This has been a weird legislative session, but this whole Campfield vs. Planned Parenthood thing has got to be the strangest.
Here's the deal (you may remember we talked about this when Haslam was talking about how important it was for him to defund Planned Parenthood when he was running for governor): If you want to defund Planned Parenthood AND you don't want to lose federal money, you have to find someone else — either some state department or some local health department — who can take on that patient load and check for cancer and do pap smears and hand out birth control and all the things Planned Parenthood now does that that they get federal funding for (excluding abortions, which they do not receive federal funding for).
No health department in Memphis or Nashville is prepared, starting July 1, to see that many patients. So, if they cut funding to Planned Parenthood without having someone up and running to take its place, we lose those federal funds.
So that's been the dilemma — lose the federal funds and face lawsuits, or grandstand but let business go on as usual?
Stacey Campfield (R-Evil) put an amendment in the state budget that would strip Planned Parenthood of its funding. Yes, I guess he's trying to create jobs by helping lawyers have reasons to sue us. Whatever. The important point is that somehow, mysteriously, an amendment nullifying Campfield's amendment also got added to the budget.
Richard Locker at the Commercial Appeal broke the story:
It’s not clear who added the second provision but it was included in a comprehensive, voluminous amendment to the appropriations bill agreed to by Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration. While it will be up to the Haslam administration to sort out the two provisions, the second appears controlling because it’s later in the bill and says the Campfield amendment “shall not be construed to supersede” existing state and federal laws.
Suffice to say, Campfield is now losing his shit. He told Tom Humphrey:
"We made it very clear that we did not want this wording in there and they said they would fix it," Campfield said. "Obviously somebody with legal [staff at the Legislature] wanted to put that wording in there. Somebody wanted to write their intent into the law and not our [legislators'] intent."
And over on his blog, Campfield is fantasizing how he will track down the staffer and confront him or her:
This is still developing but it does not look good. While I do not have power over who the legal staff is, if I found out who did it I would probably have two question for them.
"Who directed you to do this?" and if I found they did it on their own I would ask "How long have you worked here, not including today?"
Whoa, boy, this is some hilarious drama. But there are two important things we should note from the details of these stories.
1. The Tennessee Right to Life folks get to sit in a back room and make sure the state budget meets their liking, which means, much like Iran, we have a democracy to the extent the theocrats allow it. Remember that the next time the state legislature wants to pass some anti-Sharia law bullshit. It's not that they're opposed to theocracy; they just don't want the competition.
2. Speaking of the anti-Sharia law bill, from that we learned that legislators don't read the bills they sponsor. Now we know they don't bother to read the final draft of what goes to the governor. This is a kind of cute, hilarious snafu, which probably won't lead to much, because Haslam has said he wants to defund Planned Parenthood. It's nice to have a laugh now, but my money is on them finding some way to "fix" this and then it will all go to court and be a big mess. But how many other laws are on the books right now that weren't read through one last time by the person who's supposed to be most familiar with them — i.e. the bill's sponsors—to make sure it says what they think it says?
That's not funny to think about. That's terrible for the state — that the people passing the laws don't read, write, or review them. I don't know what we can do to fix that. But it should give all of us great pause.