- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Jan. 9

The Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro on federal law vs. state law:

In this age of enhanced communication and rapid transit we would expect the country to pull together, for its citizens to see themselves as part of a greater good.

Instead, on Thursday night, the Rutherford County Commission will consider a proposal to encourage state lawmakers to ignore federal laws.

Didn’t we settle this once and for all some 150 years ago in a war that cost the lives of 620,000 Americans?

Last week, the Rutherford County Steering, Legislative and Governmental Committee voted unanimously for a resolution encouraging Tennessee officials not to advance U.S. Supreme Court decisions in conflict with the state’s constitution. It is a position advocated by former County Commissioner Adam Coggin.

Specific cases mentioned were rulings involving marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act.

It was ultimately passed unanimously with the intention of the commission being able to tweak it. Committee Chair Trey Gooch suggested the resolution be expanded to include executive orders and bureaucratic rules.

It seems that some folks are only willing to obey the laws they agree with, rather than peaceably make changes through the elective process as the nation’s founders intended.

Federal law supersedes state law, and thank goodness it does.

In 1832 after the state of South Carolina enacted the Ordinance of Nullification declaring a federal tariff null and void in the state, President Andrew Jackson sent a strongly worded proclamation warning South Carolina to comply and warning against treason.

In more recent history, think back to 1952 and Brown v. Board of Education. The family of a little girl in Topeka, Kan., sued so she could attend an all-white school. The U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled in her favor to allow for nationwide desegregation despite some state laws.

Do we really want states to be able to ignore court decisions?

The United States is a nation built on laws. What the Steering Committee - Trey Gooch, Brad Turner, Paul Johnson, Allen McAdoo, Robert Peay, Jeff Phillips and Robert Stevens - suggested is irresponsible.

We urge the commissioners to dismiss the Steering Committee recommendation and focus their attention on local issues of importance to the community. Isn’t that what we elected them to do?

Online: https://www.dnj.com/


Jan. 11

The Jackson Sun on a new law that protects children:

We want to applaud the efforts of the state legislature for creating a new state law that helps parents prevent identity thieves from accessing the private information of their children.

Unfortunately, we are in a time that we have to do whatever we can to protect the safety and future of our children, not just in a physical sense but from those who would bring financial ruin by stealing their personal information. Laws like this help us do so.

This law will give parents tools to protect personal information from falling into the hands of a criminal.

The law gives parents and legal guardians the ability to enact a security freeze on the information of children younger than16 or on the information of incapacitated people under the care of a guardian or conservator, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

A USA Today article says that in 2014, data theft reached record levels. All forms of fraud, including identity theft, cost Americans about $1.7 billion in 2014, or on average more than $2,000 per incident, the article stated.

An attorney with the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection also explained that while everyone is a target, children and elderly are at most risk, especially children because their information is readily available as it is stored within a school system, and a child’s credit report is not often monitored.

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service, in 2014, reported that:

.85 percent of people took actions to prevent identity theft, such as checking credit reports, shredding documents with personal information and changing passwords on financial accounts.

.The number of identity theft victims age 65 or older increased to 2.6 million in 2014, up from 2.1 million in 2012.

.More females (9.2 million) were victims of identity theft than males (8.3 million) in 2014.

.People in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more had the highest prevalence of identity theft (11 percent), compared to those in all other income brackets.

.Ten percent of identity theft victims reported that the crime was severely distressing, compared to 33 percent of violent crime victims.

Kudos to all involved in enacting this new law so parents can better ensure the financial wellbeing of their children. Anything that helps protect people from ID theft is a good idea.

Online: https://www.jacksonsun.com/


Jan. 12

The Knoxville News Sentinel on what the state legislature should focus on:

First, do no harm. That fundamental tenet of medical ethics, handed down from antiquity, should become Tennessee lawmakers’ guiding principle when the 2016 session of the 109th Tennessee General Assembly convenes.

Legislators will have plenty of opportunities to inflict injury to the state in the coming months.

One topic that should concern every Tennessean is the possibility the Legislature will allow state agencies and local governments to charge citizens merely for reviewing public documents. Such fees would have a chilling effect on the public’s right to monitor government actions.

The Tennessee Office of Open Records Counsel is supposed to develop a recommendation for lawmakers, but that office is woefully understaffed - there are no full-time employees - and has a backlog of more than 600 inquiries. Legislators could ease the Open Records Counsel’s burden by applying some common sense to the issue. The people should not have to pay to look at documents created on their behalf.

The Legislature also must resist the urge to micromanage the University of Tennessee. A bill to force the UT Athletic Department to use the Lady Vols nickname and logo - which are now reserved for the women’s basketball team only - is one example. Another is the quest to strip the Office for Diversity and Inclusion of its funding because it recommended the use of gender-neutral pronouns and suggested that official holiday parties steer clear of religious terms, images and traditions.

The UT Board of Trustees is charged with managing the university system and has determined the Knoxville campus leadership should make those decisions. Lawmakers should respect the process.

Lawmakers also are practicing budgetary gymnastics to avoid raising fuel taxes. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has a backlog of unfunded projects because fuel tax revenues have not grown and the rates have not been adjusted in more than a quarter of a century.

Raising fuel taxes - which a Vanderbilt University poll shows would be popular if kept to a minimum - is the most logical and efficient way to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell pride themselves on running an efficient session. They should discourage members from wasting time on federal matters the Legislature cannot control. Immigration, including the settlement of refugees, is the exclusive duty of the national government. The Legislature cannot undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, and to stop issuing all marriage licenses, as some have suggested, would do nothing but deprive all couples who want to marry, heterosexual and homosexual alike, of the equal protection of the law.

There will be plenty of relevant issues to tackle, including criminal-justice initiatives, Gov. Bill Haslam’s state facilities outsourcing plan, numerous education matters, rural broadband expansion and the opiate crisis.

There is much good that the Legislature can do. But first, lawmakers must do no harm.

Online: https://www.knoxnews.com/

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