Lauding and Lamentations on Legislatorland

Below are some press releases issued by various intrested parties on the 2011 legislative session, ranging from the state Republican Party to Tennessee Citizen Action.
Also inclludes commentary from Ron Ramsey, Scotty Campbell, the Professional Educators of Tennessee and the Senate Democratic Caucus.
There seems to be some disagreement.

A ‘Final Legislative Update’ From Tennessee Citizen Action:
:Last Saturday, the very first Tennessee General Assembly led entirely by a conservative majority adjourned for the year.
And after 4 months of this historic legislature at work, what do we have to show for it? Unfortunately, not much that illustrates an interest or investment in our most valuable resource – hardworking Tennesseans and their families.
Instead of a working to give us a government that is more efcient, effective, transparent and accountable to all Tennesseans, the state legislature rammed through an agenda that changes government so fundamentally that it no longer serves the people but rather serves special interests and large corporations.
Instead of keeping and extending protections for consumers, people who work for a living, and seniors, they dismantled the tried and true Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
Instead of strenthening justice for all Tennesseans, they limited the rights of the victims of willfulf and egregious acts of abuse and neglect by irresponsible businesses.
Instead of supporting the people of Tennessee who work hard for a living, they attacked overworked and overwhelmed teachers and tried to criminalize the only power that our workforce has to stand up to large corporations – labor union organizing.
While making it more difficult for Tennesseans to vote by reducing access to early voting and requiring voters to show a very specific type of photo ID before they cast their vote, they passed a bill that, for the first time in the history of the state, allows large corporations to make direct campaign contributions.
Instead of ensuring free, fair and verifiable elections, they put the final nail in the coffin of the bill that would have given us a proper way to recount ballots in case of a close election.
Instead of finding ways to strengthen the economy and rebuild our shattered middle class, they wasted valuable time on ” Don’t Say Gay,” birth certificates, and guns on college campuses.
As Tennesseans we must not allow our legislators to ignore the needs of the people. So, tell your kids, tell you wife, and then tell your husband and together, let’s pledge to hold them accountable. When your legislator makes his or her way back to your district, ask them when they will start working on our priorities – justice, opportunity, and prosperity for all Tennesseans, and not just a select few.
From Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, TN – The 2011 Session of the 107th General Assembly adjourned Saturday, the earliest it has concluded in 13 years. It is calculated that taxpayers saved $450,000 in legislative expenses as a result.
Republican control of both the executive and legislative branches of our state government brought about significant education reforms, a conservative state budget, and making Tennessee more attractive to businesses.
“This legislative session, Republicans are reaffirming that real leadership matters. Our Republican leaders have been committed to running a government that is both efficient and effective by setting clear priorities and addressing those priorities in a timely manner,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.
“With our Republican Governor Bill Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell working closely together, this General Assembly was able to tackle some big issues regarding our economy, education, and government spending – issues that are of great concern to Tennesseans,” said Devaney.
The accomplishments of the first session of the 107th General Assembly include:
Tort Reform- Legislators passed much-needed tort reform which curbs frivolous lawsuits, making our state more desirable to businesses to relocate and expand in Tennessee. This legislation was an important part of Governor Haslam’s agenda to eventually make Tennessee the number one location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.
Education Reform- The cap on the number of charter schools that can be created has been removed, allowing more students access to high quality education options. The state has accumulated nearly $40 million in investments to support new charter schools from “Race to the Top” funding and from the private sector. Tenure reform has increased the amount of time that an educator can obtain tenure, which gives schools greater freedom to get rid of ineffective teachers. A new “collaborative bargaining” initiative was a landmark move to ensure that every teacher has a seat at the negotiating table, allowing good teachers to be rewarded for their hard work.
Conservative Budget- The state budget was reduced by over a billion dollars compared to last year, while investing in key priorities and restoring $70.4 million to the Rainy Day Fund.
“I also want to commend Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Senate Speakers Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson and Bo Watson, Republican Senate Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheney, and House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart for their steadfast leadership in shepherding these landmark pieces of legislation into law,” concluded Devaney.
From the Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – The state Senate passed a $30.8 billion budget Saturday that fully funds education, restores health care cuts and extends unemployment benefits for 28,000 Tennesseans.
“The modifications to the budget proposed by Democrats minimize painful cuts, provide all basic services and offer help to 28,000 Tennesseans who are still looking for a job,” said Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson.
House Bill 2139 includes the state budget for July 2011-June 2012, the state’s fiscal year. The Senate passed the legislation 32-0.
Senate and House Democrats worked successfully to restore $82.7 million in health care cuts, with $15.6 million in guaranteed restorations for minority health initiatives and emergency room doctor reimbursements, among other services. Another $67.1 million in restorations are at least partially contingent on federal matching funds.
Democrats also secured funds for $60 million in federal unemployment benefits to 28,000 Tennesseans. The 20-week extension, sponsored by Sen. Finney, will provide $120 million in economic impact across the state of Tennessee, according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates.
“We have a brewery in Memphis that had 500 jobs and 20,000 applicants in the first two weeks,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis. “Tennesseans haven’t stopped looking for work. We shouldn’t stop working for them.”
The budget also includes funds for $150 million in bonds for a $3 billion expansion at Hemlock Semiconductor in Clarksville. The investment is expected to create 900 new jobs at the facility.
“Hemlock has already provided many high-quality jobs and is encouraging entrepreneurial growth throughout our area,” said Sen. Tim Barnes, who represents Clarksville. “This investment is going to pay big dividends for our county, the region and the statewide economy.”
An ‘Open Letter’ to Legislators from the Tennessee Tea Party:
Dear Members of the 107thGeneral Assembly,
Although typically when we The Tennessee Tea Party publish a newsletter, announcement, or alert we do not presume to be speaking for or on behalf of the tea party groups of Tennessee as a whole, or for the totality of our membership. However, we feel confident that an overwhelming majority of our members would agree in saying “job well done”.
Over the course of this legislative session as we have worked hard to promote the principles of individual liberty, freedom, sovereignty, responsibility, and the wisdom of our founder’s principles, we have gained a new-found appreciation for the value of your service. We have appreciated your accessibility and openness in working with us as concerned citizens. At times our relations may have been contentious and the rhetoric of our concern harsh. Due to the passion we feel for the erosion of our precious freedoms having been so hard fought for, unfortunately those passions occasionally overrule our better judgment. After years of broken promises and disappointments we felt that we have not been heard or taken seriously, and have probably been more strident than necessary in the expression of our concern. For these times we express regret. But I think that we all now appreciate the role that we individually play in this journey of restoring our Republic and its representative form of governance and are much stronger for it.
We applaud your efforts and the myriad of accomplishments of this legislative session. Together we have accomplished much by way of education reform, tort reform, election reform, taxation, sovereignty, entrepreneurship, and protecting Tennesseans from terrorism. Although we may have fallen short in some key areas of concern such as immigration reform and the Health Care Compact among others, we are thankful for your hard work and the totality of the accomplishments of this session.
We the tea party has grown greatly this past year in our understanding of the process and appreciation of your service. We look forward to the next legislative session and the continued growth of our mutual relationship. Our resolve remains strong and our goals lofty. Please know that as long as you are standing on principle we will stand with you. We look forward to continuing our agenda as we focus on the upcoming election cycle and furthering conservative values in our elected representatives. We will remain watchful as the redistricting process plays out in the coming months and will work to recruit and promote candidates that are in line with our core conservative values.
Again, thank you for your service and thank you for representing the people of the great state of Tennessee. We are so proud to be working with you and the principled leadership that Tennessee is demonstrating on the national level. If we can ever be of service to you please feel free to contact us at any time.
In Liberty,
The Tennessee Tea Party Team
From Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office:
(Nashville) – Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today praised the adoption of a conference committee report by both Houses of the General Assembly which fully repeals the 1978 law that gave a single government employee union the power to stifle education reform in the state of Tennessee.
“It matters who governs,” said Ramsey. “For years upon years, one union has thwarted the progress of education in Tennessee. Reform after reform has been refused or dismantled. The barrier that has prevented us from putting the best possible teacher in every classroom will soon be removed. I’d like to thank Sen. Jack Johnson for his indispensable leadership on this issue.”
With the repeal of the Educational Professional Negotiations Act of 1978, mandatory union contract negotiations will be replaced with a procedure that gives all teachers and teacher organizations a voice and seat at the table. The conference committee report also ends forever the practice of payroll deductions for political purposes and returns final say over the process to local school boards.
“We’ve had a long journey on this issue this session and I’m more than satisfied with the conclusion,” said sponsor Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin). “Our goal was full repeal and now we will have it. We sought the removal of union monopoly and now we have secured it.”
Under the final conference committee report, teachers will have a vote over whether they wish to be involved in a “collaborative conferencing” process. They can also vote on whether they wish to remain “unaffiliated” or join a recognized organization active in the district.
If there is a majority in favor of conferencing on a specific topic, a panel is formed that is proportional to the preferences of the teachers in the district.
Every school board has the final authority on all subjects of discussion. One issue specifically excluded from any discussion is payroll deductions for political contributions.
Text of a House floor speech by Rep. Scotty Campbell, R-Mountain City:
Why am I against HB0130?
In 1978 the Republican state representative representing my home county voted to allow bargaining. As one that enjoys reading history, I was delighted to find this in the House Journal.
I am a Republican that is against this bill because about 99 percent of my constituent contact has been crystal clear: vote against this bill. This audience (a TEA members was in the balcony) is reflective of the constituent contact I have had about this bill. I was sent here to represent the will of the citizens of my district as has been expressed
to me and that is exactly what I am doing..
The teachers are here. From what I can see the other group is not here. This
audience is reflective of the constituent contact I have had about this bill.
The reality is this bill will not lead to a better educated workforce, yet I
will let history be the judge.
I know what this is all about. It’s time we listen to the people and not the
Teachers: I am sorry they are doing this to you. ”
News release from Professional Educators of Tennessee:
ith the passage of the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act of 2011, teachers now have more choices as to who can represent them at the “collaborative” bargaining table.  Like many Tennessee teachers, Professional Educators of Tennessee has been somewhat hesitant about the rapid education changes taking place with regards to teachers. We have, however welcomed the discussion and applaud those who voiced their opinions for or against the bill.  Now that it will soon become the law of the state, it’s time we all come together to move this state forward in education.
“We clearly recognize that schools are not factories, classrooms are not assembly lines, and children are not widgets.  We spoke out against the negative baggage that goes with traditional, industrial-style collective bargaining. We continue to oppose teacher strikes and work stoppages because they impact the children we teach. We also oppose mandatory union membership, either actual or perceived,” stated J.C. Bowman, the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  “The elimination of payroll deductions collected from teachers by local school systems that can be used for political contributions is also a necessary step in putting the focus of education back where it belongs, on the students and their needs,” he observed.
Retired Metro Nashville principal William B. Gemmill noted that now that PET and other professional associations have legal equal access to teachers in schools, teachers will become more informed and can decide for themselves which professional association best fits their personal and professional values. “As a result of this legislation, teachers and administrators don’t have to fear the activities that they grew accustomed to by union activists any longer. They’ll see that collaboration works far better than confrontation. Once the dust from this debate settles, we should see some remarkable things happen,” said Gemmill, now Director of Media for Professional Educators of Tennessee.   
Throughout this legislative session, Professional Educators of Tennessee has consistently stated that their organization stands by the belief that teachers and school boards should not be adversarial towards each other. “But to the extent possible, they should work together for the benefit of students, improve performance, attract future teachers, and retain and acquire the benefits and resources necessary to keep quality teachers in the classroom,”  added Bowman.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for public school teachers in local districts to work collaboratively and in a cooperative spirit.  Professional Educators of Tennessee is prepared to help our teachers accomplish that objective.  We hope this encourages teachers who, for whatever reason, have chosen not to belong to any available professional employees’ organization, to consider membership in the organization that best reflects their values.  Teachers can no longer be indifferent and must take a professional stance, becoming more active in their local schools with the goal of improving education for all students.  The time for their voice to be heard is now.
Professional Educators of Tennessee Director of Government Relations, Tim Brinegar, was instrumental in forwarding PET’s support of this legislation to senators and representatives. “The passage of the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act of 2011 allows thousands of teachers across the state of Tennessee to have their voices heard within their school systems. With this new legislation, all teachers can voice their concerns and ideas and receive equal consideration,” he said.
“We look forward to working with local school administrations and school boards across the state.  As soon as feasible, we will work to provide a variety of materials about collaborative conferencing on our website.  “We will work with state and local officials to ensure this legislation establishes a peaceful, stable employer-employee relationship. Protection of the rights of all teachers to become members of the organization of their choosing with equal access for all must be enforced. We will work with all parties involved to ensure protection of the rights of the taxpayers, through their elected representatives, to control government policy and the cost of government, while still providing the necessary services in the most efficient and orderly manner possible,” stated Bowman.

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