The Legislature may wind up this week and I'm sure we all have opinions about what they did, what they should have done, and what they could have done better. Here's a game for you: Pretend you are a legislator and draft your own bills. Here are some bills I would introduce, in the unlikely event that voters were crazy enough to elect me. Gubernatorial candidates are free to steal any of them.
Some of them I may be serious about, some of them may be just for discussion purposes. Of course if the idea of being a legislator leaves you queasy, you can pretend to be a lobbyist instead. They write most of the bills anyway. But here's my list:
—Make it against the law to microwave a biscuit. If you are a restaurant and selling these things to the public, it would be a felony.
—Make it against the law for anyone who sells cigarettes to ban smoking. If you are going to make money selling cigarettes to people who annoy us, you have no right to stop them from smoking in your presence.
—Require that anyone who sells tobacco also be required to sell nicotine gum and nicotine patches. What is the rationale of selling tobacco at any wide place in the road, but require people who want to stop smoking to drive to the pharmacy counter for a nicotine substitute? Is it because nicotine is bad for you? Well, duh.
—Forbid anyone who writes specifications for state building projects to require the use of any materials not available at Lowe's or Home Depot unless they can go before the state Fiscal Review Committee and explain why. If the building material is produced by only one company in the state or nation, the Fiscal Review Committee would be required to run the specifier's genealogy chart and audit his finances.
—Require the state to hire a six-person team to conduct a desk-by-desk audit of all state departments to record exactly what each person does. The head of the department would not be allowed in the building during the discussion. Any state employee who can recommended to the team the superfluousness of a particular job that results in elimination would be given a $500 reward.
—Create insurance districts that mirror each state congressional district and invite health insurance companies to bid on providing health insurance. The district would be a "group" like all the employees at an industrial plant. A base insurance premium would be negotiated. Anyone living in the congressional district who did not have health insurance could sign up, pay the premium and be covered. With TennCare-eligible citizens, the state would pay the premium. Companies could sign up their employees and pay the premium. Everyone would be required to participate. The resulting revenue would bring down the cost of health insurance for everybody.
—Eliminate all current exemptions to the sales tax and cut the sales tax rate down to 7 percent.
—Remove any barrier that prevents small family farms from selling organic products directly to the public, to include milk, cheese and butter.
—Cap the effective interest rate charged by check-cashing services at 30 percent, rather than the current 400 percent. The most shameful thing the Legislature has ever done is to allow these exploit-the-poor operations to be legalized. Not only are these Shylocks legal, their names are placed on buildings on the University of Tennessee campus.
—Repeal the Tennessee Lottery and stop poor people from providing college scholarships to middle- and upper-class kids.
—Put all community colleges under one board of trustees. All four-year colleges under the Board of Regents. The University of Tennessee board of trustees would be retained but be responsible for the Knoxville campus only. The UT "system" would be dismantled. The UT trustees would focus on taking the Knoxville campus and its ORNL affiliation to the top ranks of universities in America. No one could be appointed to serve on the UT Board of Trustees who contributed money to the governor making the appointment. Extra points if you aren't a football fan.
And then, in my second term...