Horses in congressional race for time

Tell Congress not to let this session end without a gallop to the rescue of America's walking horses. Tell your senators and representatives to pass the PAST Act now.

For the past two years, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, every state veterinary medical association in the United States, and numerous other groups and individuals -- including many former walking horse industry leaders -- have been urging Congress to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act to stiffen protections for Tennessee Walking horses.

The bill has bipartisan support from more than 360 lawmakers, yet it languishes because "some high-ranking officials [some our own] do not have the guts to cross party lines and support a law that is based in common sense and the recognition of our human responsibility to protect animals that cannot protect themselves," according to W. Ron DeHaven, a doctor of veterinary medicine and the executive vice president and CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The walking horse industry opposes the bill, saying the Horse Protection Act passed in 1970 is enough. That's obviously not true. If it were, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would not have found that roughly 20 percent of all entries in this year's Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, the largest annual U.S. walking horse show, were in violation of the 44-year-old act. If the original law were enough, one in every five horses entering the arena wouldn't show signs of abuse.

In Congress, the primary holdup has been Republican lawmakers from Tennessee and Kentucky -- states where the walking horse industry is strong. In Kentucky, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell kept the bill from coming to a vote, while Tennessee's Rep. Marsha Blackburn tied the bill up in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which she has been vice chairwoman.

Tennessee's Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Diane Black gave them cover, co-sponsoring a bill leaving protection in the hands of the industry with veterinary oversight. The trouble is the industry has long claimed having veterinary oversight: The Celebration's non-USDA inspection team was headed up by a veterinarian. DeHaven correctly points out that the veterinarian associations -- not vets in the hire of the walking horse industry -- support the new, tougher PAST Act.

A sensible child predator rule

You may have have heard last week about the Douglas County, Ga., elementary school principal who was convicted in federal court of soliciting sex from minors online. Prosecutors said he was met at a house door by undercover agents. He had a condom in his pocket.

You also may have heard -- though probably not, since it's not as sexy a story -- about Georgia Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, planning in the upcoming legislative session to introduce a bill he has named the Georgia Hidden Predator Act.

The bill will put a 30-year extension on the now 2-year civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims.

It's a sensible move, since research shows that child sex abuse victims often will not openly identify their abuser until they are in their 40s and 50s.

The bill will not revive expired criminal statutes of limitation, as that would be unconstitutional.

It's a idea worthy of debate.

Veteran support waves on bridge

Last week, 30 new American flags were raised on Veterans Bridge to replace the 30 put there in May after the city began its Veterans Bridge Flag Initiative to ask citizens to raise $40,000 to take up where an anonymous donor had once worked, paying to replace the summer-flying flags once a year.

The city's initiative was so successful that the flags now fly year-round, rather than only during the summer when the weather is kinder to cloth.

The retired summer flags were folded last week and presented to the families who donated them in honor of their loved ones who have served our country. The initiative continues, and any group or individual can honor a service man or woman by donating the $75 cost of a flag. Honorees receive a proclamation recognizing their service to the country and proclaiming the pole number from which their flag flies.

Good work, all.