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There used to be a saying concerning state legislatures to the effect that no man’s life nor property was safe as long as the legislature was in session.
That saying could never have been more appropriate than now, in the state of Tennessee.
For a long time our legislature met, as required by the constitution, every two years, and its principal function was to adopt a budget for the next two years, receive, debate and pass the current Democratic governor’s programme, pass the various member’s Private Acts concerning their local government’s functions, frolic in Printers’ Alley, draw their pay, and adjourn sine die for the next two years.
It was a system that worked amazingly well.
But then the “independent legislature” movement, largely at the behest of Knoxville’s own Victor Ashe, raised its reforming head, and things have gone from bad to worse ever since, culminating in the Republican hegemony as of the beginning of the current session.
What will be the state of your life and your property later in the year when the General Assembly adjourns sine die is difficult to forecast, but we will likely share the sentiments announced by Oliver Cromwell as he drove out the Long Parliament in the mid-seventeenth century, with the command for them to be gone for they had sat there too long.
Consider the public schools.
Already the matter of a school voucher system has been introduced.
The extent of the lottery scholarships for college students has been opened up for alteration.
The matter of child welfare and safety is likely to be aired and the odour of scandal in that department can already be detected.
Knox County’s own Stacey Campfield has already introduced a bill to make welfare payments dependent upon children’s grades — while the voucher proposals acknowledge that at least 83 schools in the state are unlikely to produce students with acceptable performance.
And on and on it goes.
But probably the outstanding proposal for this year is the re-introduction of the “guns in cars” law that was proposed last year by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and his Republican majority, but which failed then.
As you will recall, this is a bill that says that one can carry a gun in his car and park that car containing the gun in a parking lot, regardless of what the owner of the parking lot says.
Presumably Ramsey and his cohorts are asserting that their bill is required under the right to bear arms provision of the Second Amendment, however, they overlook the fact that just like every other right guaranteed under our glorious Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment must be exercised consistently with all the rest of our rights, including the right to own private property and for the owner of that private property to determine what can be done on, with, and to that property.
In this nation, we have always understood that the owner of property can determine, within reasonable limitations and restrictions, who can come on our property, and what they can do while there on that property.
No one can be a stronger advocate and supporter of the Second Amendment than the old curmudgeon, but he, like most constitutionalists, recognizes that the guarantees of that Amendment, like the guarantees of the other nine Amendments must be construed rationally and applied with reason.
Freedom of religion is not absolute, nor is freedom of speech or of the press. It was long ago held that freedom of speech does not include the right to cry “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.
The current problems with Islam are opening up many questions as to just how far freedom of religion extends.
And it is within living memory just what Due Process, the Right to Counsel, and capital crimes means.
Since the Republicans now have an absolute majority in both houses of the legislature. Sen. Ramsey may well be successful in his “guns in cars” effort this year, but if so, we suspect that his will be a Pyrrhic victory, when the property owners realize that their rights to determine the use of their property have been compromised and react accordingly.
But, we shall see. In the meantime let us all join together to pray for an early adjournment sine die.
The future of the printed word has not been as uncertain as it presently is since Herr Guttenburg’s introduction of movable type.
There seems to be a race on as to which mode of distribution of the printed word shall die off first, be it newspapers, magazines, or books.
Newspapers that we once thought would still be with us decades hence have shut down, or have cut back from daily publication to tri-weekly or other distribution, if surviving at all.
Just this past week the publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, in an open letter to his readers, pointed out the problems which that splendid old paper is encountering with advertisers, although its readership is flourishing.
What method he will ultimately decide upon to make up for decreased advertising revenue, only time will tell.
The darkness of that particular cloud was, however, somewhat relieved by an Associated Press story last Sunday telling of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition of yet another newspaper for the company’s expanding stable of papers.
According to this story, “Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is adding the Greensboro, N.C., News Record to is growing newspaper division.
“Berkshire said last week that it bought the 122-year-old daily newspaper from Landmark Media Enterprises, based in Norfolk, Va.”
The News Record has a daily circulation of 58,000 and 86,000 on Sunday. It joins the 63 Media General papers which were acquired last year, and several others previously owned in Nebraska and Iowa, and will bring the total of dailies Berkshire has bought to 28.
While it is possible that the Oracle of Omaha will be proven to be like the little Dutch Boy striving to hold back the sea by his finger in the dyke, past experience has shown him to be capable of seeing light where all the other “experts” see only gloom and darkness.
We certainly, fervently, hope that he is once again right in his assessment of the future of newspapers.