A mystery is afoot in the state of Tennessee, where legislators who thought they had defunded Planned Parenthood abortion mills from receiving Title X money for women’s health services discovered earlier this week that a provision in the state budget that had been removed reappeared in the final version of the budget voted on by the state legislature that might negate the defunding amendment. Who exactly reinserted the provision into the budget is still a mystery, but a legislative staff attorney claims he was ordered to reinsert it into the budget at the direction of a top legislator. But when the staff attorney was asked by the defunding amendment’s authors who had given him that direction, he refused to answer claiming attorney-client privilege. And state leaders who would have been in position to give such an order are quickly denying they had anything to do with it. The plot thickens.
Here’s Tom Humphrey’s report in the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
Campfield said earlier that he believed that his amendment had been deliberately sabotaged by legislative staff . But Wednesday he contacted Doug Himes, a legislative attorney who handles budget drafting.
Himes told him, Campfield said, that “someone on the House side” had instructed staff to put the overturn amendment back into the budget bill. But the senator said declined to say who had issued those instructions, citing the attorney-client privilege that exists between the Legislature’s lawyers and the members of the Legislature.
When contacted by a reporter, Himes said he could not even comment on whether he had spoken with Campfield.
There is ongoing discussion whether Governor Haslam can use his line-item veto authority to strike the negating language out of the bill. It should be noted that the defunding amendment would not cut the amount of money spent on women’s health services, but redirect the money to county health agencies instead of third-party providers – like Planned Parenthood.
That a legislative staff attorney is now refusing to tell legislators which of their colleagues directed him to reinsert the provision into the bill by claiming attorney-client privilege is so problematic on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin. As Tennessee radio show host Steve Gill said on his program this morning:
The legislative lawyers represent the legislature, not individual legislators. This excuse is like a lawyer representing a partnership conspiring with one partner to defraud the other partners to whom he/she owes a fiduciary duty.