Monthly Archives: June 2010

Haslam: Tea Party People Like Me, Too

Republican gubernatorial candidates Bill Haslam and Ron Ramsey are now both claiming the support of Tea Party activists for their campaign.
Haslam today listed 20 Tea Party members endorsing his candidacy. Ramsey last week listed 50 Tea Party activists endorsing him. The third major Republican candidate, Zach Wamp, has also actively courted Tea Party support but hasn’t released a list yet.
Any time citizens organize to keep government accountable, I think that’s a good thing,” Haslam said. “I’m grateful for the endorsements of these community leaders because I’m committed to conservative governing principles, and this group of individuals brings great energy to the campaign.”
Said Ramsey in his statement: “I am thrilled to be dubbed the best candidate to represent the values of the Tea Party movement for the state of Tennessee. While the federal government continues to spin out of control with its reckless spending and encroachment on our state with unconstitutional and unfunded mandates such as Obamacare.”
(Post on the Ramsey news release, including the listing of names, is HERE. Today’s Haslam release, including the names, is below.

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UT Trustee Sees Transparency Problem in Following Bredesen’s Advice (and Maybe There’s a Lottery Scholarship Problem, Too

Gov. Phil Bredesen’s call for comprehensive background checks on anyone who wants to be president of the University of Tennessee (previous post HERE) may not be so easy.
The state’s “transparency laws” mean that anything the checks turn up could be open to the public, reports the News Sentinel, quoting UT Trustee Jim Murphy.
“We’re looking at ways we can find the information we need to find without running into that problem,” said Murphy, board vice chair, during the presidential search committee and search advisory council’s first full meeting Monday at the University Center on the Knoxville campus.
Committee members will visit finalists at their current campuses, as Bredesen suggested, during a small time period that falls after interviews in October and before taking names to the Board of Trustees for a vote, Murphy said.
Such visits in the past, however, have proved better as recruiting rather than investigative tools, he added.

Lottery Scholarships Run Too Long?
A college student can now collect a lottery scholarship for up to five years, but UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek says that perhaps should be reduced to four years, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Cheek said the state’s flagship school must overhaul a prevailing campus culture that gives students the go-ahead to take five or six years to graduate.
“There is a real concern about opening up the conversation. There is also concern about changing it,” said Dr. Cheek, who spoke Monday to a Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board. “The longer we let them stay in, the fewer resources we have.”
UTC officials agree and said the University of Tennessee system should be lobbying for an eight-semester scholarship that includes summer terms to replace the existing five-year limit because it would help all campuses up their poor graduation rates

Supreme Gun Ruling May Mean Lots of Losing Lawsuits in TN

The U.S. Supreme Court’s latest ruling on Second Amendment rights may lead to a lot of lawsuits in Tennessee, but they’ll likely all fail. That’s the general prediction of lawyers interviews by Chas Sisk for a story today.
Tennessee does not have any laws as restrictive as the handgun ban in Chicago that was at the center of the Supreme Court ruling, and justices hinted that they would be willing to accept “reasonable regulations,” a phrase that several observers interpreted to include restrictions such as those in Tennessee.
“Tennessee has very few gun laws,” said Daniel Vice, the senior attorney at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “I do expect challenges to the gun laws, but I expect those to fail.”
…John Harris, a Nashville lawyer and executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said the ruling could open new avenues to challenge general restrictions on gun owners, such as a law passed last year that lets city and county governments ban guns in public parks.
“Now we’re talking about a federal civil rights violation, just as if some state or local official deprives you of your right to assemble or your right to petition or your right to free speech,” Harris said.
Others disagreed that gun owners can now accuse local officials of violating their civil rights. But they did say the high court ruling is certain to trigger lawsuits.
“The main consequence is that there’s going to be a lot of litigation,” said Suzanna Sherry, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who specializes in constitutional law.

See also Andy Sher.
Multiple Republican political figures have issued statements hailing the ruling, including gubernatorial candidates Ron Ramsey and Bill Haslam. The latter has faced some criticism from opponents on Second Amendment subjects, notably for once joining a group of mayors seeking more restrictions on firearms.
Said Haslam: “With an Administration in Washington that is demonstrating little respect for our rights, we are fortunate to have a majority on the Supreme Court that is standing strong for the Constitution. I strongly support the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Second Amendment applies locally, and as governor, I will steadfastly protect Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights.”

Jamie Woodson Backs Robin Smith

A Smith campaign press release:
HIXSON, TN – Tennessee State Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson today endorsed Robin Smith’s candidacy for the Republican nomination in Tennessee’s Third Congressional District.
Declaring Smith the most qualified and prepared candidate for Congress, Woodson said, “Through my work over the years with Robin Smith, I am pleased to recommend her candidacy to the voters of the Third District. She has a true heart for service and believes in the greatness of Tennesseans. In these difficult times, we need people in all levels of government who have a proven record of commitment to the values we hold dear. Robin has that record of commitment and a record of accomplishment to match. She will make an outstanding member of Congress.”
Smith thanked Senator Woodson for her support and noted her contributions to Tennessee.
“There is no greater advocate than Jamie Woodson for improving the education of our children. Her advocacy of better schools has provided the groundwork for real improvements in our education system that will make Tennessee an even better place to live for years to come. Her leadership in the Senate is an inspiration. Senator Woodson is a great example to me of the kind of leadership we can bring to dealing with the challenges facing our nation. I am honored to have her support.”

Bredesen Signs Bill on Jailers Checking Immigration Status

Gov. Phil Bredesen Monday signed into law a bill that calls on jailers to report to federal immigration officials to report anyone arrested without documentation that he or she is in the country legally.
“I believe there has been significant political posturing on this issue,” said Bredesn in a statement. “While I do have concerns about this legislation, this bill seeks to set up a verification process similar to what exists in our state’s major cities, and I have been supportive of these efforts.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition had urged Bredesen to veto the bill, contending it could lead to racial profiling.
The measure (HB670, final version) went through several modifications and wrangling in the Legislature. The House initially passed it last year 67-24, but it stalled in the Senate until this year, when it was amended several times. It passed the Senate 28-3 on May 27, but the House refused to go along with changes.
Ultimately, a House-Senate conference committee came up with a compromise that was approved 57-30 in the House and 24-4 in the Senate in the last hours of the 2010 sesion.

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Bredesen: TN Budget in Better Shape than Most States

By Lucas Johnson
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said Monday that the state’s spending plan is in good shape compared to other states that are struggling financially.
The Democratic governor said many states were depending on FMAP money, which Congress has yet to approve and it’s uncertain when since the legislation stalled this month. FMAPs, or Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, are used in determining the amount of federal matching funds for certain state expenditures.
Tennessee was expecting about $341 million, but had placed the money in a contingency plan, which means the state’s budget won’t be affected if it doesn’t get the funds.
“There’s nothing about this budget that’s going to come apart if it’s not there,” Bredesen said.
But he said some states are “just in these impossible situations, where they assumed that they’re getting all the FMAP.”

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Does Zach Wamp Have a Temper? Yes, by Some Accounts

The City Paper of Nashville continues its focus on Zach Wamp’s candidacy for governor today by rounding up alleged examples of the congressman verbally displaying his temper.
One case involved a confrontation with Bill Haslam supporters at a Hamilton County Lincoln Day dinner where someone apparently handed out copies of a 1983 mug shot of Wamp, who at the time faced disorderly conduct charges that were later dismissed.
The initial dispute was between Haslam staffer Jonathan Bryant and Wamp’s son, Weston, who apparently suggested that Haslam people distributed the picture. But the congressman later joined in, according to the story. Ultimately, Weston Wamp sent Bryant an email:
Apologize for accusing you on Saturday night. Feel like we were all kind of set up on that one. It was meant to make our people mad and make it look like you guys did it. Hope you understand why, in the heat of the moment, it seemed like your people.
My dad would have never said a word, he just saw me and was defending his son …
Another example reportedly came after U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan of Knoxville publicly endorsed Haslam.

Wamp personally telephoned Duncan and verbally accosted him about his support for Haslam and not him.
Asked about the incident, Patrick Newton, Duncan’s spokesman, said, “Rep. Wamp was obviously not happy when Rep. Duncan endorsed Mayor Haslam for governor, but they have moved beyond the endorsement and continue to have a good working relationship in the House of Representatives. Rep. Duncan is a lifelong friend of the Haslams, and he knew them long before he met Rep. Wamp.”

TN Law Draws Cockfighting Tourists?

Tennessee is a tourist destination state for those who enjoy cockfighting, as illustrated by the arrest of more than 100 people over the weekend near Ducktown in Polk County. Or could at least draw that conclusion from reading a Chattanooga TFP story.
“(Cockfighting) is actually quite common in East Tennessee because you border Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia and all three of those states punish cockfighting as a felony, but it remains a misdemeanor in Tennessee,” said John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States.
Mr. Goodwin was in Copperhill, Tenn., near Ducktown, on Saturday during the raid of a cockfighting ring that resulted in 100 (misdemeanor) citations.
“But the General Assembly can change this problem,” he added, “they can bring Tennessee cockfighting law to a felony like Georgia and North Carolina and this problem would diminish.”
There have been repeated efforts in the Legislature to increase penalties for cockfighting in Tennessee, all failing. In the just-ended 106th General Assembly, for example, there was SB537. It passed the Senate, 27-0, but failed for lack of a motion in the House Agriculture Committee back in April.

(Since we now have a White Lightning Trail (see post below) as a tourism promotion effort, maybe a Fighting Rooster Road should be considered. But that might ruffle a few feathers.)

White Lightning Trail Opens as TN Tourist Attraction

The White Lightning Trail, a 200-motor route that starts in Knoxville and winds its way up the Clinch and Powell river valleys to Cumberalnd Gap National Historial Park was formally opened at ceremonies conducted by officials of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. , reports the News Sentinel. The event featured tours of the mapped route in vintage automobiles.
The White Lightning Trail is the fourth in what eventually will be a system of 16 motor trails designed to showcase interesting and offbeat tourist attractions across the state.
The program – called Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways – involves state and county officials working together to identify points of interest and packaging these under a central theme.
In the case of the White Lighting Trail, motorists are directed along Maynardville Highway, a main artery for running moonshine during Prohibition. To reinforce the moonshine theme, one of the featured restaurants is Litton’s in Fountain City which offers a hamburger aptly named Thunder Road.
The project’s foundation is a dedicated website – www.tntrailsandbyways.com – that provides detailed descriptions of each route, as well as maps. Public comments and suggestions regarding the trails also are available through the website’s link to Facebook.

GOP Candidates Would Cut Taxes — But Not Now & Not on Groceries

By Erik Schelzig
HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s taxes on inheritance, investments and businesses are levies the state’s Republican gubernatorial candidates say that they would consider cutting if elected.
The state’s 5.5 percent sales tax on groceries did not make any of the three Republicans’ list when asked at a forum hosted by the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce earlier this month about which taxes they would cut.
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga and state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville called the inheritance tax a disincentive for retirees to move to Tennessee.
“Tennessee is a great place to live and a terrible place to die,” Ramsey said.
All three candidates also said they want to get rid of the state’s Hall income tax on interest and dividends when economic conditions permit.
“As soon you can see daylight, get rid of the Hall tax,” Wamp said. “That’s probably two years from now.”
Wamp was alone among the three candidates in saying he would curb corporate franchise and excise taxes. The state levies a 6.5 percent excise tax on income and a 0.25 percent franchise tax on businesses’ total property value.
“Roll back the tax burden on small businesses … and then we can grow this economy,” he said.
Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr said Wamp’s proposal “represents a fundamental misunderstanding of Tennessee’s business tax base.”

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