Saturday, May 30, 2009

Partying Down With Pro-Life People

This weekend I am attending the 106th Annual Tennessee State Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Franklin. I will represent my Council, Morristown Council 6730, as one of its delegates and as its Grand Knight.

What do the Knights stand for?


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Friday, May 29, 2009

Whining the Override

The Tennessean is treating the Governor's veto of HB 962 as though it actually means anything at all:

The bill would allow handgun carry permit holders to take their weapons into any restaurant that serves alcohol, unless the restaurant owner posted a sign banning the weapons from his or her business. Supporters have said the bill protects Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights; opponents have said having guns in areas with alcohol could be unsafe.

The veto can be overturned by the legislature with a simple majority vote, something Bredesen acknowledged could very well happen.

“I certainly understand there’s a great potential, probably the likelihood of an override for this,” Bredesen said.

The framers of the Tennessee Constitution were some of the wisest men that our fair State has ever produced. As many may be aware, the Constitution of 1870 is closely patterned on the original Constitution of 1796. The differences are mostly those to be expected, such as the abolition of slavery, the extension of a Governor's term, and the abolition of property requirements. One of the things that those men made quite certain of is that the Executive Power of Tennessee is very weak power indeed.

The Constitution of the State of Tennessee Article III, Section 18, Paragraph 1:

Every Bill which may pass both Houses of the General Assembly shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the Governor for his signature. If he approve, he shall sign it, and the same shall become a law; but if he refuse to sign it, he shall return it with his objections thereto, in writing, to the House in which it originated; and said House shall cause said objections to be entered at large upon its journal, and proceed to reconsider the Bill. If after such reconsideration, a majority of all the members elected to that House shall agree to pass the Bill, notwithstanding the objections of the Executive, it shall be sent, with said objections, to the other House, by which it shall be likewise reconsidered. If approved by a majority of the whole number elected to that House, it shall become a law. The votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of all the members voting for or against the Bill shall be entered upon the journals of their respective Houses.

During the last federal presidential administration, we heard a great deal about the danger of the trend toward a unitary executive. Much of this talk was coming from our friends on the Left, and not a few of these people were correct in their analysis that any trend toward a unitary executive-including during the Bush Administration-is very dangerous indeed. The framers of the Tennessee Constitution understood this, so they made certain that the powers of our Governor could never become anything close to unitary, by insuring that the superior power of governance in this State would ALWAYS reside in the Legislature.

Now that it appears that the General Assembly may override the Governor's veto of a bill they do not like, many Leftist bloggers and other liberal activists are complaining that the Governor's veto is weak because it only takes a simple majority to override it. That, of course, is exactly what the framers of the Tennessee Constitution intended. The Governor's veto of this bill will only stand if a majority in at least one House of the Legislature wills it to be that way. No Governor of Tennessee can ever govern without legislative consent.

The Left drapes themselves in constitutionalism only when it benefits them to do it. When constitutional law causes legislation to move against their way of doing things, they whine like spoiled children.

The Governor's veto will stand if the House decides to let it, and that is as it should be. Our Governor is answerable to the General Assembly which governs this State, the Legislature does not owe any answer to the Governor-only to the people who elected them.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Priorities Anyone?

Out comes The Tennessean with the news that the State of Tennessee is going to cut 1,400 jobs (which the Governor is expected to announce momentarily). Further, the jobs being cut are, as expected, mostly in an area of the budget that will impact people who are not really in a position to better their situation:

As many as 717 workers could receive layoff notices by June 30 of next year, with three-quarters of them coming in the state departments that serve people with mental illness or mental retardation. The Bredesen administration also called for eliminating 656 vacant positions statewide.

That sounds bad, and indeed it is. What is worse, however, is the size of the overall State payroll:

Tennessee employs about 50,000 state workers, not including higher education employees, with a payroll of nearly $3 billion.

Throw higher education into the mix, and the cost really mushrooms. It seems that we may be dealing with a case of confused priorities when the Governor and his lackey Dave Goetz are talking about cutting a combined 617 jobs from those departments which serve our most vulnerable citizens (those who are too old, sickly, or disabled to work), but only 66 jobs will be cut from all other departments of State government. Further, there is no sign that legislative Democrats are willing to accept the equalization proposal that I put forward yesterday.

That isn't to say that no jobs need to be cut from departments that serve disabled people. There is always waste and mismanagement to be found anywhere in government, and it should be rooted out. Note, however, that only 23 jobs are being cut at Environment and Conservation and a whopping 21 from Finance and Administration and Revenue, three of the biggest reposititories of bureaucratic incompetence in State Government. Those departments, however, are near and dear to Dave Goetz, so don't expect to see them make any major cuts.

Meanwhile, the Governor vetoed the "guns in restaurants" bill today, a veto which may be overridden.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Share Cuts All Over Nashville

It has been made public in Nashville that part of Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's ever-delayed budget proposal that 757 State jobs are going to be cut, and well over 600 currently-vacant positions are going to be eliminated:

The Democratic governor's proposal would eliminate 717 filled positions and another 656 vacant jobs.

State Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz told lawmakers Wednesday that laid off employees will be offered a severance package to include two years worth of tuition at state colleges and money to help defray the cost of extending their health insurance coverage.

Obviously, no one should take joy at the thought of a dedicated worker losing their job-I certainly don't, especially in the economic climate in which we find ourselves. However, I can't say that I am seething with displeasure at the prospect of State Government actually shrinking. If positions are not necessary, the taxpayers simply should not have to pay for them.

Furthermore, the slashing of State Government ought not be confined merely to the executive branch. Earlier this year, we learned about how the Democrats (thanks to Kent Williams) still get one secretary each, whereas Republican House members still share a secretary for each two members. In the name of cutting costs, why can't the Democrats also share secretaries? If this system is good enough for one political party, it ought to be good enough for the both of them. In this time of economic trouble for everyone, and even shortage and scarcity, the General Assembly should not be immune to making the same sacrifices that many of the people which its members serve also find themselves having to make.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Waking Up From the Stimulus Pipe Dream

The Tennessean has begun publishing the stories of those who could be impacted by State budget cuts as our budget deficit begins to drag us deeper and deeper into a collective financial hole:

Two months after declaring that the federal stimulus plan had saved the state from taking drastic measures to balance the budget, state officials now say hiring freezes, layoffs and deep cuts may be needed after all to deal with a sharp decline in tax receipts.

The shortfall will force the state to draw deep from the financial reserves that it built up earlier in this decade, officials say. But it also will mean speeding up cuts — possibly even to programs such as mental health, mental disability and children's services — that officials had hoped to phase in gradually over the next few years.

The cuts could mean sharp reductions to services like the state-paid personal assistants who help [Diane] Lara take care of her 17-year-old daughter, Megan, and her 10-year-old son, Nickolas.

First of all, let me clarify something for certain liberal ignoramuses whose first line of argument is "you just don't understand the impact of these cuts." I understand far more than most people who will make that argument because I have lived my entire life with cerebral palsy (I won't say that I "suffer" from it because I have had it essentially from birth and I haven't known a life without it, unlike some with disabilities that they haven't always had. I am not in a state of suffering.) and I do know how cuts in services can impact people with disabilities and those who care for them. I have a level of firsthand knowledge that most of our legislators simply wouldn't understand, so the whole "you don't understand" argument is moot. Trust me, I get it in a very big way.

I submit that it is our Governor, and even previous General Assemblies who have done the greatest disservice to people like Ms. Lara and her autistic children. Why? They have simply refused to confront the possibility of a budget trainwreck which was predicted in this very space almost two years ago. Those in the Legislature, as well as those of us who actively cover and follow Tennessee politics, could all see this coming (Ms. Lara and those like her didn't have the time to see it coming). When people warned of it they were brushed aside, while the Governor implimented new taxes which he knew were not going to enhance revenues.

Then Governor Bredesen told us all that the federal "stimulus" was going to be the panacea which solved all of our budget problems. Why he wouldn't even have to lay anyone off! So the Governor delayed presenting the budget this year, and continues to delay it, presumably so that he can exact what he wants out of a tired General Assembly. Now we learn that the stimulus will save us from precisely-nothing, just as Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey said a few weeks ago and was castigated for in the press.

If the Governor had been willing to make the cuts necessary two years ago, or even last year, to keep our State budget from nearly collapsing, many of the more severe cuts could have been phased in over time, and some programs-like those which help Ms. Lara's family, may not have needed cutting because the fat was trimmed appropriately from other agencies and the State was able to prioritize. In reality, everyone played the game of "don't cut me off, my piece of the pie is more important than their piece. Cut them but not me."

Instead, the Governor chose to believe the twin fairy tales that increasing consumption sin tax was going to somehow increase revenue, and then this year that our fairy Barack-mother was going to save us all. Now the executive branch is waking up from that pipe dream.

Meanwhile, families who truly do need help, like Diane Lara's, are going to be the ones to suffer because Prince Phillip didn't plan ahead.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

As we remember the sacrifice of all of our men and women in uniform, and especially those who have given their lives for the sake of that freedom, I will do so here with the greatest military screen portrayal of all time.

The intestinal fortitude displayed here is present in our men and women in uniform, as well as in our veterans living and dead, but I fear that it is sorely lacking in the leaders of this great nation.

It is often said to the point of cliche, but freedom is simply not free. We do not remain secure from terrorists, from the encroachments of those who hate us, and from over-reaching government just because someone thought it might be a good idea to give us liberty.

We should never forget the cost of our freedom, or be willing to pay it ourselves.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Day of Reassignments

Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika announced in this week's East Tennessee Catholic that over the next seven days, a great many Catholics in the Diocese of Knoxville are going to find out that they are going to get a new pastor-and that means that their current one will be reassigned, most of them effective August 1st:

By the time you receive this newspaper in the mail, you may have heard about various new assignments for our priests. The appointments will be covered in detail in the June 7 edition of The East Tennessee Catholic. Some of you may wonder how I am able to make new assignments, given the fact that I have been here only a short time. Let me explain. Shortly after my arrival as bishop I sent a questionnaire to all my brother priests, requesting information about their life as a priest, what they enjoy, and what they consider their greatest challenges. I also asked whether they were happy in their current assignments, whether they had a strong desire to accept a new challenge, and whether they would be open to a possible move if the need were evident.

After prayerful reflection on this information, I sought the advice of my vicar general, Monsignor Xavier Mankel, and the diocesan College of Consultors. Again I prayed and reflected upon the assignment changes and had the opportunity to meet with each priest to make my proposal. For the most part, the new assignments will be effective Aug. 1.

In fairness, my own pastor, Father Patrick Garrity (St. Patrick, Morristown) is not among the reassigned. However, we have long known that the reason for this is Father Pat's Mother, who has long been ill with cancer and who lives in the rectory with Father Pat. Bishop Kurtz was loathe to move Father Pat because he knew that Father was responsible as his mother's guardian. Some in the parish have said-including our pastor himself-that he would have long been gone were it not for his mother, and we have been very blessed to have her continue to be with us as well as Father Pat.

Like many of the priests on the Bishop's list of assignments, however, we know that Father Pat's day to leave will come, and probably sooner rather than later. As Bishop Stika points out, many parishioners will protest that their beloved pastor is leaving, and that they are going to get someone new with whom the community is not familiar. Every once in a while, Catholics need to be reminded who is in charge, however, and it is ultimately the Holy Spirit-acting through the authority of the bishops, the successors of the Apostles. We often forget that the Church is truly universal, it is not confined to our little sphere in Knoxville or Chattanooga or Morristown or Crossville or Pigeon Forge. The place where we worship is only a part of the Church, it is not the whole Church, and the needs of the entire diocese and the universal Church should always be considered first, not only by the Bishop, but also by all of us in as unselfish a manner as we can possibly bear.

I urge the Catholics of the Diocese of Knoxville to accept the coming changes with grace and dignity, and by turning your parishes over in prayer to the intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Church.

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