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Tennessee State Capitol
You folks okay in there?
If the Tennessee legislature is looking to become known as America's new nuttiest batch of lawmakers, they're sure doing a bang-up job. The latest bold move by Tennessee Republicans is a plan to do away with all the pesky voting-for-U.S.-senators business that the Tennessee public just can't be trusted with, instead leaving it up to the GOP and Democratic caucuses in the state legislature to pick primary nominees who will then be presented to the public as a fait accompli. It's not quite an end-run around the 17th Amendment, but it's as close as they could come.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has started talking about vetoing the bill, however, and between that and the humiliation of national publicity the GOP is now trying to slow-walk the bill while they figure out what to do with it:

The Senate version of the bill was up for a floor vote Monday night but was delayed by its sponsor to the last day of the 2013 legislative session –- scheduled for late this month –- after a brief debate. Sen. Frank Nicely, R-Strawberry Plains, is sponsoring the bill as a way, he said, to get Congress to focus more on the wishes of states. He has called 1913, the year the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified removing election of U.S. senators from state legislatures to popular election, a “very unlucky year for Americans.”

After it unexpectedly advanced in a Senate committee and a House subcommittee dominated by Republicans and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, declared his support for it last week, the bill rapidly became an embarrassment for the GOP. State Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron called a Capitol news conference Monday to demand that his party be removed from the bill so that it could continue its nomination of senators through open primaries.

It's not entirely clear what problem they're supposedly trying to solve by declaring that from now on, the public will be allowed to vote for only the candidates the state legislature says they can vote for, but even some Republicans in the state are saying the bill smells of "cronyism."

The bill also follows immediately on the heels of a spectacularly assholish Tennessee GOP plan to cut welfare benefits to children who don't get good enough grades in school, because screw you, poor kids, and a minor flap by some legislators as to whether a newly installed mop sink in the Tennessee capitol was, in fact, a sign of rapidly encroaching Sharia law, leading us inexorably towards the only obvious question:

Is it possible that the entire Tennessee Republican delegation has been eating their statehouse meals off of lead-painted windowsills? What are they even trying for here?

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