House passes 'knee-jerk' ban on travel to California

Friday, April 28, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 17
By Sam Stockard

Despite a Memphis’ lawmakers concerns about a “knee-jerk” reaction, the House passed legislation Monday aimed at a California travel ban against states passing anti-gay laws.

Rep. Raumesh Akbari raised questions about the resolution brought by Rep. Tilman Goins, asking him if it would make Tennessee look as “petty” as California if it enacts a prohibition on state-funded travel to Tennessee and several other states that passed laws in 2016 considered unfair to the LGBT community.

The resolution, brought mainly by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, notes the California ban stems from a new Tennessee law allowing counselors to refer patients to other counselors if they disagree with their lifestyle. It passed 73-20 in the House after rolling through the Senate on a 25-3 vote and is headed for Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

“Through economic jihad they’re trying to wage war against states who don’t agree with them,” said Goins, a Morristown Republican from East Tennessee.

He pointed out Tennessee could find several reasons to object to California, including the way it handles finances, and contended states should respect each other’s sovereignty. California also targeted Kansas, Mississippi and North Carolina, which lost its bid to hold the NBA All-Star game last year after passing a counseling bill similar to Tennessee’s.

In answer to Akbari, Goins said if California persists in its travel ban, then Tennessee should do the same. The resolution urges the governor and Senate and House speakers to ban state-sponsored travel and state-funded travel to any other state that prohibits such travel to Tennessee, “so that the other states feel the pain and not Tennessee.”

It encourages 48 other states to refrain from “imposing their unfounded moral judgment on their sister states as California has done in order to prevent escalating foolishness.”

The measure is to be sent to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments and American Legislative Exchange Council so it can be given to other lawmakers to form plans against “this type of blackmail.”

The first part of the resolution states Tennessee is “pleasantly surprised” California won’t send economic development teams to Tennessee to try to recruit its businesses, even though Tennessee would be able to travel there for economic purposes.

Calling the move by California “shortsighted,” Goins said the measure is designed to bring people together to develop rules “without knee-jerk reactions.”

Said Akbari in response, “If their reaction is knee-jerk, why would our reaction be the same?”

Goins, though, said this measure is an “attempt to take the high road.”

It also points out Tennessee “is puzzled” at California’s move to prohibit state college and university athletic teams from traveling to Tennessee to play in games such as the NCAA South Regional held this March at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

Nevertheless, UCLA traveled to Memphis and played in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. University of Memphis officials said the travel ban didn’t apply to UCLA in that case because the NCAA paid for its travel, not the state of California.

Sam Stockard can be reached at