Tennessee Democratic Party news release:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Records show Rep. Stephen Fincher raked in another $88,000 in crop payments from the federal government in 2010 — at the same time he was campaigning against government spending.
During his career as a subsidy farmer, Fincher has siphoned off $3,342,062 in tax dollars from the farm subsidy payouts, according to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit consumer advocacy group.
“Mr. Fincher is just another hypocrite who’s willing to slash spending for Medicare, women and children, but is happy to keep raking in tax dollars for himself,” said Chip Forrester, Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. “Mr. Fincher has shown us over and over again that his lips don’t tell the same story as his actions.
News release from House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office:
(June 30, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) today announced the appointments of Dyersburg attorney Leo Arnold and Hohenwald attorney Michael Spitzer to the Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission.
“Mr. Arnold and Mr. Spitzer are both uniquely qualified to serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission,” said Speaker Harwell. “They are dedicated members of the legal community, and will be able to provide insight into issues and nominees that come before the commission. Their strong commitment to the highest principles of ethical conduct will maintain the quality of our judicial branch, and I am honored they have offered to serve.”
State Sen. Stacey Campfield has interviewed three candidates for the state Senate District 6 seat being vacated by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson and posted the resulting videos on his blog.
Victoria Defreese, Becky Duncan Massey and Marilyn Roddy – all Republicans – are questioned on multiple state government issues and proposed legislation. There are two videos on each candidate, each video running about 10 minutes.
Middle Tennessee street newspaper The Contributor sued the city of Brentwood on Wednesday, claiming that an effort to clear newspaper vendors off its streets deprives them of free speech, according to The Tennessean.
The Contributor, staffed mainly by the homeless and formerly homeless, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in U.S. District Court in Nashville over Brentwood citing and fining eight of the newspaper’s street vendors.
In January, Calvin Hart, Andrew Harrington and several other vendors were cited after distributing the paper in Brentwood, which has caused other vendors of the newspaper to stay away from selling in the wealthy, suburban city, the suit states. Hart and Harrington also are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit may be the first of its kind in the country concerning a street newspaper, and First Amendment scholars said the newspaper has a free speech case.
Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler is reportedly considering a job as the University of Tennessee’s athletic director, but his spokesman said the congressman’s recent fundraising suggests he’s not planning to leave Capitol Hill anytime soon, reports The Tennessean.
The spokesman, Andrew Whelan, didn’t expressly deny that Shuler is considering the position at his alma mater in Knoxville. He said the congressman “is not seeking the A.D. spot and hasn’t been offered the A.D. spot.”
“We’re doing everything we can to raise money for a re-election campaign in 2012,” Whelan said Wednesday. “I can’t really speak to sports talk radio or Internet rumors, but the congressman is looking forward to his re-election in 2012. He is running for Congress.”
Jimmy Stanton, communications director for UT athletics, said a committee is searching for the next athletic director, but he didn’t know who’s being considered.
Knoxville radio station WVLZ reported this week that Shuler is in talks with UT leadership about the position. He was a star quarterback for the Vols in the 1990s.
Experts say the three-term Democrat faces a tough race in 2012, especially because redistricting by the state’s Republican legislature may strip Asheville, a Democratic stronghold, from Shuler’s district.
Shuler has geared up fundraising with four events in the past two weeks. Another will take place in August at a concert given by Taylor Swift in Washington.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today swore in Robert Hibbett for the Tennessee Claims Commission, replacing Middle Tennessee Commissioner Stephanie Reevers, who served on the commission since January 2004.
Commissioners hold eight-year terms, and Hibbett’s term will be up in 2019.
The Tennessee Claims Commission is attached to the state Treasury Department, and it adjudicates claims involving tax recovery, state employee workers’ compensation and alleged negligence by state officials or agencies.
According to a list prepared by legislative staff, there are 508 new state laws that take effect on Friday, July 1. (Link to the list is available at the bottom of this post.) Today there are several media reports on this, focusing on one topic or the other.
From the Commercial Appeal: On Friday in Tennessee: The old “Move Over” law for motorists is expanded and a new “Move On When Ready” law for students goes into effect. Laws against cyberbullying are enhanced. And motorists must be more careful around bicyclists and pedestrians.
People who get entertainment-subscription services fraudulently can be charged with theft, so don’t share the passwords to your streaming-video movie subscriptions. “Sky lantern” fireworks are outlawed. And it will be legal for mothers to breastfeed their children over 12 months old in public places. (They’ve had that right since 2006 for babies under a year old.)
Scores of new state laws go into effect on July 1, Tennessee’s traditional date for most of its new laws. Some new laws take effect on other dates, however, such as the sweeping changes in the state’s liability laws, which go into effect Oct. 1. And a new law requiring photo IDs to vote is effective Jan. 1.
From the Memphis Business Journal: A key business lobby win in the state legislature will take effect Friday, shifting workers’ compensation requirements in favor of employers. Before the close of its legislative session in May, the Republican-controlled Tennessee General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1785/House Bill 2047.
Under the legislation, employees who are injured and failed or refused to take a drug test must meet a higher burden of proof in filing for workers’ compensation. Proponents of the legislation, which included business leaders and Republicans, have long argued that the shift is needed to ensure claims for workers compensation are founded and not the fault of employees who are on drugs.
While the legislation garnered weak opposition, some workers’ advocates said it shifted too much power toward employers in situations where drugs may have had nothing to do with an injury.
From the Associated Press: Laws that create tougher tenure requirements for teachers and crack down on terrorism are among a number of new measures that take effect in Tennessee on Friday.
The tenure law and anti-terrorist legislation are probably the most contentious of the bunch. Both drew protesters to the Capitol throughout their legislative process. The tenure law requires a teacher to be on the job five years instead of three to get tenure and creates a way for job security to be revoked for poor teaching performance.
Critics of the law say the evaluation system to be used is suspect and that it hasn’t been determined how best to rate educators whose subjects aren’t covered by the state’s value-added test scoring program.
The full list of 508 new laws (or public chapters as they are known until incorporated into the Tennessee Code book) is available by clicking this link: effective_07_01_11.rtf
News release from Department of Economic and Community Development:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty announced today Maury, Roane and Warren counties have met the criteria to join Retire Tennessee, the state’s retiree recruitment program, bringing the state’s total number of active Retire Tennessee programs to 13.
“The addition of Maury, Roane and Warren counties to our Retire Tennessee Program reflects a commitment from each community to promote Tennessee as a great place for retirees to call home,” said Commissioner Hagerty. “I applaud those communities that have made retiree recruitment a part of their economic development strategies and who see the benefits retirees can bring to the communities in which they choose to live.”
In its sixth annual “pork report,’ the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has once again put together a listing of governmental spending deemed wasteful.
This year’s listing (covering 2010) includes such things as $140 million given to Electrolux for building a plant in Memphis (a big chunk of the $371 million total), grants from the Tennessee Solar Institute, a rebate for purchase of electric cars and $6.8 million to purchase land for conservation purposes.
From the TCPR news release (available HERE):
“Yet again, state and local governments failed to live up to taxpayers’ expectations by wasting their hard-earned money,” said Justin Owen, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “With our economy in dire straits, the last thing government officials should be doing is offering handouts to corporations, dreaming up whimsical environmental programs, and using taxpayer money for their personal use. It’s time for them to become better stewards of Tennesseans’ money.”
The full “pork report” is available HERE.
UPDATE: For a different perspective on the pork report, see Cup of Joe Powell’s post on the matter.
Weston Wamp, son of former Republican congressman and gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp, is exploring a run for his father’s former seat in the U.S. Congress, according to multiple NashvillePost.com sources. (Link HERE, subscription required.)
The seat, Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, is currently held by freshman Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. Zach Wamp represented the district from 1995 until early this year.
According to several sources, the ex-congressman has been calling his former campaign donors asking for financial support should a bid materialize and has taken Weston Wamp to Washington, D.C., in the hopes of signing on a big-name political consultant.
So far, though, none of the consultants approached have expressed interest in getting involved in what could cause a messy intra-party squabble. After leaving the U.S. Congress, Wamp has opened up a general consulting firm that “specializes in energy, defense/security, transportation and workforce development/technology transfer,” according to his website.