Those are lyrics from the legendary Schoolhouse Rock video “I’m Just a Bill.” Click HERE to watch it. For TCASK’s 2009 Justice Day on the Hill, the bill was House Bill 1496, enacting a one year moratorium on Tennessee’s death penalty. While the Schoolhouse Rock video is educational, there is a lot more that goes into bill passage than a three minute video can depict. One of the most important factors in bill passage is citizen lobbying.
Justice Day brings concerned Tennesseans from across the state to meet with their legislators. A face to face meeting is the most effective way to advocate for the passage of a bill. The day began with a stark reminder of why we were there. In a press conference organized by TCASK, Michael McCormick and Joyce House both spoke. Michael was on Tennessee’s death row for 20 years before finally receiving an acquittal in a new trial. Joyce’s son, Paul House, was on Tennessee’s death row for 23 years before being released where he is now awaiting retrial. Tennessee’s death penalty is broken. Innocent people are caught up in the system. This is why Tennesseans came to Nashville to meet with their legislators.
For some folks, this was their second, third, or even fourth Justice Day on the Hill. They strode into their legislator’s office with confidence. For others, this was their first time walking through the Tennessee statehouse. They were participating in the democratic process and initiating a relationship with their elected officials. For all, it was a reminder that while we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. Legislators are turning to TCASK for thoughtful and objective education on the death penalty. They respect our mission and drive. However, there are still those who are clouded by misconception and myth. TCASK will continue to provide clarity to the brokenness of the death penalty system. And someday, as more legislators realize that supporting a broken system does not serve their constituents or the state of Tennessee, we will not by lobbying for a moratorium, but for repeal of Tennessee’s death penalty.
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