by Steven Hale
A couple highlights from last night's Senate floor session, as the legislature begins a mad dash for the exits in its final week.
Gun Play: Political geeks will love this one. In a [insert your own adjective] political move, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle tried suspending the rules to get Guns-in-Lots on the calendar for today. If successful, he would have forced Republicans' hands on the bill, which has pitted two of their key constituencies against each other. The motion failed to get the needed two-thirds support, but Kyle promised to bring it again during today's Senate session. Here's TNReport with more.
Embryo-as-Victim: The Senate passed a bill which "revises the definition of fetus as victim for criminal homicide and assaults to remove viability requirement and include embryo." Republicans have been arguing all along that the bill simply clarifies language put in the code last year, which allows a person who assaults or murders a pregnant woman to be charged for harm to the fetus, as well. There is no definition of fetus in the code, they've argued, so this bill provides one. Democrats have argued that the bill is actually an attempt to move the definition of life back further toward conception, in an effort to bolster their side of the abortion debate. Still others have argued against the bill for logistical reasons. Last night, Sen. Beverly Marrero asked if every murdered woman would be tested for pregnancy. Later on, during a bill increasing the punishment for people who assault service dogs, Marrero asked in jest if the person would be charged twice for assaulting a pregnant dog. These types of issues always get people on both sides shrieking. For an antidote, read Betsy Phillips' measured analysis from this morning. Essentially, she argues that, even granting the bill's supporters have honest intentions, the bill could still be problematic. Having already passed the House, the bill is now on its way to the governor.
Anti All-Comers Delay: A bill brought in response to Vanderbilt's "all-comers" policy for student organizations was delayed last night by the Senate, but should be up for consideration on Wednesday. The bill would prohibit certain universities and colleges from denying recognition to student groups based on religious content or how they make up their leadership. Although the bill would not directly affect the policies of private institutions like Vandy, legislators have been putting pressure on the school to change its ways or else risk losing public funding for services like TennCare. Until Wednesday, read Pierce Greenberg's report on pressure from legislators and an update on how religious groups handled the matter, with the student organization registration process ending last week.