Beware the Cretin Caucus

Frank CagleFrank Talk

I know Tennesseans are passionate about sports but I didn’t realize that we have an epidemic of young men having their genitals removed so they can play women’s basketball. Why else would state Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) and state Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) each introduce a bill to require that high school athletes produce evidence that they have the gender they were born with. I’m sure parents of girl basketball players will be happy to have DNA testing done on their child to prove they are “real” girls.


Perhaps a hearing could be held to hear from a busload of transgendered basketball players that make it necessary to check the DNA of every high school athlete in the state. I’d also like to see the fiscal note on DNA tests for every high school athlete.

Frank Cagle

These bills aren’t going anywhere (for now) so what’s the problem? Well, every now and then a product of the Cretin Caucus escapes from committee and members are required to vote yes or no. These bills usually sound popular and it’s hard for members to explain to the folks back home why they voted against them. How can you vote against making the Bible the state book? But the real harm comes from the existence of the bills themselves. They get media coverage. The fact that they won’t pass and that they are usually proposed by a marginal member is often lost. The impression left is that the Tennessee legislature is a collection of Neanderthals. The hard work of responsible governing is often overshadowed by such antics.

But sometimes the majority of legislators take it upon themselves to pass bills they know to be unconstitutional; they know will be challenged in court and they know the state will have to pay damages as a result.

Gov. Bill Lee has signed a bill that allows tax money to be received and spent by adoption agencies that discriminate against gay couples. Lee calls it protecting religious freedom. That isn’t true. The agencies can discriminate all they want as long as they aren’t using taxpayer funds. That’s the only change. So gay couples pay taxes, then tax money is spent discriminating against them.

Lee, who angered many of his Republican legislators when he signed on to continue the political refugee program in Tennessee, had a press conference last week to announced he is going to lead the battle to pass a “heartbeat” bill that prohibits abortions once a heartbeat is detected. But he didn’t produce a bill. He introduced a “caption.” That’s like a novelist announcing the name of his next book, not having written it yet. The details of the bill will be filled in later. All those legislators joining Lee on the stage have no idea what will be in the bill when it comes for a vote. It failed last year because members had different ideas about what should be in it.

What purpose does this “caption” serve? Over a dozen states have passed such a bill, had it thrown out by the courts and are now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is not necessary for Tennessee to spend the time and effort to get the issue before the Supremes. It’s already on the way.

The purposes of this bill have little to do with restricting abortion. In no particular order:

  • It’s Lee’s effort to placate his Republican critics.
  • Appease the lobbyists who depend on gullible citizens to send them money to fund the effort to pass unconstitutional bills. These contributors are gulled into believing that these efforts will really change the law. The same mailing list is used by some of the same lobbyists to solicit money with the promise to repeal gay marriage, because their attorneys are smarter than the U.S. Supreme Court and they can figure out how to do it.
  • Legislators from conservative districts can go home waving a bill to restrict abortion without telling voters it doesn’t have a chance in hell of changing anything. And if there were a chance for a Supreme Court decision on the issue there are already a dozen cases before the court. They will also neglect to tell the voters how much money the state will spend paying the court costs for Planned Parenthood’s attorneys.

When you consider some of the bills the majority of the legislature supports it’s getting harder and harder to single out the Cretin Caucus. Amazon is building a major facility in the Nashville suburbs; Music City is booming with country performers and fans. How many more of these useless bills will it take before “woke” companies, business conventions and the music industry decide to pull the plug on Nashville?

Frank Cagle is a former managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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