NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam said today the views of 3,200 Tennesseans urging him to veto a controversial bill dealing with the teaching of evolution are important, but he emphasized the overwhelming legislative votes are, too.
“Sure, one of the things we do is we weigh input of all kinds,” Haslam said when asked about a 3,200-signature petition presented to his office last week of state residents opposed to the recently passed measure.
“It’s also worthy of note it didn’t just barely pass the House and the Senate,” Haslam said. “It passed three to one. ... You take that into account as well.”
The Republican governor, who last week said “probably so” when asked if he would sign the measure, has until Tuesday to decide whether he will sign, veto or allow the measure to become law without his signature.
The measure, derided as the “monkey bill” by critics including scientists and science teachers’ groups, was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.
Watson’s bill protects public school teachers who describe “weaknesses” in evolution, climate change and other theories.
Critics say it would encourage discussion of alternative faith-based accounts of the origins of life such as creationism and “intelligent design” that have no business in science classrooms.
Watson counters that he added language that requires discussions to take place within the state’s science curriculum.
The bill passed the Senate on a 25-8 vote and the House on a 72-23 vote.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...