A Tennessee state senator says he’s going ahead with a plan to rename the Human Rights Commission, and call it the Affirmative Action Commission instead.
It’s not clear why lawmakers would change the name of the state panel that investigates housing and workplace discrimination.
Technically, affirmative action is still part of the Human Rights Commission’s purview, but officials say that’s not their focus, and hasn’t been for decades. Its director worries the name change would make them look bad, with connotations of giving unfair advantages. And there are fears the move could be a step toward de-funding.
Sen. Mike Bell, a key backer of the proposal, says officials “were just trying to come up with a name, and that’s where we’re at right now.”
“When you think of human rights you think of world hunger, world peace, communist countries,” Bell said, while narrowly missing an elevator after a senate meeting Monday night. “You don’t think of what their job is. And their job mainly is to handle employment complaints.”
The bill is set to come up soon in a committee that renews boards and commissions, or sometimes phases them out—a committee Bell happens to be the chair of.
Commission Head Likes Its Current Name
Human Rights Commission Executive Director Beverly Watts says she met with Sen. Bell, and still doesn’t understand the rationale behind putting ‘Affirmative Action’ in the commission’s name.
Watts says doing so would require reworking everything from websites and business cards to public training materials to educate the public on what the commission actually does. She estimates the cost could run to a couple hundred thousand dollars.
Asked about the suggestion the move could be a step toward de-funding the commission, Watts called it “speculation,” but said “that’s always a possibility.”