DAs endorse Amendment 2 passage over ‘strong opposition’

The start of a TNReport post by Mark Todd Engler:

At their fall meeting in Memphis last week, the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference voted to endorse Amendment 2, a proposed change to the state Constitution to grant the governor authority to pick Supreme Court and appellate judges. But the vote was by no means unanimous, and it took two tries to get it over the two-thirds hump that the conference requires for making such endorsements.

“Quite frankly, there was strong opposition from a few,” Wally Kirby, executive director for the DA’s organization, told TNReport. “Some of them feel like all of the judges should be properly, popularly elected — like they are (at the trial court level).”

Kirby said that Bill Gibbons, a former Shelby County prosecutor who for the past four years has served as head of the state’s Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security, was on hand and lobbying heavily for the endorsement. Gibbons’ boss, Gov. Bill Haslam, is chairman of the “Yes on 2” campaign.

After an initial vote on Amendment 2 fell short, Kirby said there was a call for a redo. District attorneys from around the state who were absent from the meeting were contacted for their input. He said there was consensus among those present that “this was something that they ought to have input on from all the elected DAs — so phone calls were made to the ones who couldn’t be there because of court appearances or whatever.”

There are 31 elected district attorneys general in Tennessee — and ultimately at least 21 voted to endorse Amendment 2.

Kirby wouldn’t provide names of those who voted against the measure, but he related that some felt Amendment 2 is confusing, and that the campaign in favor of it has been misleading. The “Yes on 2″ commercial suggesting that the amendment protects the people’s right to vote for judges is “very deceiving,” he said.

“That is an out-and-out falsehood,” said Kirby. “It does not give you the opportunity to vote for a judge. It gives you the opportunity to vote in a retention election eight years from now.”

New York Times reports on Amendment 1 vote in ‘abortion capital of the Bible Belt’

Excerpt from a New York Times report on Tennessee’s Amendment 1 campaigning under the headline raising the question, “Abortion capital of the Bible Belt?”

Two other states, Colorado and North Dakota, are also trying to restrict abortion this Election Day with so called “personhood” ballot measures, which would extend extra rights and protections to the unborn. Colorado has previously voted twice against versions of the measure.

…Governor Haslam has voiced his support for Amendment 1, as have many members of the Republican-dominated state government. Supporters say the amendment would allow legislators to bring the state in line with the rest of the region rather than serve as what, to them, is a kind of abortion haven. The Tennessee health department says that 23 percent of women who received abortions in 2013 lived outside Tennessee.

For a woman in the fast-growing city of Southaven, Miss., for example, the trip to Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, in Jackson, is three hours by car. Mississippi law requires women to undergo counseling, and a 24-hour waiting period, before an abortion may be performed.

But the same patient can be at Choices, one of two Memphis abortion clinics, in 20 minutes. Tennessee requires no special counseling and no waiting period.

“Should Tennessee be the abortion capital of the Bible Belt?” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, in a post on Twitter last month.

Abortion rights advocates reject such characterizations, noting that even with the 2000 ruling, legislators have enacted abortion regulations, including a 2012 law mandating that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

They also argue that the percentage of out-of-state patients fails to account for Tennessee’s geographic setting. It is surrounded by eight states whose residents often travel to places like Memphis for all kinds of big-city services.

…The debate in Tennessee is playing out as the federal judiciary struggles to determine how much regulation of the abortion industry is permissible, and how few and far between abortion clinics may be until a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion is violated.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court blocked a Texas law that would have imposed new standards on clinics, forcing many of them to close.

… Steven Hershkowitz, a Vote No on One spokesman.. noted that if Tennessee were to pass Amendment 1, and the United States Supreme Court, at some later date, were to overturn its Roe v. Wade ruling making abortion legal, the State Legislature would be free to restrict abortion even in cases of rape, incest or a grave health threat to the mother.

Video urges voters to skip governor’s race, vote yes on Amendment 1

Key leaders of the ‘Yes on 1’ campaign disavow any connection with an anonymously-posted video urging Tennesseans who support passage of the anti-abortion amendment to skip voting in the governor’s race, reports The Tennessean.

A recently launched website at truthon1.org features a YouTube video in which a woman explains why sitting out of the governor’s race during this year’s election — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is widely seen as a shoo-in against Democrat Charlie Brown — might be good for supporters of Amendment 1, which would change the Tennessee constitution to grant state lawmakers power to set new restrictions on abortion.

“Double your vote on Amendment 1,” the narrator tells voters.

That logic, though not mathematically a “double vote,” hinges on a provision in the state constitution that outlines the threshold an amendment must get for it to succeed — a majority of the votes cast in the gubernatorial election regardless of the number of votes cast on the amendment.

…”I know you may think this is crazy, but it doesn’t matter,” the video says. “It’s the law. What does it mean for us? Vote yes for Amendment 1, but don’t vote in the governor’s race. The less people who vote in the governor’s race means it takes less votes to pass the amendment.

“In other words, if you vote yes on 1, but don’t vote in the governor’s race you’ll double your vote.

“Here’s the deal: Please tell your friends! Forward this video to them.”

The website is registered anonymously in Panama. It shows a trademarked “Truth on 1″ logo but that name is not connected to any of the eight committees on Amendment 1 registered with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. The website itself doesn’t identify an organization, although videos are posted on YouTube under the name “Tenn Williamson.”

David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, which operates one of those committees, said he doesn’t know who created the website, nor does he subscribe to its message.

The same goes from Tennessee Right to Life President Brian Harris, a coordinator with the Yes on1 campaign.

“I would like to just underscore that while that strategy is technically correct, it’s not something that we’re advocating from the campaign,” Harris said.

Judge sued, lawsuit locked up in clerk’s office

A lawsuit filed against recently-elected Knox County Circuit Court Judge Bill Ailor has been kept locked away in the court clerk’s office, separate from other files and not available to the public, reports the News Sentinel.

After obtaining a stamped copy of the lawsuit this week showing it had been filed Aug. 29 by attorney David Dunaway, the News Sentinel returned to the clerk’s office to request the file. Again, it was missing from the regular filing system. The News Sentinel then left a message for (Circuit Court Clerk Cathy) Shanks. Her managing clerk, Randy Kenner, returned the call on her behalf.

“It was a mistake,” he said. “No one was trying to hide the file. The case had been publicly recorded and anyone coming to the counter could have seen the file existed. What would have been the point in trying to hide it?”

Judith Moore-Pennoyer, 60, is suing Ailor after he fired her Aug. 26 — five days before he legally took office. Ailor defeated longtime Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly Jr. in the August election. His tenure did not begin until Sept. 1.

Kenner said Shanks decided to keep the file out of the regular filing system so she could quickly fax pleadings to Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.

“It’s back there because a special judge is presiding over this case, so she wanted to have it back there so we could get (pleadings) to him as fast as we could,” he said.

However, Blackwood was not named by the state Supreme Court to handle the case until Sept. 23. He did not notify the clerk’s office of his rules for handling pleadings in the case until Oct. 9. And, Shanks herself sought on Sept. 25 to have the file handled by someone else, stating in a motion to recuse that “she may be called as a fact witness in this case.”

Ball in legal squabble with ‘absolute idiot’ over sale of $1M Florida condo?

Republican opposition research seems to have found yet another legal problem for Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Gordon Ball: He’s in a squabble with the fellow who bought a $1 million Florida luxury condo from him who contends some of things that were supposed to remain in the condo were removed.

From Michael Collins’ report:

“It still is appalling to me that he would do this in the face of asking people (in Tennessee) for their trust and, I’m sure, saying he believes in transparency when he doesn’t in his personal life,” said Barry Kraselsky of Eufaula, Alabama, who bought the condo from Ball.

Ball, a multimillionaire attorney from Knoxville who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in the Nov. 4 election, said he has never even met Kraselsky — the condo sale was handled by Ball’s real-estate agent — but that he tried in good faith to settle their disagreement.

“The guy is an absolute idiot, and you can quote me on it,” Ball said. “He threatened me that he was going to sue me because I was running for U.S. Senate. I said go ahead, take your best shot.”

The legal battle between Ball and Kraselsky comes as Ball is facing questions over more than $46,000 in maintenance fees he owes on a piece of resort property near Hilton Head, South Carolina, and $2,100 in back taxes on another Florida condo. Ball said this week the South Carolina lot is for sale and that he will pay the fees as soon as it’s sold. He said he also will make good on the taxes on the Florida condo.

A different condo is the focus of Ball’s dispute with Kraselsky. Kraselsky bought the four-bedroom, furnished unit on Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin, Florida, from Ball for $1.03 million on Sept. 6. A month later, on Oct. 8, he sued Ball in Okaloosa County small claims court for breach of contract over the missing items.

Kraselsky said he and his wife, Dona, first noticed the missing items — a television, a couple of lamps, wall art, vases, figurines and a floor steam cleaner — had been removed when they did a pre-closing inspection of the condo. The items had been taken by Ball’s wife, Happy, who, Kraselsky says, was en route to Fort Lauderdale but promised to come back to Destin and return them.

…”With Gordon running for Senate in the state of Tennessee, I felt good about his word,” Kraselsky said. In retrospect, he said, “I feel like I was duped into closing.” He added, “The guy can’t be trusted.”

…Ball called Kraselsky’s claim that he had been duped “absolutely ridiculous.”

“I had nothing to do with this — I wasn’t even there,” Ball said, adding that the $5,000 should more than cover the cost of the missing items. “He wants more than $5,000, and I’m not going to pay it. That’s all there is to it.”

Note/UPDATE
: The Ball campaign points out via email a campaign contributions report indicating Kraselsky is a significant donor to Republican causes. He’s reported as giving $46,676 to Republicans in 2012 — including $33,676 to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. The Center for Responsive Politics has listed about $15,000 in donations to GOP candidates this year.

Shelby mayor: Honoring Confederacy’s Jefferson Davis was a mistake

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s administration is disavowing a recent proclamation from the mayor’s office honoring Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, saying that Luttrell didn’t know about the proclamation and would never have approved it.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

“Apparently some folks requested that proclamation and had written it up and had sent it through the mayor’s office. A staff member at the mayor’s office signed the proclamation with one of the mayor’s stamps,” said Steve Shular, a spokesman for the mayor. “The mayor did not sign it and was not even aware of it.”

He also said Luttrell would not have endorsed such a proclamation.

“Proclaiming an event on behalf of Jefferson Davis would certainly be upsetting and offensive to some people,” Shular said.

Davis and the Confederate cause are closely associated with slavery and any such honor is a source of potential controversy in Memphis, a majority African-American city. In 2013, the Memphis City Council removed Davis’ name from a city park, along with renaming the former Confederate and Forrest parks.

Maine’s independent U.S. senator endorses Lamar!

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine says he is endorsing Republican incumbent Lamar Alexander in Tennessee’s Senate race, but is still awaiting the results of elections nationwide before deciding which party to caucus with.

King joined Alexander at Lipscomb University in Nashville on Friday for a discussion about efforts to simplify federal student loan applications.

King, who earlier endorsed Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, told reporters afterward that he is supporting Alexander because he considers him a problem solver in a dysfunctional Senate.

Republicans need to pick up six seats to gain a Senate majority.

Alexander, a former Tennessee governor and presidential candidate, is seeking a third Senate term. He is being challenged by Democrat Gordon Ball, a Knoxville attorney.

Alexander: Feds should allow legalization of marijuana by states

Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has come pretty close to joining his Democratic opponent, Gordon Ball, in declaring — through a spokesman — that he favors repeal of federal laws making possession or use of marijuana a crime, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

“Sen. Alexander believes that Washington, D.C. should not be telling states what to do about the decriminalization of marijuana,” Alexander spokesman Brian Reisinger said in an email response to questions posed by the Times Free Press.

Reisinger said that as for Alexander’s “own views, while there may be some valid medicinal uses for cannabis, he is concerned about the potential abuse and widespread use of drugs for recreational purposes and is carefully watching the de-criminalization process in the states of Colorado and Washington.”

Note: The comment comes after Ball and six independent or third party candidates declared the federal government should get out of the marijuana prohibition business. Their comments came during a debate that Alexander did not attend. Previous post HERE.

Judge ready to block Rocky Top, TN, from selling stuff with town name

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An East Tennessee judge has said he is ready to stop developers in the newly minted town of Rocky Top, Tennessee, from using the Rocky Top name on merchandise — at least temporarily.

The former coal mining town of Lake City changed its name to Rocky Top in June on the promise that developers would build a multimillion-dollar tourist complex there.

However, House of Bryant Publications owns the rights to the song “Rocky Top,” a bluegrass standard that doubles as the unofficial anthem of the University of Tennessee. The company tried but failed to stop the name change.

On Wednesday, a federal judge agreed with House of Bryant that developer plans for Rocky Top products would likely infringe on the company’s trademarks.

The situation is complicated by the fact that U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan in May denied a similar request by House of Bryant. In that decision, Varlan said it was too soon to issue an injunction because the developers’ proposals were still just ideas that might never come to pass.

House of Bryant appealed the May decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the appeals court has not yet ruled, House of Bryant attorney John Triggs in September asked Varlan to reconsider his decision, based on new facts.

Since the May decision, the developers who formed the Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing Company have applied to register trademarks incorporating the Rocky Top name as well as the phrase “home sweet home,” according to court documents. That phrase is part of the chorus of the song “Rocky Top,” which declares, “Rocky Top, you’ll always be home, sweet home, to me. Good ol’ Rocky Top. Rocky Top, Tennessee.”
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