Commentary

Stockard on the Stump: Support needed for ‘pantsing’ victims

January 7, 2022 5:01 am
Tennessee Republican House Majority Leader Jeremy Faison has been a frequent critic of unemployed Tennesseans and supported cuts to unemployment insurance, while accepting $79,000 in federal paycheck protection handouts. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Tennessee Republican House Majority Leader and noted pantser Jeremy Faison. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Amid the rancor over Rep. Jeremy Faison “pantsing” a basketball referee, a friend asked me if I’d ever been pantsed.

To be honest, I’d never heard that term until Faison’s infamous foible.

But, yes, I did get pantsed in high school. One day I was standing in the entrance to the gym waiting for the girls team to finish basketball practice when one of my teammates sneaked up from behind and pulled my shorts down past my knees.

Much to my chagrin, none of the girls even looked, which shook my confidence for years. 

In light of this incident roiling the state, a friend suggested I start a support group for victims to fight  against pantsing perpetrators.

After all, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one on the team who was victimized. 

State Rep. Jeremy Faison, who roared out of the bleachers and attempted to pull a referee’s pants down, tried to get in front of the incident by tweeting he lost his “junk” and wanted to apologize to the ref in question.

My first recruit, though, will be the referee who was calling the game between Lakeway Christian Academy and Providence Christian Academy when a scrum broke out and Faison came roaring out of the stands to bring order.

Word has it his son was involved in the pile-up that took place when players were diving for a loose ball. Funny thing is, no other parents took it upon themselves to point their fingers in the refs’ face and jerk at his pants.

Faison, a Cosby Republican who chairs the House Republican Caucus, tried to get out in front of the incident Wednesday when he sent out a tweet describing how he lost his “junk” and tried to get the ref to fight him before he was ejected from the gym and stormed out. In the tweet, he said he wanted to find the ref and apologize. 

Oddly enough, he failed to mention in the tweet that he tried to pull down the guy’s pants, which is the most embarrassing part of this fracas. 

So what it all comes down to is pantsing. It doesn’t matter that Faison, who is an emotional guy but usually in a pretty good mood, stormed into the midst of the melee or pointed his finger in the ref’s face. It’s all about the pants. 

After all, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t try to pants Jim (or Slim).

We don’t need no stinking vote machines

State Rep. Bruce Griffey isn’t going quietly into the good night. 

The Paris Republican, who has caught the ire of Speaker Cameron Sexton, is sponsoring legislation that would eliminate voting machines and require paper ballots or some such paper trail. He also wants to pass a bill that would stop the public education of undocumented students.

Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Griffey says he wants public confidence in vote results. This clearly stems from former President Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 vote was stolen. 

Conspiracy theorists claim Dominion voting machines were used to steal the election, and Griffey doesn’t appear to have much faith in any machines. Others blame absentee ballots, ballot drop boxes and other procedures used to bolster voter turnout.

Tennessee’s effort to quell absentee balloting is well documented.

But even though President Trump won more than 60% of the vote in Tennessee and Republicans recaptured just about all of their seats two years ago, people in Griffey’s camp don’t trust the election process.

The state tried to do something about this more than a decade ago.

The Legislature passed the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act in 2008 requiring all 95 counties to go with voter-verified paper ballots in advance of the 2010 election. But that was gutted two years later when Republicans took majority control of the General Assembly. A year later, Republicans passed legislation making paper ballots optional.

Still, about a third of the state’s county election commissions have paper trails and some 45% of the state’s votes are backed up by paper.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett supports the move to paper trails, and he is preparing to seek legislation in 2022 requiring some sort of election audit to promote confidence in the vote.

Democratic Sens. Jeff Yarbro and Heidi Campbell have sought to pass legislation to require paper trails, but those bills stalled in committees.

Though their motives are probably coming from different views, Griffey says he would love to have Democrats back his bill.

And, this was reported by former Nashville Scene reporter Jeff Woods, who was last seen tromping out of the Legislative Plaza for the Appalachian Trail out of complete disgust with our beloved lawmakers. Apparently, he just couldn’t take it anymore.

Rep. Bruce Griffey says he wants public confidence in voting results, which clearly stems from former President Donald Trump’s claims the 2020 election was stolen.

After Republicans delayed the Voter Confidence Act in 2010, Woods quoted former Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, who supported the act and a paper trail for recounts and audits.

“This may not be motherhood and apple pie, but it’s pretty close,” Herron said in the article.

Now an education lobbyist, Herron, no doubt, is proud to be in the same camp with Griffey, who said this week, “I’ll get pushback, … and I’d love to have the Democrats join me on this, because free and fair elections for everybody, who’s against that? I wouldn’t understand the pushback.”

No omicron fears

Lawmakers, lobbyists and anyone brave enough will return to Capitol Hill as the General Assembly gavels into session Tuesday, Jan. 11.

But even though the omicron variant of COVID-19 is sweeping across the state and nation, legislative leaders aren’t planning any extra precautions.

“As COVID-19 transitions from a pandemic threat to an endemic reality, Lt. Gov. (Randy) McNally will continue to encourage people to be vaccinated and make smart choices. Beyond continuing the sterilization of the facility and sanitation stations, there will be no explicit COVID-19 protocols in terms of distancing and capacity this session,” said Adam Kleinheider, spokesman for McNally.

Kelsey keeps backseat

State Sen. Jon Lundberg will continue to serve as interim chairman of the Senate Education Committee as Sen. Brian Kelsey faces a five-count indictment for allegedly breaking federal campaign finance laws.

Kelsey stepped aside last year after being indicted for allegedly funneling money from his state PAC through two other groups to buy a host of radio ads to support his failed 2016 congressional campaign.

Kelsey’s trial was set for Jan. 18, but he postponed it for a year after hiring a new attorney, Paul Bruno of Murfreesboro, who reportedly has a big murder trial pending.

A tearful Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, under indictment for federal campaign finance violations, tells his colleagues he will step down from his position as chair of the Senate Education Committee. (Photo: John Partipilo)
A tearful Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, under indictment for federal campaign finance violations, tells his colleagues he will step down from his position as chair of the Senate Education Committee. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Because of the year-long delay, Kelsey will continue to sit out as Senate Education chairman. He’ll also face a re-election campaign while having the indictment hanging over his head.

Stephen Elliott, where are you?

How did I get on the Griffey beat, replacing the Nashville Scene’s Stephen Elliott, who once covered the firebrand Paris Republican to the hilt?

Elliott, who is interim editor at the Scene instead of a mere reporter, must be too busy reading copy and suing the state to worry about Griffey anymore.

He filed a public records suit this week against the Lee Administration over its refusal to make available a report by McKinsey Co., a consulting firm the state paid about $3.8 million in 2020 to figure out how to run state government in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Elliott is the second person to take the state to court. Tennessee Department of Human Resources employee Thomas Wesley filed a lawsuit against the state in December, asking state officials to explain in court why they’re withholding the report, according to a Tennessee Lookout article.

So far, we don’t know what we got for our money.

But based on some of the questionable contracts the state entered at the height of the pandemic and governor’s state of emergency, they didn’t give great advice but still got paid. Nothing like a good money grab.

Hanging out at Fall Creek Falls

Gov. Bill Lee didn’t hold any Nashville press briefings the first week of the year, but he did go to Fall Creek Falls for the grand opening of a $40.4 million lodge in Spencer.

Just so readers won’t be denied a super-scintillating Lee quote, he said, “This new lodge is an outstanding attraction at a premier state park. It’s an example of why Tennessee has one of the best state parks systems in America. We are eager to welcome the many visitors who will stay at the lodge and continue to make Fall Creek Falls State Park a year-round destination.”

Plans for the lodge didn’t start under Lee, but he allayed fears among the community there about the project and the future of state employees. Thus, he deserves some credit for dumping former Gov. Bill Haslam’s efforts to privatize the state parks system and turn state employees into refugees. 

Of course, the state parks system was in such poor shape a few years ago that nobody in the private sector wanted it. 

Banking on MLK

Williamson County-based Moms for Liberty took a Twitter bashing this week for using the image of Martin Luther King Jr. to promote their “civil rights” fundraiser, which is costing $100 per seat. 

Williamson Strong called it “NEXT LEVEL hypocrisy,” considering M4L spent much of 2021 trying to remove MLK books from elementary school shelves.

Shockingly, the group will have conservative speakers such as “Mr. Excitement” Dr. Ben Carson, who worked for President Trump, and former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain, who tweeted Thursday that “January 6th was a political protest hijacked by an activist minority containing FBI informers and instigators from BLM and Antifa. It served the Left’s desire to prevent scrutiny of election irregularities. Any more questions?”

Moms for Liberty has gotten bashed for including an image of Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote an event, even though the group has tried to have books on MLK removed from libraries.

(Who capitalizes the Left?)

If this is the best they can do, Moms for Liberty might need to cut the entrance fee.

But it also reminds me of something a wise sage recently said, “Moms for Liberty, they want change, but they’ll also take credit cards.”

Follow the money

Valero Energy, one of the companies that wanted to extend the Byhalia Connection pipeline across south Memphis, affecting mainly Black neighborhoods, donated $207,500 to members of Congress who voted against President Joe Biden’s certification, reports show.

The top donors were Boeing, $346,500, Koch Industries, $308,000, and General Dynamics, $233,500, according to a report by Citizens for Ethics.

Valero reportedly said it would pause donations to re-evaluate its policies after the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, but along with Aflac and Ford Motor Co., it resumed donations and wound up giving a total of $300,000 to congressional members who refused to certify Biden’s election.

Valero, one of two companies that wanted to run the Byhalia pipeline through south Memphis’s Black communities, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election.

That’s likely to warm the cockles of Carol Swain and state leaders who still believe the election was stolen from Trump. It also wins more points for Ford as it starts building Blue Oval City at the Memphis Regional Megasite.

Tennessee Republican Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn were prepared to reject the “tainted” election results but wound up voting to certify. Tennessee’s Republican members of Congress voted against certification, except for Rep. David Kustoff, who split his vote between two states. Democratic U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen of Memphis and Jim Cooper of Nashville voted to certify.

Happy Insurrection Anniversary, everybody.

 

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.

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