Monday, June 18, 2007

Defining success in the legislature

Tom Humphrey, who is widely respected as the best correspondent on the Hill in Nashville, has named Stacey Campfield the "least successful" legislator of the just-adjourned session. The reason for this grade is because Campfield introduced 50 bills and not one of them passed.

Consider that Campfield had a perfect zero batting average in bill passage, despite such creative - if arguably unconstitutional - ideas as taxing pornography and exempting Tennessee-made guns from federal firearms regulations. So did Kelsey, but he had just 25 failing bills. Campfield had 50.

And when it comes to attack floor amendments, Campfield won hands down. A personal favorite was his proposal to increase the cigarette tax beyond the 42-cents-per-pack level to create a fund to fight online child predators. That never came to a vote, with House Republican leaders calling off a filibuster just before it came up, raising suspicions that it might have been a bit too vicious, even for colleagues in the GOP gang.

I don't see anything unconstitutional about any of that, but that is beside the point. By the definition of success that Humphrey is proposing (and which, granted, is the commonly accepted definition in legislatures today), my own State Representative would not be considered very successful either. Frank has co-sponsored a number of bills that have passed (as has Stacey) but his real opus this session was his legislation on fluoride in drinking water, as well as his animal ID bill-neither made it to the floor. The expanded firearms carry bill also didn't see the floor in the House

We seem to have a twisted definition of success legislatively as opposed to what the founders of this country intended. Today, legislative success is defined by passing as many bills as possible and expanding the codex of legislation to such vast levels so as not to be understood by the common man. If a member of the General Assembly can actually pass a good and needed piece of legislation, that is a wonderful thing. The problem is that the legislation being considered by the General Assembly is increasingly not good, and the vast majority of it is unneeded.

In Frank Niceley's case, he is doing perecisely what his constituents elected him to do-raising important issues that the majority are uncomfortable dealing with. In so doing, he provides the added service of showing us just how arrogant House majority is and just how much of a sense of entitlement they think they have. The truth of the matter is that Stacey Campfield is doing the very same thing. He is a thorn in people's side because he is among the most accessable Representatives in Nashville, and the man says what he thinks and acts according to the dictates of his conscience. God forbid elected representatives have a conscience.

Success should be defined not in passing many bills, but in passing as few as possible-only what is absolutely necessary-and in having the courage to raise issues and fight for them when others refuse to do so.



At Tuesday, June 19, 2007 12:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're misquoting the article at the outset. it was "least likely to succeed" -- NOT NOT least successful. there is a dramatic difference. You point out Stacey's crusading character, which should be -- and is -- much appreciated in a democratic society.
Stacey is indeed least likely to succeed in passing legislation, but that doesn't mean he's least successful. he may be the most successful, depending on perspective. sorry you missed the point.
old tom

At Tuesday, June 19, 2007 7:17:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

First of all, I am not trying to heap flattery on you when I say that you are one of my favorite reporters at the KNS. You and Silence are two real journalists, in my opinion. Cronkite would be proud.

That said, I'm glad you clarified your point about "least likely to succeed," because I fear many of your readers may not have gotten that-the common impression I got from that article was "Campfield=unsuccessful." Since he and I both admire your work (I know he does because we've discussed it), I thought I needed to clarify how I view "success."

Many thanks for reading.


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