Thank God the state legislature is back in session. When they’re gone, political columnists are forced to take up serious topics like the deputy governor lobbying subordinates on local political issues, U.S. national vulnerability to cyber-attack and the police chief threatening to storm out of a neighborhood meeting. But now that America’s dumbest criminals have reconvened their lawmaking body, it’s easy street for journalistic bottom-feeders to meet deadlines.
To wit: Senate Bill 3794 (House Bill 3798), legislation that would make it illegal to sell, advertise, publish or exhibit to another person “any three-dimensional device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs….” For that matter, if you offer to show someone your dildo collection—or possess a vibrator with the intent to show it to someone—you’d be violating this proposed state law. And don’t even think about wholesaling those three-dimensional sex toys.
Of course, as with all good public policy, state Sen. Charlotte Burks and Rep. Eric Swafford have included a few exemptions for responsible dildo-users. College students and faculty are allowed to enter the sex-toy trade—as long as they are “teaching or pursuing a course of study related to such device,” like Auto-Erotic Stimulation 101. Your doctor or psychologist will similarly be authorized to prescribe the regular use of a sex toy “in the course of medical or psychological treatment or care.” And finally, employees of historical societies, museums, public libraries and—wait for it—school libraries are allowed to traffic in devices named Thruster, The Emperor and The Horny Hare, provided they’re doing their official duties. That means the Carnton Plantation would remain free to put up that “Dildos of the Antebellum” exhibit Robert Hicks has been pitching.
What do Burks and Swafford have against genital stimulation? Your guess is as good as ours. At press time, staff members hadn’t returned messages left Tuesday morning, probably because it’s hard to defend such stupid ideas. Attorneys for the state of Georgia couldn’t defend them either: two weeks ago, a federal appeals court overturned portions of a similar Georgia law on the grounds that advertising bans violate free speech rights.
Nonetheless, this Tennessee legislative tag-team went ahead and introduced their bill last Thursday, and on Monday, it passed a perfunctory first reading. In other Monday developments, Tennesseans died from a lack of health care, remained poorly educated and were among the most obese state populations in the nation.
Last week, local attorney Bill Farmer emailed a complaint to the Metro legal department about potentially unfair campaign tactics in the citywide public defender race. Kelvin Jones, executive director of the Metro Human Relations Commission, is challenging incumbent public defender Ross Alderman—but he’s also keeping his day job at the HRC. The problem, wrote Farmer, is that Jones’ Human Relations spots, which air on WPLN radio and, indirectly, Metro government access Channel 3, urge people to contact him by name.
“Prior to Mr. Jones filing a qualifying petition for the office of Metro Public Defender last week, this announcement was self-serving at best,” wrote Farmer, who chairs the Metro Civil Service Commission. “Since Mr. Jones is now campaigning for the office of Public Defender, it has become a political advertisement. Our public access channels have not and should not be used to promote individual candidates for office.”
Jones strongly disagrees that his agency is running political ads. “I think that’s all ridiculous,” he tells the Scene. “Every department has a point of contact.” Besides, he says, “I’m not doing anything different now than I’ve been doing for years.”
The legal department, headed by former public defender Karl Dean, is staying out of it. “Based on the information that we have, we don’t see a problem with disseminating government information on a government-access channel,” says city attorney Lora Fox.
Maria Salas, a local attorney who serves on that body, confirms that Jones has included his name in the ads ever since taking the job in 2004. Furthermore, she notes, he asked the executive committee’s approval to run for public defender and assured them he would take personal time off to campaign. He seems to be taking all proper precautions, says Salas, who, incidentally, is a longtime Alderman supporter.
In a race between lawyers for a lawyering job, might as well just let the lawyers sort it out.
Phil’s corporate health care leadership
For a guy who’s trying to cast himself as a smart governor with a national health care profile, Phil Bredesen sure did come across as a dopey pushover Sunday at the National Governors’ Conference. He had a front-row seat for Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott’s address to the gaggle of governors, in which Scott claimed the world’s largest retailer was working to improve health care for its employees—and the world at large—but admitted some shortcomings on that front.
You’d think Phil would have taken a skeptical tone toward Scott’s rhetoric—which came complete with an offer to meet personally with every governor interested in meaningful health care reform—especially considering that a year ago, public money provided health coverage for 25 percent of the company’s Tennessee workforce.
But no, at the governors’ conference, a doe-eyed Phil used the first audience “question” for some backslapping with his corporate brother. “I’d like to get first in line for that conversation, and I’m very close to you as well,” he said, characterizing his apparently tight relationship with Scott. “We’d love to do it…. Thank you.”
Once a CEO, always a CEO.