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Take heart because it will soon all be over in Nashville

Robert Houk • Mar 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM

It’s almost over. The madness will soon come to an end.

No, I’m not talking about the GOP race for president. That buffoonery will likely continue onto the floor of the Republican National Convention in late July.

Thankfully, though, the Tennessee General Assembly will soon be over. One of the things Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has been most proud of as speaker of the state Senate is getting lawmakers out of Nashville by early spring. For this, I congratulate him.

No good can come by having this taxpayer-funded circus overstay its welcome on Capitol Hill.

Yes, I’ve written this column before, but the Republican super majority in the General Assembly has really outdone itself this year. There’s nothing like an election year to bring out the most pandering element of the Grand Old Party.

This has been a session of the beloved Four G’s (God, guns, gays and gynecology) of conservative politics.

State Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, took time out from blackmailing Johnson City commissioners into “de-annexing” a part of Gray to push a measure putting “In God We Trust” decals on police cars and other public vehicles. As for guns, Van Huss was at last successful in getting his favorite sniper rifle (conceived right here in Tennessee) designated as the state’s official rifle.

Of course there were many more bills dealing with guns this year — some liked by Republicans, others not so much. GOP lawmakers were supportive of a bill prohibiting towns and cities from banning guns inside municipal arenas and outdoor concert venues.

They did not, however, care for MaKayla’s Law, which is named after an 8-year-old Jefferson County girl who was shot and killed last year by her 11-year-old neighbor. This bill would make it a crime in Tennessee to store firearms unlocked and accessible to children.

State legislators were more than happy to do the bidding of their demanding overlords at the National Rife Association and kill this bill last week in a House subcommittee.

As for gay issues, you can give the Republican-led majority an A for trying (if you grade on their efforts to marginalize and discriminate against the LGBT community in Tennessee). Lawmakers have proclaimed the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that makes gay marriage legal in all 50 states to be null and void in Tennessee.

Last week, a bill requiring transgender students to go to bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponds with the sex that appears on their birth certificates was sent to a summer study committee. Even so, the pander bears of the House would not be denied. At the time this column was being written, lawmakers were trying to suspend the House rules to bring the legislation back to the floor.

And of course, Republican lawmakers also dabbled in gynecology this year in the form of legislation requiring ultrasound information to be shared with pregnant women seeking an abortion in Tennessee. The bill was later withdrawn by the sponsor after he and other supporters learned the measure could put some of the state’s other more draconian abortion laws in legal jeopardy.

Both the House and Senate are quickly winding down their business for the the year. That’s the good news. The bad news is they will be back in January to do it all again.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at [email protected]

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