Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has vetoed a controversial "ag gag" bill that would hamstring citizen investigations documenting patterns of abuse of animals and regulatory violations. These investigations have led in the past to regulatory action and demanded industry changes.
As the reason for his decision, Governor Haslam cited the legal opinion of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper, who last week called the bill's provisions "constitutionally suspect" with regard to the First Amendment. (The First Amendment Center concurs and says that ag-gag bills "harm free speech.")
Independent journalist Will Potter, author of Green is the New Red, has been tracking "ag gag" bills for more than two years. Of Governor Haslam's veto of Tennessee's bill, Potter wrote, "It's a huge victory for Tennesseans, but it also has national significance. The tables have turned on Big Ag, and corporate front groups are desperately trying to pick up the pieces of the worst PR blunder in the industry's history."
Carrie Underwood, Others Urged VetoAmerican Idol singer Carrie Underwood joined Emmylou Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, and other celebrities as well as the Humane Society of the United States in urging the governor to veto the bill.
The governor took almost the full ten days allotted him, as well as a delay between the passage of the bill and its official arrival on his desk, to deliberate. Haslam said in a statement that his office "has spent a great deal of time considering this legislation."