The hypocrisy of Tennessee Democrats

The hypocrisy of Tennessee Democrats

January 12th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

The Tennessee General Assembly has finished the first week of its 2013 session in the state Capitol.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The hypocrisy of the Democratic lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly is stunning.

After less than one week in session, Democrats in the state House and Senate have called on Republican lawmakers to enact stricter rules regarding government transparency and get state government out of local decision making.

Those ideas are needed now -- and were needed even more when the Democrats controlled state government. Of course, when Democrats controlled the state legislature and governor's mansion, they weren't interested in open government and local autonomy.

The Democrats' "it's good for thee, but not for me" attitude is evident by simply looking back a few years.

When the legislative session began last week, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, pushed to apply the state's open meetings law to the Senate. "If Republicans want open government, they can join with us and support this proposal," Kyle said. "By amending the rules, their deliberations will be subject to public scrutiny, as should be the standard in state government."

Making the General Assembly subject to the same open government rules that apply to local governments and state boards and commissions is much needed and long overdue.

In 2003, when Democrats controlled the Senate, however, Kyle was singing a much different tune. When then-state Sen. David Fowler, a Republican from Signal Mountain, introduced a bill to make the Senate comply with open meetings laws, Kyle refused to sponsor the legislation and did nothing to prevent the measure from withering on the vine.

Apparently Kyle is only for open government when he and his party aren't powerful enough to have anything to hide.

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In an address by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Alexander called on the federal government to allow local governments to have more control. Kyle, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and the Tennessee Democratic Party issued news releases calling on Republicans in the state legislature to apply Alexander's words to state and local government as well. "Republicans applauded Sen. Alexander when he talked about local control, and I hope the governor and the Republican members will heed his advice," said Kyle in the news release.

That's certainly a sentiment that most Republican lawmakers, local officials and Tennesseans, in general, can agree with.

But it seems that Kyle and Fitzhugh have forgotten their own history of sponsoring legislation that would put unfair burdens on local governments.

Kyle pushed legislation that would take away the rights of cities in Tennessee to determine when to hold their municipal elections. He also wanted to dictate where truck stops could be built in certain counties.

Fitzhugh sponsored a bill to restrict how local governments could use funds collected by hotel taxes and pushed to dictate how counties could give tax breaks to industrial development projects.

For decades, Tennessee's Democrats could've made state government more transparent and less burdensome to cities and counties. Instead, they operated in secret and bullied local governments.

Now that they don't have the power to do anything about it, they're suddenly for local control and open government.

What a bunch of hypocrites.