by Jeff Woods
Two of our favorite legislative characters are back in the news, creating lots of buzz for finding new and innovative ways to embarrass Tennessee. We're talking about Reps.Tony Shipley and Eric Watson, either of whom gives the public cause to demand minimum I.Q. requirements for elected officials.
Recall that Shipley, known affectionately as Capt. Apocalypse within the Capitol press corps for his tendency to publicly blow his gasket, thinks God might pick up Tennessee and drop us into the ocean for being too lenient to gay people.
And Watson last session worked himself into knots trying to figure out how not to appear racially insensitive while also killing a resolution expressing regret for slavery. In the process, not only did he invent an entirely new species -- the Hispaniel -- but he raised long forgotten concerns about the "yellow man's" involvement in slavery.
In their new adventure, our heroes are pushing legislation to mandate that all Tennessee driver license exams are conducted in English only. The bill cleared the House Public Safety Subcommittee yesterday. When a lobbyist for Volkswagen, which is building a billion-dollar plant in Chattanooga, raised objections, saying it might hurt the state's economy and make foreign workers feel unwelcome, Shipley and Watson came unhinged.
"That speaks closely to blackmail," Shipley huffed. "This is a safety bill," Watson complained.
We guess it's a surprise to these guys that businesses aren't anxious to move to a state filled with xenophobic wingnuts.