Monday Roundup: Tenn. Gov. Vetoes Ag-Gag

Supreme Court backs Monsanto with no dissent • Tribe helps pay for cost of mascot name change • Democratic donors oppose Keystone pipeline • Ten Commandments flap.

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Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam says the Constitution had more to do with his veto of the so-called “ag-gag” bill than the high-profile, celebrity-studded campaign to kill the bill.

The bill would have required people investigating animal cruelty to turn over footage of alleged animal abuse to authorities within 48 hours.

Legislators who passed the bill said it would ensure that abuse gets reported in a timely manner. Opponents said it was designed to keep investigators  (especially from animal rights groups) from gathering criminal information about livestock mishandling.

The governor received more than 5,000 phone calls and 16,000 emails – mostly in opposition to the bill. Ellen DeGeneres, Emmy Lou Harris, Carrie Underwood and others were involved in the national campaign. 

The Tennessee attorney general’s office said the legislation probably violated the First and Fifth amendments and was overly vague.

Tennessee legislators enacted the ag-gag bill after the Humane Society used hidden cameras to document abuse of Tennessee walking horses. 

Supreme Court Agrees Unanimously with Monsanto. The political rifts within the Supreme Court were nowhere to be seen when the justices handed down a unanimous ruling in favor of Monsanto in a patent infringement case. 

Justice Elena Kagan wrote that Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman could not use Monsanto’s patented, genetically altered soybean seeds to create new seeds without paying a licensing fee. 

Tribe Helps with Mascot Change. The Oneida Indian Nation of New York is helping the Cooperstown public schools with the cost of changing their mascot’s name from the Redskins to the Hawkeyes.

The Oneida Indian Nation on Wednesday will present a check to the school district for $10,000 to help offset the change, which will require new uniforms. The school board voted to change the mascot at the urging of the student body.

Donors Oppose Keystone. The political cost of the Keystone Pipeline may have gotten higher. One hundred fifty big Democratic donors have sent a letter to President Obama asking him to reject the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The organizer of the letter said most of the signatories – business leaders, philanthropists and celebrities – had given the maximum amount allowable under law to the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party in 2008 and 2012.

Thou Shalt Not Agree. Folks following developments in the Muldrow, Oklahoma, High School Ten Commandments case can pick their own storyline. Depending on your personal preferences, you can go with A) A national, atheistic organization is bullying a small school district and creating trouble where none existed or B) An independent, free thinking student is standing up for his rights as an American to be free from state run religion.

There’s probably not much room for middle ground in Muldrow, where the school board has been threatened with a lawsuit for having posted copies of the Ten Commandments in classrooms. 

The posting is probably a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, legal scholars say, and opens the school system to a lawsuit. But some students are pushing for the commandments to stay up. They’ve got petitions, T-shirts and coverage in the Christian media.

A student who contacted the Freedom from Religion Foundation for help removing the Ten Commandment plaques said he has been harassed. Supporters of the display of the Ten Commandments say it is their principles that are under attack.

Muldrow has a population of about 3,500 and is in Sequoyah County, with a population of about 50,000. The county is in the Fort Smith, Arkansas/Oklahoma metropolitan area.

 

 

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