Lee now 2-for-2 on signature bills declared unconstitutional

Frank CagleFrank Talk

Gov. Bill Lee is a certified Master Plumber. He also had a degree from Auburn University. Think of it as a double major.

Auburn jokes aside, Lee ran for governor touting his lack of any experience in elective office, which a lot of people found attractive. But it would be helpful if he would take a correspondence course on the state and national constitutions. Especially that part about three branches of government and the Bill of Rights which prevents the governor from doing anything he pleases. He had no trouble bringing legislators to heel. They passed legislation they knew to be flawed, unconstitutional and fruitless but they didn’t want to “embarrass the governor.” So, they embarrassed the state instead.

Frank Cagle

The courts last week blocked two signature pieces of legislation of which Lee is so proud. Legislation that legislators were advised were unconstitutional and everyone knew had no possibility of becoming law.

To little fanfare, because it was a forgone conclusion, a three-judge court of appeals last week agreed with the lower court judge that the vaunted Lee voucher bill is unconstitutional. The difference between a private act, requested by local government, and a general act applying to everyone is a well-known concept in the legislature. You can’t pass a general act but apply it to only one or two counties. Everybody knows that except the governor’s staff. But they passed a voucher bill for Nashville and Memphis and exempted everyone else. No doubt Lee will waste further time appealing to the state Supreme Court which, unless it too has succumbed to governor worship, will concur with the lower courts.

A Trump-appointed federal judge read Lee’s abortion bill, which requires doctors to suspend their expertise and integrity, to stand in front of a patient and recite a lie that chemical abortions can be reversed. The judgment of a doctor with a degree, a medical school degree, an internship, residency and private practice would be superseded by a bunch of insurance agents, farmers, salesmen, jack-leg lawyers, real estate agents and preachers who make up the Super Majority of the General Assembly. In other words, a citizen legislature, not a medical society.

There are no scientific studies to show that administering a drug will reverse the “morning after” pill. That hasn’t stopped such cutting-edge medical experts as the South Dakota legislature requiring that women be told it’s possible.

The judge issued a temporary restraining order and set a hearing next week. Do you think a court will allow a law to stand which says if a doctor does not stand up and repeat what he knows is a lie that he can be convicted of a felony and sentenced to six years in jail?

Let’s leave medical procedures to medical professionals.

So Lee is two for two on his signature legislation thus far being found illegal. The question going forward is whether legislators will continue to pass flawed legislation on the governor’s agenda or do the right thing. You know, like things that are legal and stuff. And maybe the governor might be embarrassed enough to consider if what he wants to do is legal, constitutional and proper. Because when he embarrasses himself, he also embarrasses the legislature and the state.

Perhaps the next time the governor proposes a flawed bill the speakers of the House and Senate will put it in a subcommittee and bury it deep. Think of it as a mercy killing.

Meanwhile, Phil Williams, the investigative reporter for NewsChannel5 in Nashville, reports that Lee awarded $80 million in federal Covid-19 money through no-bid contracts. The process by which the contracts were awarded is questionable and the state Comptroller has been asked to do an audit. The question, in light of ignoring state competitive bid laws, is who is going to do anything about it?

Question of judgment: Some think Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs may have his eye on higher office. Does he see himself in the governor’s office one day? That’s what makes his attack on the Board of Health so puzzling. It wasn’t so much his criticism of a board with which he disagrees it was the “creepy” way he said it in a video. “Sinister forces within?”

The jarring, out-of-the-blue language is the kind of thing that people find hard to forget. It certainly shows a lack of judgment. Can you imagine any other Knox County elected official talking in those terms? It makes the possibility of his seeking higher office with any success questionable. (To see the video, click here and forward to 1:28)

Clorox enema: I was surprised to see President Trump being ferried to Walter Reed for treatment of his Covid-19 infection. I thought he would just drink some bleach and sit out in the sun and wait for it to go away. But he had doctors monitoring him constantly and was receiving the latest drugs.

Frank Cagle is a veteran newspaper editor and columnist.


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