Well, friends, Tennessee's 110th General Assembly is in full swing, and one thing has become very clear to me: Beavers must be stopped.
All 33 senators and 98 representatives have been busy. They've cranked out hundreds of bills. Many are beneficial, like SB 0416, which exempts diapers from taxation. Others seem harmless enough, like SB 0418, which requires big-game hunters to wear 25 more square inches of orange. Some are head-scratchers, like SB 0172, which clarifies the definition of a rickshaw. Maybe that's the new Nashville bachelorette party transportation? There are a few eye-rollers, like HB 0026, which "requires all license plates to bear the language 'In God We Trust'." Talk about tackling the important issues.
Aside from her resolutions (yes, plural) targeting pornography as a public health hazard and the hilarious headlines that ensued, I was unfamiliar with Senator Mae Beavers' work. But she has worked hard to make herself known by sponsoring and co-sponsoring a flurry of bills ranging from unnecessary to discriminatory to dangerous and brazenly unconstitutional. I have no doubt they represent the values of her constituents in Mt. Juliet, but ... hoo boy. Where to begin.
Remember the "bathroom bill" from last year? It proposed transgender students use the facilities corresponding with their birth genders. For privacy and safety reasons, they said. It would have cost the state $1.5 billion in Title IX funding and resulted in millions in lost revenue. The sponsor, Representative Susan Lynn, withdrew the bill because she wanted to study the issue further. Well, North Carolina's version, HB2, resulted in severe economic losses including the relocation of the NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte. It cost their governor his job. It's currently being repealed. One could say it didn't do so hot. That didn't stop Beavers from bringing it back. Speaking of "bringing it back," Beavers wants to roll back the LGBT community's right to marriage with SB 0752, which "states the policy of Tennessee to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary." Hear that, Supreme Court? Your decisions mean nothing to Mae Beavers. The full text of the bill cites Dred Scott (with a full-page explainer of the Fugitive Slave Act), Alito and Scalia's Obergefell dissents, John Locke, and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." It's a lot to unpack. Also, it's unconstitutional.
SB 0645 takes a tough stand on voter fraud, requiring courts to fine offenders $5,000 in addition to any existing penalty. It offers a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for voter fraud. Problem is, of the 42 potential cases the state of Tennessee investigated in the most recent election, one resulted in a conviction.
SB 0272 "requires the department of safety to print the language 'NON U.S. CITIZEN' or 'ALIEN' on the driver licenses, permits, or other forms of identification issued or renewed for a temporary period to persons who are not United States citizens and not lawful permanent residents of the United States." That would help with the voter fraud thing, if it existed. Gee, it's almost as if Beavers is angling for attention from someone who took a huge loss in a popular vote and has some job openings available. Can't knock the hustle, I suppose.
Senator Beavers really wants us to be armed, by the way. SB 0147 proposes open carry without a permit. SB 0145 provides a background check loophole by allowing firearms dealers to sell weapons from their personal collections. There's a Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday proposed for the first weekend of September, too, if you feel like stocking up.
Anybody got "BINGO" yet? I haven't even gotten to the anti-abortion stuff.
SB 0244 prohibits abortions from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs at five or six weeks — before many women even are aware they're pregnant. And just because a heartbeat is detected doesn't mean the fetus is viable. Don't worry though, Beavers fans. If SB 0244 gets struck down due to pesky science, she sponsored another bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks, except to preserve the life and health of the mother. There's also the "Sanctity of Human Life Act," SB 0754, that "declares that human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent." Bad news. Yes, I'm afraid it's science again. Something tells me the senator is unconcerned, though.
Jen Clarke is an unapologetic Memphian and a digital marketing specialist.