Two Bunch bills oppose solutions to critical state health issues
Nashville, TN - Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Chip Forrester today strongly condemned State Sen. DeWayne Bunch (R-Cleveland) for his flippant reference to those working to improve child nutrition as 'nutritional Nazi police' and for his obstructionist and frivolous legislation.
"Mark Twain said it's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt," said Forrester. "Senator Bunch has apparently chosen the latter course."
Bunch made the comments while addressing questions about the bill from Democratic Sen. Andy Berke (Chattanooga).
"It turns the word Nazi on its head to use that term to describe people who are trying to help kids overcome obesity problems," said Berke.
Forrester said he was appalled by the insensitivity of Bunch's wording.
"It is the height of insensitivity to both the survivors of the six million Jewish people slaughtered by Nazis and to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II to end these atrocities," said Forrester. "There's nothing funny about this comment."
Bunch later apologized, saying he heard the phrase 'nutritional Nazi police' on a comedy show.
Bunch is sponsoring Senate Bill 421, which would allow 12-oz. soft drinks to be sold in public schools. Berke asked for clarification on how the bill conforms to state and federal nutritional guidelines aimed at reducing childhood obesity.
"Bunch is calling law-abiding state employees and public servants an evil name for being concerned about childhood obesity, one of our state's worst health problems," Forrester said.
"What is even more disappointing is that he would use this term at a time when two German companies - Volkswagen and Wacker Chemie AG - are planning major industrial investments in Tennessee. Comments like this one do not exactly roll out the red carpet."
But, Bunch's Nazi comment was only one part of his antics this week. His second blunder involved another of Tennessee's critical health issues: smoking.
The Bunch-sponsored Senate Bill 431 proposes doing away with 'No Smoking' signs required in Tennessee public establishments and, instead, only require signs in establishments that allow smoking.
Bunch's rationale? Complying with the current regulations - hanging up a sign - places too great of a burden on business owners.
"In Bunch-speak, what that means is one popular restaurant in his district was twice warned for not having 'No Smoking signs," said Forrester, referring to Bunch's verbatim comments on the topic. "So instead of complying, they complained to Bunch - and now our entire state Senate has to waste valuable time with this frivolous legislation."
Both the smoking bill and the remarks about "nutritional Nazi police" are characteristic of the Republican Party's extremist view that lawmakers have better things to do than worry about the health of Tennesseans. In recent years, deregulation has helped business at the expense of protecting consumers and families. Now, their extremism is being directed at state efforts to fight two of Tennessee's most critical health problems.