.

"The less you say the better. … Just stay quiet ..." Harwell told Republicans."

Rep. Harwell also limited this session the number of bills each member can introduced - though certainly keeping that number low seems laudable, it also limits business from state debate.

"Harwell's new 15-bill limit has reduced the number of bills filed this year, as compared to last, by about one-third. The speakers have set a goal of adjourning by April 19. Under the normal schedule of legislators working four days per week, there will be 28 more days to deal with almost 1,400 bills."