What happened to Legislature’s more unusual bills?

Friday, May 17, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 20

The General Assembly has rolled out of town, but not without leaving some sordid debris in its wake.

The House speaker’s chief of staff was obliged to resign over sex, drug and perhaps rock ‘n’ roll indiscretions, and the speaker himself came under fire for lewd texts he has termed “locker room talk.” (That explanation seems vaguely familiar.)

That messiness aside, here’s an update on some legislation I told you about, and some I didn’t:

Rep. Rick Tillis’s effort to extend daylight saving time to the entire year in Tennessee made it through the House and the Senate. Sen. Steven Dickerson of Nashville, sponsor of the Senate version, said in urging that body’s approval, “This bill is wildly popular among our constituents throughout the state.”

It is also, as he pointed out, “just a suggestion for the federal government.” Nothing will happen unless Congress allows states to make daylight time permanent.

Which is to say: Don’t hold your breath.

On the issue of state emblems, I can report with the indifference of a cat person that the bluetick coonhound is now the official state dog. The measure attracted not a single dissenting vote in either the House or the Senate, although the record does note that one senator was present but did not vote.

I’ll see if I can get his/her name, so that pro-bluetick forces can mount a primary challenge to him/her forthwith.

Similarly, the Robert Spicer Memorial Buck Dance Championship is now the official buck dancing competition of the State of Tennessee. But I should add a clarifying note: In my column on the topic, I said that one legislator had asked the sponsor if buck dancing and clogging are basically the same thing. She said they are.

A reader, Bill Story, set me straight on that.

“There is a difference between the two,” Bill wrote. “However, they are both an Appalachian-style dance step. Clogging has a unique high step with a double toe tap and dance routines included in the process. Buck dancing is more of a shuffle-style movement with the feet only but also very fast-paced and also has a form of tap but not the same kick step as clogging.”

As someone whose dance skills are pretty much limited to the Twist and the Funky Chicken, I defer to Bill, who ID’d himself as “an old performing clogger.”

Rep. James (Micah) Van Huss’s latest effort to have the Tennessee Constitution assert that “liberties do not come from government, but from Almighty God” passed the House 73 to 17, but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thank God.

Rep. David Hawk’s bill to establish a Tennessee Pioneer award granted by the legislature never returned for consideration after being pulled for some fine-tuning. I hope it returns next session with some sort of Tri-Star component.

A measure mandating an online poll to designate an official state recording artist stalled in both houses. Luckily. As I mentioned, I feared a Generation Z hijacking of the poll could have resulted in a Taylor Swift victory, instead of one for the logical Elvis.

Among notes of regret, it’s too bad that a bill defining “breakfast” for “specific service-sign purposes” was taken off notice in subcommittee apparently without significant debate. I’d like to have heard the explanation behind the “public welfare requiring it.”

In any event, lest the legislature and I leave the world wondering, here’s how it would have been defined: “‘breakfast’ means the first meal of the day commonly eaten in the ante meridiem.”

I kind of like breakfast better at suppertime, but so it goes.

I’m also sorry to say that Senate Bill 901 by Sen. Steve Southerland was withdrawn on the very day it was introduced. Among other things, the bill would have made it legal for dogs to enter barber shops.

The question why comes to mind, for which I have no answer. Currently, only “service animals, fish for decorative purposes, and birds in cages” are permitted in such establishments. I wonder if blueticks, by virtue of their new official state status, might get a pass.

I’m not at all sorry to say that Rep. Bruce Griffey’s resolution seeking to commend the White House occupant’s efforts to end birthright citizenship died in subcommittee. I’m quite happy, in fact, to report that Griffey’s entire package of anti-immigrant bills fell short, in one way or another.

And I’m pretty tickled to also report that, other than window-dressing memorials for sports teams and such, it appears that not a single measure for which Griffey was the primary sponsor made it through the legislature.

There is some justice in the world after all.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com.