Friday, October 26, 2012

Poor Ron Ramsey and the Curse of "Legislative Intent"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 at 5:05 AM

Poor Ron Ramsey is upset that the Appeals Court has ruled that Memphians can show their library cards, which contain their photos, as ID when voting.

Lt. Governor and State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who spearheaded passage of the law, said the library card “clearly violates the legislative intent of this law.”

His whole statement is even more hilarious.

"While allowing library cards clearly violates the legislative intent of this law, the court rightly affirmed the law's constitutionality. Just yesterday, we saw Democrat Party voter fraud efforts make national news in Virginia, as the son of a U.S. Congressman was caught on tape explaining how to commit fraud at the ballot box. This is exactly the type of illegal behavior our law will stop. Tennessee's voter ID law is necessary, proper and completely constitutional. This has been made plain by the courts and remains undisputed."

Here's the deal. Legislators are in charge of writing the laws. Courts then interpret those laws. If Ramsey doesn't like how the court interpreted his law, the fault is not with "activist" courts. It's with a shoddily written law. It's not the court's job to sit around and guess what legislators meant by the law.

Ron Ramsey can complain all he want about how "allowing library cards violates the legislative intent of this law," but the truth is that there's nothing in the law that specifically forbids the use of city-issued library cards with a photograph.

The relevant part of the law is that a "valid identification card [must be] issued by a branch, department, agency or entity of the state of Tennessee, any other state, or the United States authorized by law to issue personal identification, provided that such identification card contains a photograph of the voter."

Is Memphis an entity of the state? The court ruled that it is. And it cited established case law when doing so. That's not legislating from the bench. That's following precedent.

As long as legislators in our state continue to pass bills they've barely bothered to read, let alone understand and think through, they're going to continue to get bit in the butts by their own shoddy legislation when it ends up in court.

But since these folks are NEVER going to do the basic work of understanding the laws they pass, they are going to continually be surprised by how the courts interpret them. Ron Ramsey and his friends in the state legislature have only themselves to blame for this.

Not the courts.

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