by Steven Hale
Mother Jones writer Timothy Murphy is one of the best reporters working the wingnut beat. He recently broke the story of top Georgia Republicans hosting a briefing on President Barack Obama's mind-control plot. And he beat all of us to the Mark Clayton story.
He's seen some things. So when he says a state legislature is crazy, we believe him. And in this case, we have first-hand knowledge.
In a list of America's 50 Worst State Legislatures, Murphy and MoJo rank Tennessee No. 1, making us the leader of the wack.
Pith readers will recognize the winning resume, after the jump:
1) Tennessee: MoJo's cutting-edge algorithm awards a 500-point bonus to any state legislature that inspires a news story with the phrase "gateway body parts" and "governor signs" in the same paragraph. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam accomplished the feat in May when he signed into law a new abstinence-only sex education program that critics warned would prohibit almost any discussion of sexual activity during sex ed. As Bristol's WCYB dryly reported, "News 5 looked into the bill and learned its language has been mocked across the country…"
The gateway body parts bill was part of a new push to crack down on various other gateways, including gateway words, such as "gay." GOP State Sen. Stacey Campfield's bill sought to prohibit the discussion of homosexuality for grade schoolers. Campfield articulated his views in a January radio interview:
Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community—it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall. My understanding is that it is virtually—not completely, but virtually—impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.
Things went downhill from there. The legislature passed a bill in April (later vetoed) to provide cover for teachers who question evolution and climate change in their classrooms, along with legislation that classified miscarriages as murder, and a bill cracking down on saggy pants. Democrats complained that the saggy pants bill did not go far enough. Although Haslam declined to sign a resolution, passed by the legislature in May, condemning Agenda 21, a spokesman emphasized that the governor did, in fact, oppose the 1992 UN action plan on sustainable development.
As impressive as the laws it passed were, though, the Tennessee legislature was perhaps defined by its individual acts of #fail. In January, GOP state Sen. Bo Watson introduced legislation designed to crack down on the scourge of transgender citizens, by introducing legislation that, per Think Progress, "would institute a $50 fine for anybody who does not use the public restroom or dressing room that matches the sex identification on his or her birth certificate." In April, state Rep. Matthew Hill (R) introduced a bill to disclose the names of all doctors who perform abortions in the state, along with demographic information about patients that could possibly be used to identify them. In July, the Huffington Post reported that GOP state Rep. Kelly Keisling "emailed constituents Tuesday morning with a rumor circulating in conservative circles that President Barack Obama is planning to stage a fake assassination attempt in an effort to stop the 2012 election from happening."
Personally, I would have liked to see Murphy direct ridicule at the greater villain of the bill targeting transgender citizens, Rep. Richard Floyd, who told the Chattanooga Times Free-Press he'd "try to stomp a mudhole" in a transgender person he saw going into a bathroom or dressing room after his wife or daughter.
But still, to Tennessee's state legislators, and the voters who believed they could do it all along, congratulations.