by Steven Hale
With the so-called "Monkey Bill" on its way into law, more bills that have caused a public stir — and even elicited public comment from the state's top Republicans — are orbiting Gov. Bill Haslam's desk. A bill that would restrict the number of foreign workers in the state's charter schools is headed his way, and the once-dead guns-in-Lots and "Don't Say Gay" bills are likely to get floor votes soon.
Haslam finds the charter school bill "a little concerning," according to a report from the Associated Press.
That bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Judd Matheny, would not allow a chartering authority to approve a school's application if 3.5 percent or more of the school's staff would be made up of foreign workers under the H1B or J-1 visa programs. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition has called the legislation a "thinly veiled attack on Muslims."
Speaking to reporters after a prayer breakfast at Lipscomb University, the AP's Erik Schelzig reports, the governor said he wants to look at the bill to "see if this is something that hurts Tennessee, doesn't impact it or helps."
You'll remember that rubric from comments Haslam made a little over a week ago, when asked generally about his thought process when it comes to deciding what to do with bills on his desk. Then, he said he would veto a bad bill and perhaps withhold his signature — as he did with the "Monkey Bill" — from a bill that "added confusion to a situation."
Using that criteria, the scorecard right now looks something like this:
Bad for Tennessee: 0
Adds more confusion than clarity or "doesn't impact" Tennessee: 1
Good for Tennessee: Every other bill passed since Haslam took office
Haslam's explanation of his concerns — essentially that, you know, there are positive things that come from foreign people too — seems to indicate that the charter school bill has a legitimate shot of falling into the "Bad for Tennessee" category. (Then again, last time we ventured a guess as to what the governor would do with a bill, we were (sort of) wrong.)
As for guns-in-lots, WPLN reports that the governor doesn't believe he'll have to weigh the pros and cons on that, since he doesn't believe it will pass.
After last night's disorienting House Education Committee, we'll take a pass on guessing how the House will vote on "Don't Say Gay." But if it does fight its way to the governor's desk, based on Haslam's Rubric, it seems a likely candidate for "adds more confusion than clarity."