Robin Smith, former Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and congressional candidate.File Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press
In your favorite episode of "Matlock" or "Perry Mason," the "ah-hah" moments were frequently preceded by the phrase, "Let the record show."
After the 2011-2012 Tennessee General Assembly, the Legislative Record, published on Nov. 5, 2012, shows some pretty revealing information that disproves the criticism from many.
You remember the labels of "crazy" and the "worst legislature in the country" awarded by those clarions of intellect at Mother Jones magazine, who screeched about Tennessee's effort to address sex education.
In reality, teaching high-school students in Nashville how to put a condom in their mouths and then place them on an anatomical model triggered the legislation. Maybe that's how some want our education dollars spent. But I'd bet most people oppose that.
Then you have the "Don't Say Gay" bill that gained headlines from the Huffington Post, the Daily Kos and the Los Angeles Times, just to name a few. The actual Senate Bill 49 and accompanying House Bill 229 simply stated, "The general assembly recognizes the sensitivity of particular subjects that are best explained and discussed in the home. Human sexuality is a complex subject with societal, scientific, psychological and historical implications; those implications are best understood by children with sufficient maturity to grasp their complexity. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality."
Whew! We have to be relieved that such radical thinking of our state legislature noting the best place to teach about sexuality for those in kindergarten through the eighth grade to be in the home was exposed and ridiculed. Who's really the laughing stock?
Let the 2012 Tennessee Legislative Record show that a handful of bills were given outrageous titles and labels by the press and opponents. (Sometimes, I wonder if they're not one in the same.) These bills that numbered fewer than a dozen over the two-year session grabbed the headlines while our elected state legislators actually balanced the state's budget, protected Tennessee taxpayers from higher taxes and cultivated a growing business community with:
• 139 Senate resolutions
• 932 Senate joint resolutions
• 3,817 Senate bills
• 307 House resolutions
• 1,181 House joint resolutions
• 3,887 House bills
So, while it may serve the purpose of those who want homosexuality taught to kindergartners and your 10th-grader to have the life experience of placing a condom on a mannequin with their mouth as "sex education," the outlandish labels placed on legitimate legislation do not serve the people of our state as we deserve.
The opponents of these few pieces of legislation certainly own the criticism leveled by a far-left national media and should enjoy their success in having Tennessee's General Assembly painted as hillbillies. I do have to question why an active citizen is left to dig out this information and formulate the truth.
Granted, not every piece of legislation can be defended as an effective use of time. However, Tennessee has a part-time legislature that actually does a great deal of work in just a few months. Tennessee is identified in countless business and financial publications as a state favorable for business and a historically low unemployment rate.
Sadly, there's such glee in the insults around the titles awarded legislation that, if honestly examined, is not radical.
As Tennessee's 108th General Assembly convenes tomorrow, let's watch what the record shows, not what elicits electrifying headlines. Let's hope, too, that when such deliberate acts of confusion and distortion are used our elected officials will make a strong effort to clarify and, indeed, set the record straight.
Robin Smith is a wife and mother living in Hixson. She served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009.