Wednesday, January 10, 2007


A Change in the Wind

As any Tennessee politics junkies out there already know, yesterday, John Wilder's 36 year reign as Speaker of the Senate and Tennessee Lieutenant Governor ended, when Senator Ron Ramsey of Blountville was elected by an 18-15 margin. Ramsey gained all 17 Republican votes as well as the vote of Democratic Senator Rosalind Kurita. Ramsey's election marks the first time in 140 years that a Republican will hold this coveted post. Talk about a change in the wind.

What does this mean for our efforts in the coming legislative session? Frankly, I don't know. What's unclear now (and was unclear before yesterday's election) is who will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will field any bills dealing with the death penalty. Committee chairs have an enormous amount of power, so who chairs the Judiciary Committee is vitally important to our efforts. We always knew that, with a 17-16 Republican lead in the Senate, our efforts will have to be bi-partisan, but since when has justice been a partisan issue? I haven't noticed that either party has a monopoly on equality or fairness. Those are values that all Americans share, and I was inspired to hear Senator Ramsey speak, a few months ago, to the National Conference of State Legislators and talk about the importance of DNA evidence to prove innocence as well as guilt.

But the real change in the wind that I was talking about when I titled this post didn't happen in the packed Senate chamber yesterday afternoon. It happened at the Nashville Peace and Justice Center yesterday evening, when 20 people showed up for TCASK Lobby Training! 20 PEOPLE!!! In under two hours, these folks, some TCASK regulars, some coming for the first time, learned how the Tennessee legislative process works, the techniques and universal rules of lobbying, and the fine points of making a visit to your legislator.

To me, last night signaled that TCASK is getting more sophisticated and skilled in its work every day. Last year, for the first time, TCASK began seriously working the legislative (or inside) end of the inside-outside strategy that we'll use to end the death penalty hear in Tennessee. This year, we've worked hard to build partnerships with strong lobby partner organizations, and now we have over 20 people, just in Nashville, ready to become successful citizen lobbyists against the death penalty. I don't care who is in office, that is a powerful wind blowing toward abolition.
Comments :
Thanks, but the real congratulations should go to James Staub and Kathryn Lea, the Nashville Chapter reps who made phone calls to turn folks out for the event!
Most of the folks even showed up early!

Last night was very encouraging, and I'm pretty sure that with Alex's statewide training sessions we'll be able to double the number of folks visiting their legislators on March 27, Justice Day on the Hill!
Yeah it was pretty awesome. And thanks for the great link to lobby day, James. I am pumped!
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