A bill has been put forward in the General Assembly (and is nearing a floor vote in the House) that would remove the business license of any firm which knowingly hires illegal aliens. I have always found it more than a shame that our federal government refuses to deal with the whole issue and forces the States to deal with the problem. It is the duty of the federal government to defend and protect our national borders, and their failure to do so means that the State of Tennessee must take highly unusual measures to enforce the law.
The threat that a business which hires illegals losing its license to do business that it is serious enough that the businesses where this kind of hiring happens most frequently (certain agricultural operations, certain construction businesses, and certain restaurants) can't afford to lose their license. They will be more likely to insure that their new hires are legal. There is great argument, of course, over whether our immigration quotas as they pertain to Latin America are too strict. It is the job of the federal government to set immigration quotas and enforce those quotas.
The State of Tennessee does not enjoy, under the terms of the present Compact with the federal Union, the right to determine the quota of immigrants which may enter and leave either the United States or this State. If, however, the federal government violates the Compact by failing to execute the laws of the Union, the State is free to take such measures necessary to execute those laws.
The federal government has violated its Compact with the State of Tennessee by failing to fully enforce federal immigration law. The State of Tennessee is now forced to take action to enforce the laws which the federal government refuses to deal with. This business license proposal is the most effective manner that the State has at its disposal to date. It will not eliminate the problem, but will dramatically increase the cost of doing business for those employers who insist on continuing to violate the law.
The disheartening end of Brittney Gilbert in the media
Because everyone else and their brother (and sister) seems to have written over the last 24 hours about the departure from WKRN-TV in Nashville of blogger Brittney Gilbert, I wasn't going to discuss it here. I thought the topic had been well exhausted. The truth of the matter is, though, that I couldn't get the whole situation out of my mind.
Brittney had a job that a lot of us in the blogging community would kill for. It wasn't just that she blogged for pay-she did it eight hours a day for a major media operation. Further, she did it while enjoying the editorial freedom to speak her peace. For the most part, she could say what she wanted and not worry that saying what she wanted to say could cost Brittney her job. Brittney did a blogging report for WKRN that was unlike anything I have ever seen on television news. It brought exposure of the blogosphere to the evening news, and publicised the views of Tennessee bloggers for the world to see. Brittney's work brought Tennessee's talented and diverse political blogosphere to the attention of the State and the nation.
To say that I disagreed with or did not like Brittney Gilbert's politics would be a major understatement. It wasn't just that she was a liberal-I have plenty of liberal friends in the blogging world-but there were times that I thought that Brittney was uppity and brash. I must confess that from time to time I felt that her tone said "I work for a TV station, and I am better than you." It may be, though, that I thoroughly misjudged Brittney's tone and intent-after the events of the last 24 hours, I think it is apparent that a lot of people did.
Because Brittney worked for a television station in the State Capital, she became the face that the wider community in Tennessee often associated with the blogosphere. This was probably a pretty unfair association, since Michael Silence and Jack Lail have done as much work as Brittney has to bring the attention of the mainstream press to the blogosphere, but they work for a newspaper. Brittney did bring A.C. Kleinheider (and I hope he doesn't mind me calling him a friend) to Channel 2 and exposed his talents to a much wider audience-and provided the conservative balance to her own views. Brittney became a liberal punching-bag for the frustrations of certain people, and not just conservatives.
People (including many liberals) would often misconstrue something that she wrote on the blog Nashville is Talking. It was the miscontruction of a rabid liberal that would push Brittney Gilbert to the breaking point. Many will now say that Brittney had been tired of her old gig for awhile now and that this could be seen in her writing-that regardless of how it happened, the day of her departure is at hand. While that may be true, I find the entire episode disheartening. Politics aside, Brittney Gilbert is a fine blogger and a fine writer. She will be sorely missed as a liason between the mainstream press and the blogosphere.
I did not have the pleasure of knowing Brittney personally. I had hoped that I would have the opportunity to meet and interact with her when I was in Nashville at the Capitol back in March for Bloggers' Day On the Hill. Unfortunately, Brittney was not there and we didn't have that opportunity.
Most disturbing of all at this point is that Brittney Gilbert's departure raises the larger question: Who will perform this function now that Brittney Gilbert is gone?
This episode was recorded yesterday. It discusses the ill-fated Republican filibuster attempt in the Tennessee House and the way the Democrats reacted and are reacting. If you want to hear what I sould like when I am really angry, you will hear that in this episode.
I have said before that I believe that there are some good and honest Democrats in Nashville, but that the Democratic Leadership of this State has become corrupted by nearly a century-and-a-half of power. Though I stand by my initial view, it is noteworthy that House Democrats-a group constantly chiming on about the baneful effects of "partisanship" and condemning "partisan rhetoric" or "partisan maneuvering" in the House-seem to define being overly partisan as disagreeing with the Democratic Party's collective course of action and daring to say or do something about it. Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Henry Fincher of Cookeville had these very public remarks to say about working with Republicans in a Democratic Caucus meeting quoted in the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
"I don't trust Republicans," said Rep. Henry Fincher, D-Cookeville, during a stormy meeting of the House Democratic Caucus. "My heart says it's not right to deal with them.
"I say we kick their ass and be done with it," Fincher said. "If we give into them now, we'll be giving in to them the rest of the session and the next one."
To be fair to Fincher, these were remarks made in a Democratic Caucus meeting. The caucus of either party is a partisan group, and a party caucus is not really a government body. Hence, I do not believe party caucuses ought to be open meetings.
With that said, Fincher's remarks just exude a spirit of bipartisanship, cooperation, and good feeling, don't they? The Party that dares to talk to Republicans about bipartisanship and how we are being too "partisan" is saying things in their Caucus about not trusting Republicans, it not being "right to deal with them" and kicking "their ass." This is lovely-it just makes me want to deal with these people in a spirit of harmony, peace, and brotherhood for the good of Tennessee.
If you want to see a a real partisan, I wish my maternal Grandfather were still here. In the dictionary under "partisan Republican" they ought to put a picture of him. A former Democrat who switched parties in late 1950's, he believed that there were many good things about America. If you wanted to see what was wrong with America, he would suggest attending a Democratic Convention. He used to say that if there is some kind of corruption in government "start digging, there's a Democrat in the woodpile somewhere." He collectively referred to Democrats as "Democrap," and he once told me that he honestly believed that the Democratic Party is led by Satan. He was nearing his passing from this world the day that the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton. He had been mumbling things in a way that none of us could understand for some days, but when several of us announced to him that the House had just impeached Bill Clinton, his head jolted up and he said in a very clear and understandable voice and tone "that is the best news I've heard all day."
Now that is a partisan...
In my life, I have tried to moderate my views on the evilness of our opposition. I have met many Democrats who are good people at heart and who are willing to work with us for a better America, and some in Nashville who might even be willing to negotiate with conservatives and Republicans and not just "kick [our] ass and be done with it." There are a few, at least I thought, who not only respect our views but will treat our people with dignity and work with us to come up with budget proposals that are reasonable and acceptable to us. Republicans weren't even asking to scuttle the cigarette tax, they just wanted an amendment to pay for school construction with lottery funds. They weren't asking for the buffet, they just wanted the scraps. As a result they were accused of being partisan and when they began to use a parliamentary maneuver to stand up for their rights, the Democrats used a far cheaper maneuver to shut them up.
The unfortunate result of all of this is that I have begun to wonder, after observing the events of Monday night, if my Grandfather was not more right than I sometimes care to admit. He thought Democrats were lying two-faced connivers who are filled with hatred for those who love America, do good, and live holy. Most importantly and simply of all, he thought that when it came to politics, no Democrat was the least bit worthy of anything approaching trust or confidence. My faith that very many in Tennessee's Democratic establishment are in this business to do things justly has been dealt a severe blow of reality by the events of this week.
As far as what Henry Fincher said-I find it to be truly unfortunate that after observing quite a bit of what went on this week, I have to say the feeling is mutual. This whole business is starting to make a hard partisan out of me again.
I don't trust Democrats. My heart says it's not right to deal with them.
That the cigarette tax hike passed is not a surprise, and that some Republicans (even a couple of the anti-Naifeh camp) voted in favor is also not a real shock. What was disappointing was the failure of the filibuster to continue to push and fight for the Hawk Amendment, or to push for any of the amendments brought forward, including another Hawk Amendment to offer a tiny portion of this tax increase to our wounded Iraq War veterans.
To be fair, there were great efforts by certain members of the Caucus to fight for tax relief and for fiscal responsibility. Beth Harwell put forward an amendment to reduce the tax on food. Frank Niceley made a short but (as usual) street-wise and brilliant address to the House about how the tax increase is not only unneeded but acts as social engineering-discouraging people from smoking. Indeed, if it does this successfully, it takes away the source of funding in the bill.
Several amendments were brought forward and all were brought to the table in the end. Effort after effort was made to make this tax increase and the budget fiscally responsible (and Leader Mumpower pushed for a reduction in the food tax from 6% to 5.5%-or at least maintaining language that allowed for legislative intent when Gary Odom moved to withdraw it). Every time the Republicans tried to do something responsible, Odom played Stupid and simply said that the Republicans were trying to kill the bill in the Senate. Republicans do not automatically have the 17th vote to kill the bill in the Senate, but Odom left that part out of his side of the discussion.
Harwell tried, Mumpower tried, Campfield tried, Bill Dunn tried, and David Hawk tried. We know that a party has been in power too long when any form of legislative modification or serious debate is labeled as "partisan" in a constant way. It is not mere partisanship to debate and offer real alternatives to what is being presented-that is the job of an effective opposition, and would be the Democrats' job were the roles reversed. It is partisan to defeat those things based on almost irrational fears after publicly saying you are in favor of some of those proposals, which is what many Democrats are doing.
Since the majority refuses to listen to reason, it would have been fine to use every delaying tactic known to man. We know that Democrats were tiring because Rob Briley wanted to close debate and demanded Calendar and Rules meet. Microphones were on and you could hear Briley complaining about "partisan speeches" and "Mumpower tricking you (unseen Representative) into signing that amendment" in the silence like he is a whiny spoiled child. To end the filibuster the Democrats called a Calendar and Rules Committee Meeting in the well in a highly unorthodox and questionable maneuver. The filibuster was working, the Democrats knew it, and they knew they didn't have the votes on the floor to end debate-so they called a committee meeting right in the well!
I'd question the Democrats' motives for simply labeling everyone's objections as partisan, but of course how dare I question the Majority Leadership...that would make me too partisan.
Beyond what I personally view as the very justifiable reasons behind the David Hawk Amendment for school construction which necessitates the present Republican filibuster (it had originally been attached to a food tax reduction bill), there is another very important reason why the House Republicans should continue in their effort to filibuster the Governor's tax increase until the provisions they want are attached to the bill: It is high time that Republicans stand up for themselves in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
The GOP is only four seats shy of a majority, but because of a number of "Naifeh Republicans," or Republican members who collaborate with the Democrats and undermine their Party Leadership time and again, the growing Republican strength of numbers is often rendered moot. In the name of bipartisan cooperation, Republicans have hesitated to use the tool of a filibuster that Tennessee House rules provide for them. I can understand this to a point-I view filibusters as an extremely valuable and useful tool to influence legislation or to kill bad legislation, but using a filibuster is like Harry Truman deciding to use the atomic bomb-he didn't know whether it would work for certain until the bomb was actually dropped. A filibuster is like a legislative nuclear weapon in the sense that if it succeeds, it could change how the legislature works-but if it fails, the Democrats' tendency to run roughshod over the rights of the minority will become far worse.
I spoke by phone yesterday to my own State Representative Frank Niceley. Regarding the filibuster, Frank reiterated that (regardless of his own opposition to any kind of tax increase in this year of a massive surplus) the Republicans aren't trying to use the filibuster to kill the Governor's tax proposal, only to have the Hawk provision-which would use excess State lottery funds to pay for new school construction-added to the bill. He believes this is important because if this isn't done, the Governor may ask for yet another tax increase in the future to pay for school construction when we clearly have the funds for that without one.
Beyond the importance of trying to head off another tax hike, however, is also the principle of Democratic respect for the Republican Leadership and for their GOP colleagues in general. Up to now, Democrats have felt free to just run roughshod over Republican concerns about any legislative proposal-primarily due to their own moles within Republican ranks. This filibuster could change all that-success could mean that Democrats will not move forward with legislation again without consultation with Republican Leadership in a serious way-they would be fearful of another filibuster. Seeing the Republicans stand together demanding justice until they were finally heard would likely frighten the Democrats into respecting the rights of the minority far more than they do now. If the filibuster fails because some Republicans cave in, it will give notice that the GOP Leadership is all bark and no bite and is not to be feared-they can be pushed around and toyed with like a political rag doll until they submit. This is so important that, as Frank Niceley said to me "I don't care if we are there until the end of July."
This is a critical test of the Leadership of Jason Mumpower. This was a truly bold initiative and the issue and the timing could not have been better. He deserves to be saluted for acting so decisively to demand that our side be heard here. He must be able to keep enough of his men in line to keep the filibuster going until the Democrats are the ones who cave. I never thought I would say this, but the Republicans need to keep the legislature in session long enough for the Democrats to surrender on this-they need to let the thing be pressed. Neither side wants to be in Nashville any longer than they have to be-but the side that blinks will lose.
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