I don't have to tell you who the Koch brothers are. They're the Lannisters of America, using their money and influence to control the country from behind the scenes.
But at least we're allowed to understand the Lannister motives. The Koch brothers are basically messing with laws for the same reason George Mallory messes with mountains: because they're there.
In Tennessee, the Kochs have ruined a public work with an awful law, just because they could.
So Tennessee wanted a bus. A whole system of buses. A $174 million Bus Rapid Transit system to bring people to Nashville. Driving to Dollywood isn't good for the environment.
Whatever. The Koch brothers opposed the bus system because... well it's somewhat unclear why they opposed it. There was some talk that the buses weren't "safe," for bus passengers since the system involved mid-street drop offs. But the hypocrisy of people opposing buses out of safety concerns for the people who want to take the buses is a little beyond me.
There's a "takings" issue. Takings refer to the power of the government to take your private property for important government purposes. They don't "take" it, obviously. They pay you for it, usually a pretty good price. But you can see how Republicans get all "This Is Sparta" over this simple act of government power.
Still, the amount of property the government would have to buy for some bus stops is minimal. It's not enough to justify a multimillion dollar lobbying campaign against mass transit.
Searching around for an answer, I came across this excellent piece by Alex Pareene on Salon. It looks like the Koch brothers messed with Tennessee because Tennessee is a good place for them to express their power:
“With supermajorities in both houses,” [Andrew Ogles,of Americans for Prosperity] said, “Tennessee is a great state to pass model legislation that can be leveraged in other states.”
So, this is not “the Kochs” doing this, in the cartoonish sense of David or Charles calling up a henchman and saying “kill that new bus line in Nashville,” and then cackling and dipping an orphan in fracking runoff and using it to light a cigar. But this is the story of how billionaires dedicated to advancing an agenda at every level of government can do so with practically no one noticing until they’ve already won.
So the Koch brothers killed something just to watch it die.
That's politics, I guess, but here is the horrible law Tennessee now has as a result:
This amendment prohibits metropolitan governments and any transit authorities created by a metropolitan government from constructing, maintaining or operating any bus rapid transit system using a separate lane, or other separate right-of-way, dedicated solely to the use of such bus rapid transit system on any state highway or state highway right-of-way unless the project to do so is approved by the legislative body of the metropolitan government and by the commissioner of transportation. This amendment also prohibits such entities from loading or discharging passengers at any point within the boundary lines of a state highway or state highway right-of-way not adjacent to the right-hand, lateral curb line, or in the absence of curb lines, the right-hand, lateral boundary line or edge of the roadway.
For those playing along at home, that means that Tennessee Department of Transportation no longer has the authority to make bus lanes on the highway, and the placement of its bus stops is now being dictated to them by the Koch brothers. That's the law, now. This is like the Port Authority only being able to open the George Washington Bridge if Chris Christie says so.
Later, when the good people of Tennessee bitch about how "the government" can't get anything done, remember that the Koch brothers are writing the laws under which the government is allowed to operate.