January 06, 2006
Phil’s Special Session - What’s so special about it, anyway?
[Cross-posted from the Pulse.]
Tuesday, January 10, at noon local time, the General Assembly gavel falls on a special session called by Governor Bredesen. The Governor set up the Citizens Advisory Group on Ethics after several prominent elected officials were indicted last spring. This panel’s purpose was to collect reform proposals from experts and from citizens (not that those should be different) and to submit a list of proposed reforms. (Never mind that the laws broken in the “Waltz” were, oh yeah, existing statutes.) They accomplished that. (This is a different outcome than when a special ethics committee created by the new governor almost three years ago apparently never once met, according to recent revelations.) The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethics – mind, this is a different group, it’s hard to keep them straight, but stay with me – took the Citizens Advisory Group’s proposals and drafted them into a bill.
The bill will be discussed in the special session, and as soon as a measure is finalized and put to a vote, the lawmakers can wrap up the special session and get right into the regular session. Yes, where, according to the most powerful member of the State Senate in an interview with the AP, nothing ever gets done for the first six weeks anyway. Frustrated yet? Okay, here’s more: the special session will cost $19,800 a day, and the same most powerful member anticipates that it will last for weeks. (Wait. Doesn’t that mean that every year we pay for six weeks of nothing at almost 20K a day?) The public – meaning, y’all – is unlikely to be as engaged with this special session as with the last one. (You remember. The income tax.) This one doesn’t have the star power, and why should it? (Do we want “more better” ethics? Aye. Next?)
Fortunately, there are some highlights on the side stages, like they have in those big hippie music festivals. We have the memory of losing a co-chair from the Joint Ethics Committee after she admitted to taking gambling money from undercover FBI agents. We have the ongoing saga of a Senate Caucus Leader and a pesky little bunch of reporters who just keep pointing out certain inconsistencies in his public behavior. By the way, he took a thousand dollars from Charles Love, and yes, that money was from the FBI too, but it was a campaign contribution. He’s on the Joint Ethics Committee, but he has missed key votes. He’ll be a fun one to watch during the special session.
Another sideshow will actually be over in the executive branch, where the Governor will do his best to publicly shepherd this good ethics legislation through while doing his best to hide his own staff and administration from public view. It’s an act you can’t miss. 2005 was a boon year for “-gate” pundits, just in our own state. Sexual Harassment. Paper-shredding. Tennessee Waltz. Tennessee Highway Patrol. 2006 harbors a blustery production by the whole government of a “We’ve Got Ethics” act, and the only way to start to remedy things for real will be to give most of this cast their final curtain call in the August and November elections.
Pulsations | By joe lance | 06:36 AM