On the News With Thom Hartmann: GOP Lawmakers in Tennessee Want to Revise Our Election Process, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The Tennessee General Assembly is trying to give themselves the power to select which candidates appear on the ballot for US Senator; recipients of long-term unemployment benefits could see their weekly checks reduced by nearly 11 percent; Bisbee, Arizona announced that it will be the first city in the conservative state to allow civil unions between same-sex couples; and more.


Justin Duckham here – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news…

You need to know this. The Tennessee General Assembly is trying to subvert democracy. Republican lawmakers in that state want to revise our election process, and give themselves the power to select which candidates appear on the ballot for U.S. Senator. This is the latest GOP tactic to destroy our democratic process, and it’s their clever way of going around the 17th Amendment. Before 1913, state legislators selected U.S. Senators, but the process was ripe with corruption. So, the 17th Amendment was enacted to give voters the power to select their leaders, and remove the opportunity for rich guys to buy themselves a Senate seat. If passed, Tennessee Senate Bill 0471 and House Bill 0414 would amend state election laws, to let state legislators nominate candidates, and thus would likely determine who represents that state in the U.S. Senate. As Tennessee voters are highly likely to vote Republican, it’s a virtual certainty that the GOP candidate selected by the state legislators would go on to represent that state in the Senate. The 17th Amendment was passed to prevent wealthy men from buying off state legislators, and this new law in Tennessee would open the door to the same type of corruption all over again. Citizens United paved the way for mountains of cash in political races…but why spend millions in campaign ads when you can simply bribe a few state legislators and achieve the same effect? Republicans know they can’t win elections on the issues, hence their attempt to disenfranchise voters and buy off politicians. Now they think they can simply decide who has the right to appear on the ballot. We must stop the attack on our democratic process. Our right to vote is our most important right, and it must be protected.

In screwed news… It’s been one month since the Sequester cuts began, and the Republican austerity is about to hit those who can least afford it. Starting this month, recipients of long-term unemployment benefits will see their weekly checks reduced by as much as 10.7%. Currently, people who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks receive federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which averages a modest $300 per week. In some states, jobless workers will be hit even harder, as their emergency compensation benefits will expire sooner thanks to additional measures passed by state legislatures. This is immoral… and it’s unwise. Cutting aid to these people will mean that many could end up homeless and hungry. And without any money in their pockets, they won’t have the ability to support their local economy. Stores will soon see less revenue, and the downward economic spiral will continue. However, this process will continue as long as we allow Republican austerity measures to destroy our economy. We must stop this before it’s too late.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is standing in solidarity with civilian defense employees. Because of the Sequester, as many as 800,000 workers will face furloughs this summer. So, Secretary Hagel will give back the portion of his salary that he would lose if subjected to the same cuts. Steve Johnson, president of Offutt Air force Base civilian employees union, said Hagel’s move is a “good gesture,” but that it doesn’t do much to relieve the pain of pay reductions that will soon hit workers living paycheck to paycheck. With the huge sums that the military spends on weapons of war, you would think they could find a way to reduce costs without asking workers to bear the brunt of the sequester. It may not put money back in defense employee pockets, but hopefully Chuck Hagel’s decision shows workers that he stands with them.

Arizona isn’t know for progressive politics, but one former copper mining town stands out as forward thinking. Yesterday, Bisbee, Arizona announced that it will be the first city in the conservative state to allow civil unions between same-sex couples. Gene Conners, a first-term City Council member, said “it’s about the opportunities and benefits that we all have, and why deny it to that particular group?” If passed, the new ordinance will go into effect in May, and same-sex couples will be issued civil union certificates at City Hall. As the rest of the state is trapped in puritanical backward-mindedness, the civil union would only be recognized within city limits, but would extend many benefits to same-sex families in that town. Equality may not be the law of the land in Arizona, but thanks to Bisbee, there’s at least one place in that state where a little progress can be seen.

And finally… Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump has dropped his lawsuit against comedian Bill Maher. Earlier this year, the attention-hungry Apprentice host sued Maher for claiming that Trump was the spawn of an orangutan. While most logical people would recognize that Maher was telling a joke, Trump used the opportunity to carnival-bark yet again. Michael Cohen, special counsel to the Donald, didn’t specify why the suit was dropped, only saying, “the lawsuit was temporarily withdrawn to be amended and refiled at a later date.” Right. What Mr. Trump fails to realize is that our court system is not there for his amusement – or to fulfill his never-ending need for attention. Perhaps the Donald will reimburse the courts for their wasted time working on his frivolous lawsuit, but considering he has several others pending – we highly doubt it.

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, April 3, 2013. I’m Justin Duckham, in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.