Sunday, January 15, 2006

Legislators: Do you have nothing better to do?

Yes, it is 2:00am Sunday morning as I am writing this. In writing what I am about to write I should add the disclaimer that I am enjoying an adult beverage. No, I am not intoxicated; I am very much with it. Yes, I am going to church later today.

The special “ethics session” of the Tennessee legislature apparently has nothing better to do than focus on whether or not lobbyists can give alcohol to members of the legislature. Now, there’ll be no outright ban on providing food and beverages and lodging and meals, but no, you can’t have a whiskey. Minority Leader Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) says it is a “mind-altering substance.” I’ll grant Rep. Dunn that a few too many can alter the mind, as I learned in college the hard way. I also agree with Brian Hornback by way of George Washington Plunkitt that if elected officials need to “rely” on adult beverages while in pursuit of the people’s business, they have a problem. However, I submit to Rep. Dunn that if a legislator takes an alcoholic beverage from a lobbyist, he or she begins by knowing precisely what they are doing. Any subsequent intoxication isn’t the whiskey’s fault.

I also submit to Rep. Dunn that this unusual focus on the “demon drink” is not very Catholic of him. Why do I say this? I know for a fact Rep. Dunn is a Catholic…I know this because he and I are members of the same parish, Holy Ghost, on Central Avenue in Knoxville. The way he (and those who agree with him) are acting, you’d think liquor was the root cause of all of the ethical problems in state government. It is not, and Rep. Dunn and his colleagues in our Republican leadership know it is not. The problem is the fact that these lobbyists can lavish our legislators with wining and dining in the fist place. Apparently, dining is okay, but no wining.

Our Lord would not be welcome to perform any miracles on the water supply at legislative functions.

I’m not saying that our legislators should be taking drink at meetings with lobbyists. What I am saying is that the problem lies in the fact that the lobbyist can buy them a drink, OR a meal, OR a night at the Hyatt. Taking away the option of buying a drink isn’t going to deal with the root problem.

If this is all our legislators are doing during this special session, it is truly a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. We need real reform, not something that’s made up to look like something was done. This special session is a waste of time if all reform you have is a decision on whether or not a legislator can have a Jack and Coke in his meeting with a lobbyist. Jack and Coke is to be frowned on…but we’ll try the beef Wellington.

If this is all you have to do over in Nashville, please adjourn this foolishness before any more of our money is wasted paying your per diem.


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