Redneck reality TV has nothing on the Tennessee General Assembly

Redneck reality TV has nothing on the Tennessee General Assembly

January 26th, 2014 in Opinion Times

The Tennessee Capitol

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The Tennessee General Assembly apparently is doing its best to audition for the next redneck reality television show.

Last week, State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, refiled a bill he says would protect our right to say "Merry Christmas" and protect Christmas celebrations in public schools.

Of course, those rights haven't been endangered, but never you mind. Pretending there is a war on Christmas has helped Sarah Palin sell her new book, and stirring the fear pot has helped Fox News get more clicks on the Fox Nation opinion website.

Campfield said last fall he planned legislation to reassure students and staffers they can celebrate Christmas in schools without "fear of lawsuits" from the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has said Campbell was addressing a problem that did not exist.

Then there is Sen. Mae Beavers, a tea party Republican from Mt. Juliet, Tenn. She's on a roll.

On Jan. 14, she pert' near confessed open rebellion on common sense government with a bill to make enforcement of federal gun control measures in Tennessee illegal. The bill states that federal laws regarding gun control would not be followed in the state. Meanwhile, Campfield has introduced another bill that would ban local options to prohibit guns in parks. Note: Tennessee is home to several major gun makers and ammunition sales companies. And, yes, the NRA endorses both Beavers and Campfield.

Beavers, a three-term Middle Tennessee senator who is running again in 2014, claims to be a founder of the anti-government tea party. So it stands to reason that she has also filed a bill that would prevent any state agency from cooperating in any way with the Affordable Care Act.

And this week, she really showed off some redneck advocacy: Claiming to support consumer access, she is helping meth makers continue to have a gravy-train access to over-the-counter allergy medicines that contain ephedrine - a key ingredient for the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine. She is opposing a proposal by Gov. Bill Haslam to bring back, on a limited basis, a requirement for prescriptions for the medications.

Beavers was, by the way, the author of legislation that created a registry for over-the-counter sales of the medicines that contain the drug ingredient. But law enforcement officials say the registry doesn't work because meth-makers get "smurfs" to buy the drugs for them.

On Wednesday, Beavers responded to a study by Dr. Martin Kennedy of Informa Economics. Kennedy's economic impact analysis states that adopting a prescription requirement for pseudoephedrine products in Tennessee would result in more than 497,000 additional physician office visits for Tennesseans at a direct cost of $44.3 million annually.

The study was funded by, you guessed it, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, one of the oldest trade groups in the nation, representing "the leading manufacturers and marketers of over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements," according to the association's website.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association also has lobbied heavily against prescription-only city ordinance approaches to Tennessee's meth epidemic. Between May 5, 2009, and Aug. 6, 2013, the group reported spending between $370,000 and $785,000 to hire lobbyists and for lobbying-related expenses, according to a Times Free Press tally of expenditures from the group's disclosures to the Tennessee Ethics Commission.

And, yes, about a third of Mae Beavers campaign contributions in recent years are from health industries and groups, according to Project Vote Smart.

Move over, "Duck Dynasty." This show is already off to a great start.