Roy Exum: Haslam Is Our Only Hope

Friday, April 19, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It was with a heavy heart I learned on Thursday that the Tennessee Legislature has openly defied the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by threatening to charge representatives of news organizations and whistle-blowers with misdemeanors if they don’t submit any “photographs, digital images or video recordings” of animal abuse to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours “or by the close of the next business day.”

On Wednesday the House of Representatives approved a despicable “AgGag” bill that, in essence, makes a whistle-blower a criminal instead of a hero. HB1191 reads, “Animal Cruelty and Abuse - As introduced, requires a person who records cruelty to animals as committed against livestock to report such violation and submit any unedited photographs or video recordings to law enforcement authorities within 24 hours of the photograph's or recording’s creation. - Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 44.”

Obviously, the widely-criticized bill greatly hampers organizations like the Humane Society for the United States from gathering tapes and building evidence like that of a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer viciously and sadistically abusing animals in his barn. The viral 2011 tape of horse trainer Jackie McConnell, which first aired on the ABC News program “Nightline,” has now been seen around the world and McConell, still awaiting trial in a state that wants evidence the next day, has been found to be a felon in Federal Court.

But now this. In the very state that is the epicenter of horse abuse in America, the House, by vote of 50-43, passed HB 1191 and, unless Governor Bill Haslam vetoes the ill-advised legislation, the cowards who believe torture and soring our native horses is permissible will win a major battle in the ability to cover up their vile indiscretions to win their cheap blue ribbons

Earlier the State Senate approved the bill by a stunning 22-9 margin with Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) voting for the bill, while Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) did not. In the House, where 50 votes were needed to pass “the Catch-22 bill,” both House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga) could have made a difference but neither did. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), and David Alexander (R-Winchester which includes Marion County) also voted for the bill.

Among those against the bill were Vince Dean (R-East Ridge), JoAnne Favors (D-Chattanooga), and Eric Watson (R-Cleveland).

Jack McElroy, the editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, is already on record saying his newspaper will ignore the law if Governor Haslam signs it. He wrote, “The news media is not an extension of local law enforcement, and we will not function as such. That's why Tennessee has a reporter's Shield Law, so that journalists can operate independently.

“The First Amendment protects an independent press,” McElroy continued, “because the founders understood that freedom of the press is a logical extension of the basic freedom of speech and is vital to keeping government power in check.”

But Jack’s most insightful reason was this: “Some lawmakers have suggested exempting the media from an ‘Ag Gag’ law. That idea reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of what ‘the press’ is. No license or certification is needed to be part of the media in America. Freedom of the press means anyone can be ‘the press.’ In this era of websites, blogs and tweets, there are no practical barriers to self-publication, either.” (Witness this year’s Boston Marathon.)

Proponents of the bill pointed to the fact that if a health official sees or even suspects child abuse, it must be reported immediately but, sadly, the “AgGag” bills popping up across the nation are hardly the same. The New York Times revealed they are designed to hide atrocities in the food industry, where one video showed beef cattle so sick they had to be loaded by fork lift trucks, workers in Wyoming punching and kicking pigs, and baby chicks being burned and having their beaks snapped off.

Everybody knows animal rights investigations take months to complete. “This bill is designed to keep animals from suffering,” Richard Floyd said yesterday afternoon. “All we are saying is go to the authorities immediately.”

But do we make those who wait out to be criminals? Asked if he was aware that of 195 horses tested by the USDA at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration last August, a total of 145 tested positive for illegal substances on their forelegs, Rep. Floyd said he was unaware of that. He said he was also unaware that not one arrest was made when a stunning 76 percent of the horses tested positive for abuse in the so-called “Big Lick” industry.

Last week new legislation was proposed in Congress aimed directly at those in Tennessee who regularly violate the federal Horse Protection Act. Further, every leading veterinary group and animal rights organization in the United States are rallying around the bill.

But, if Governor Haslam doesn’t use his veto, Tennessee has just made it criminal to build evidence of animal abuse. Who would have ever guessed it?

royexum@aol.ccom



Oh, Woe, What's Next?

Oh woe, what is next is an apt introduction to a topic that lots of people talk about but little actually gets done and the product improves. The product, children, is a blessed event most of the time unless you are black, brown or not readily acceptable to the majority. I saw the prejudice in my small town as Polish, Italian, Latvian immigrants moved to work in the factories ... (click for more)

Bothersome Robo Calls

I receive several (three or more) scammer calls, insurance offers, credit card monitoring services, security services, unknown callers, etc., every day. They come in mostly on my home number but those coming to my cell number seem to be increasing.  Those are mostly unknown callers, no number so you can't block them.  Googling the numbers sometimes confirms they are ... (click for more)

Red Bank Finalizes 20-Cent Property Tax Increase

The Red Bank commissioners voted Tuesday night to adopt the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget that includes a property tax increase. Mayor John Roberts said that along with the increase in both commercial and residential development, comes increased traffic. Infrastructure has not kept up with the growth, including the secondary roads. The cost of paving these roads is $1 million. Money ... (click for more)

Attorney Poston Says Man In Viral Video Seen Fighting Officer Was Trying To Break Up Fight

Attorney McCracken Poston said William Alexander Floyd, the young man seen in the recently published “viral” video who is seemingly engaged in a boxing match with a Chattanooga police officer, started out trying to break up a fight.   The attorney said, "Things are not always as they appear. There is a much more interesting story in the seconds leading up to the events ... (click for more)

Voice Of The Vols John Ward Dies

John Ward, the former “Voice of the Vols,” has died. Senator Lamar Alexander said, “When it came to UT sports, listening to John Ward was almost as good as watching the game. In fact, many Vol fans at many games brought their radios to make sure they could do both. John was a generous, courteous, enthusiastic ambassador for the University of Tennessee. He brought joy ... (click for more)

Belmont University's Mark Price Named Baylor School's Boys' Basketball Coach

Baylor School has named Belmont University's Mark Price as the boys' varsity basketball coach, following veteran basketball coach Austin Clark's announcement in April that he would be retiring after 36 years of coaching the Red Raiders. "I am very excited that Mark will be leading our boys' basketball program.  Throughout this process, we interviewed many individuals who ... (click for more)