Monday, April 2, 2012

TN Legislators Handing Our Lives Over to the New Robber Barons

More from TN Citizen Action
THE LEGEND OF LEGISLATIVE BIGFOOT: Does a Government That Works for Us Really Exist?

Short answer: No, not right now it doesn't.

For those of you keeping score at home, below is a summary of the legislative priorities of the Republican majority in the state legislature.

In a nutshell, they are crafting and passing public policy that caters to large corporations and their 21st century robbers baron CEOs instead of writing rules that boost the well-being and productivity of hardworking middle and working class families. That's not what we sent them to Nashville to do.

  • Republicans want to make it impossible for you to hold corporations accountable for the negligent and harmful acts of their employees. Another would allow attorneys who defend large corporations to be able to meet with and interview your doctor in secret (34 states prohibit this kind of secret one-way communication). If corporations know they can violate doctor-patient privilege at will and can’t be held responsible for the catastrophic actions of their employees, then they will be less likely to enforce conscientious hiring policies, provide appropriate training and education, and promote a culture of safety. Is this looking out for the people of Tennessee?
  • Tennessee families are working harder, getting paid less, and falling behind our parents' generation, and yet they want to dismantle campaign finance reforms by allowing corporations to make secret cash campaign contributions in the critical 10 days before an election.

  • Corporations have shipped jobs overseas leaving breadwinners jobless and rural Tennessee communities decimated and yet they want to penalize honest, hardworking Tennesseans who are simply trying to feed their families by drug testing them if they receive benefits from the state. And to add insult to injury, requiring them to pay for the expensive test themselves.
  • And we'll let Joseph Green of Springfiled tell you about how they are dismantling the current unemployment system. In a Tennessean article, Mr. Green "wonders if he has a target on his back" and "sometimes feels as if he’s being labeled as a second-class citizen because he has been out of work for nearly two years." He's quoted as saying, "I feel like it’s discrimination, especially against us folks who live out in the country where there aren’t that many jobs," he said. Proponents , i.e. Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce, say that the changes are needed to "improve accountability and crack down on fraud and abuse." First, they're one to talk about accountability (see all of the above) and next, show us the fraud and abuse?*
  • Under the leadership of Republican Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey they have made defending the estate tax a major priority, citing a recent Forbes Magazine article that states that Tennessee is "not a good place to die." Again, we'll leave it to a friend, Pith in the Wind writer Betsy Phillips, to point out the failure of leadership in this nugget: "I swear, I will never understand Republicans. It's all "bootstraps, bootstraps, bootstraps" — until it comes to people getting money from their rich, dead parents. Then Ron Ramsey has to take to Twitter: ' Forbes points to Tennessee as a place 'not to die.' We simply have to remove this tax as soon as possible.' Oh, Heaven forfend! Forbes doesn't think Tennessee's a good place to die! Well, obviously Forbes' research sucks, because Tennessee is a wonderful place to die. In fact, we make it very easy for folks to die here all the time - especially if they're poor, black, women or children."
  • Would you ever allow a deal to be made in your name without knowing all the details? What it if it affected you financially? Of course not! But that's just what Governor Bill Haslam wants to do with SB 2207 / HB 2345, part of his legislative package. If passed, this bill would allow the Governor to offer cash incentives (read: tax dollars) to large corporations in secret and without any kind of accountability.
The rational for these bills is always the sam. They say, "We have to cater to large corporations because they create jobs." But where are those jobs? Look no further than last year's fight for Governor Haslam’s "Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011." During that debate we were promised 577 jobs per week. Yet here it is almost a year later and where are the 30,000 jobs created by this legislation? Since 2003, Tennessee job growth is way up - 198,000 new jobs and 52 new corporate headquarters. So why not continue with the policies that have helped to create these jobs? Why not encourage businesses that innovate and take care of of their workers instead of helping corporations avoid accountability for egregious acts and making it easier for them to give you money for your campaign?
*Or is this like the photo ID to vote law where all you have to do is say that fraud exists and we should believe you?

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