Green another day 

Legislature defends consumers?
In a bizarre change for the legislature, which usually plays the role of industry lapdog, the House Commerce Committee has just killed a bill to make it easier for natural gas companies to raise rates. After much agonizing, lawmakers consigned the bill to a summer study committee. Several legislators actually had the audacity to speak up for consumers, shocking lobbyists during the hearing.

"I'm convinced at this point right now I feel you're going to sock it to the consumers," declared Rep. Eddie Yokley, D-Greeneville, whose motion killed the bill.

The bill was a real piece of work. It would have essentially done away with full-blown regulatory hearings in which natural gas companies are forced to justify rate increases. Instead, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority would have conducted streamlined annual rate reviews, and we all know what that would have meant. Rate hikes of up to 5 percent a year would have been allowed under the bill.

To add insult to injury, consumers actually would have been charged a $2 "regulatory tax surcharge" each year to raise money for the regulatory authority to conduct its sham hearings. Jeff Woods

Maybe we'll green another day
So Mayor Karl Dean wants Nashville to be the greenest city in the Southeast. Good! Goals are good!

There's just one problem: The city has no money. Not only that, we have less than no money. And next year or the year after that, we'll probably have to raise property taxes just to make up for that money we don't have.

This is not good. And it's worse for those green goals. Because green things, at least right now, cost more than the things that are not green.

A very small example: Golf carts.

Gas golf carts aren't green. Golf is a sport (this is a point not up for debate) that doesn't require motorization. Still, because some people are old, tired, lazy or in need of a place to keep their beer, they drive them anyway. And this has environmental costs that are not green.

The solution: Electric carts. Electric carts reduce emissions and are actually cheaper to maintain. So why then, when it came time to sign a new five-year contract for golf carts last week, did Metro parks choose gas (again) over electric? Money, that's why. Or a lack thereof.

As Sally Davis, superintendent of golf operations, explained to us, the cost to retrofit the cart barns (the place where carts recharge) is prohibitive. Something to the tune of $50,000 to $75,000 for the six golf courses under Metro's control. And despite the obvious long-term advantages for the plug-in models, that means, for another five years at least, we'll all be choking on the fumes created by so many weekend duffers. (Not really. But you get the point.)

A small example, yes. But just another reason why the title of Greenest City in the Southeast won't come easy. Or cheap. Caleb Hannan

Trigger happy goobers
Here's more proof of just how much safer Tennessee has become since a couple hundred thousand highly trained, law-abiding goobers started obtaining state-issued permits to waltz around with guns on their hips. The latest chapter in their madcap adventures occurred in Knoxville, where innocent bystanders were alarmed to hear a gunshot ring out on a bike path. Police investigated and discovered two armed men, one of them decked out in military style clothing and carrying a fake police badge.

When police appeared, they ran, but the cops caught them. They told police they fired a shot at somebody who tried to rob them the day before. Guess the robber was just hanging around on the bike path for these two brave vigilantes to come back. The guy with the fake badge had a handgun carry permit.

This news comes after gun licensees have been accused of their fourth murder in three months. In Shelby County, Thomas Pate, 26, of Bartlett, was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife, Micah, also 26.

Two days after this killing, the Tennessee House took two minutes to vote to close handgun permit records to the public. If the National Rifle Association succeeds in sealing these records, you won't read stories like this anymore because we won't know when criminals have permits. Jeff Woods

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