Friday, June 02, 2006

June 2, 2006 Quickie "votes" to protect incumbents and give automatic pension increases to TN legislators


Blogs and newspapers are a-buzz about the last-minute "votes" in the Tennessee Legislature to pass self-serving legislation with little or no public discussion.

A lot of newspapers are calling for the Governor's veto on some of the last-minute measures and rightly so.

One bill increases the governor's salary from $85,000 to $155,000. It makes adjustments in state employee benefits, raises the pay for former governors, and links future pension increases for lawmakers to cost-of-living increases.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, that last item (pension increases for legislators) isn't spelled out on a General Assembly Web site that is supposed to include pertinent information about legislative decisions.

During the last minute flurry of vote-taking, members of the legislature also decided to make it harder for write-in candidates to qualify for a spot in the general election.

Currently, write-in candidates have to get 5% of the total votes cast in the primary (with a minimum of 25) to qualify for the general election. The new "incumbent protection" bill says that the write-in candidate has to get 5% of the total number of registered voters!

The Commercial Appeal in a June 1 Editorial, "A nest gets more comfy" points out that whether these changes are appropriate or not, Tennesseans deserve prior notice and a chance to express their opinions on such important bills.

Significant changes shouldn't be rushed through both chambers--particularly when some legislators got to cast two or three votes for the proposal!

In the Tennessee House, some legislators pushed their own button to vote for the "incumbent protection" bill and then they reached over to another (absent) lawmaker's desk and cast another vote in favor of the bill.

We always laugh when we hear someone say "vote early and vote often." In the Tennessee House, it's no laughing matter. For some Representatives, it's "Vote at the last-minute and vote at every button you can reach!"

These bills shouldn't be signed by the Governor or even allowed to become law without his signature. A VETO is the proper answer here.

A session that began with an ethics bill sure doesn't need to end like this---even if it's always been done this way before!

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