Now and then an innocent man is sent to the legislature.
– Frank McKinney Hubbard, Saying
The good news on the legislative front comes from assorted state legislatures. They remind us that with the ubiquitous frenzy in many states to pass legislation to insure that the kind of non-existent voter fraud that was the hallmark of the recent presidential election is properly addressed, at least some state legislators have found time to enact legislation that has nothing to do with voter fraud, thus proving some legislators can chew gum and walk at the same time.
Last week we examined South Carolina. That state’s legislature took advantage of the 2021 session to expand the execution choices available to those on death row. Until the legislature stepped in, those sentenced to death in South Carolina were given only two choices of how they would like for the sentence to be carried out-lethal injection or the electric chair. In throwing a bone, as it were, to the soon to be executed, the legislature added a third method the condemned can select in order to enter the state prescribed state-the firing squad. It was only a coincidence that within weeks after the South Carolina legislature acted, the U.S. Supreme Court was given the opportunity to consider a Missouri man’s request that he be executed by firing squad instead of lethal injection. His appeals, addressing the issue of how he would like to be dispatched, had gone on for years. In his last appeal, requesting that he be executed by firing squad instead of lethal injection, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled that his request was filed too late and refused to honor it. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to get involved in the discussion. South Carolina was not, of course, the only state to find the time to address issues other than the election process. Texas and Alabama also got in on the act.
In Texas, during the same week that the 232d mass shooting of 2021 took place in California, a shooting in which 8 people were killed, Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, signed a law that will allow anyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun without a permit. Trumpeting the passage of that bill and ignoring the 2021 mass shooting bonanza, Abbott described the legislation as: “The Strongest Second Amendment legislation in Texas history.” In a similar vein U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (who last seized the spotlight when he went to a beach in Mexico to escape the covid quarantine and the cold weather Texas suffered in the winter) said: “I applaud Texas legislators for passing this landmark legislation to make constitutional carry a reality and to protect the right of law-abiding citizens.”
In Alabama the legislature dealt with a somewhat less fraught issue. It was confronted with the vexing problem of yoga instruction in the public schools. Until the legislature acted during its recently concluded session, it had taken a dim view of yoga and addressed it in simple fashion. It said the local boards of education could decide whether to offer yoga and that it was an elective subject. It further provided, however, that instruction was limited to “poses, exercises, and stretching techniques” and provided that all “poses, exercises, and stretching technique shall have exclusively English descriptive names.”
Notwithstanding the statutory provisions that appeared to permit limited yoga instruction in Alabama, the State Board of Education completely banned yoga in the public schools in 1993. The ban was found in the Alabama State Board of Education’s Administrative Code. The Code specifically prohibited any techniques that involve “the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga.” The ban was reinforced in the Alabama Physical Education Instructional Guide. That Guide does not limit itself to addressing yoga. It also addresses certain other activities that are to be avoided in public schools. Among the activities to be avoided are those that “Over-empathize fun with no purposes or objective” and “Limit maximum participation by a majority of students.” In order to instruct those in charge as to what activities might be considered as over-emphasizing fun with no purpose or objective, the Guide lists “specific student games or activities to avoid.” The games to be avoided include: “Crack the whip, dodge ball, Doggy, doggy, where’s you bone? Duck, duck, goose,. . .Heads up, seven up…Messy backyard, . . .Red light, green light, Red Rover, Relay races, Simon says. . .Steal the bacon.” It is not known whether ending the ban on yoga will also end the ban on the games listed above.
Although the legislation seems to move Alabama in the direction that is being taken by the rest of the country with respect to yoga, it provides that “All poses, exercises, and stretching techniques shall have exclusively English descriptive names. It says “Chanting, mantras, mudras,, use of mandalas. . . and namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited.” It requires a signed parental consent that includes an acknowledgement by the parent that yoga “is part of the Hinduism religion” and describes a variety of yoga activities that are prohibited.
Although the legislature was able to expand the ability of those wanting to participate in yoga classes, it found a way to limit the ability of those wanting to participate in the electoral process. It banned curbside voting.