Monthly Archives: August 2012

Notes on Lamar and Other Tennesseans at GOP Convention

Alexander: GOP Dominance Can Be a Problem
Sen. Lamar Alexander told reporters at the Republican National Convention that he fears the party that put Howard Baker, Bill Frist and himself into the Senate — and the national spotlight — could become complacent if it does not push itself to remain open to a variety of people. More from Chas Sisk:
“I don’t see any signs of it yet, but entrenched success breeds vulnerability, so we have to be on our toes and keep an open door and continue to recruit good candidates,” he said. “We have to have a variety of thinking — not trying to turn everybody to a single point of view.”
Alexander gave similar advice in a lunchtime speech to the Tennessee delegation to the convention. Among other things, he recommended keeping the Republican primary open to all voters
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A Laughing With Lamar
Sen. Lamar Alexander, answering a question about the Republican party’s platform (as reported in a Bart Sullivan notebook):
“The platform is a repository for a variety of ideas from a broad spectrum of the Republican Party, and that’s a good place for those ideas.”
Then he, and everyone in the room, roared with laughter.
“I think I’m elected to pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and I’ll certainly show respect for the ideas in the platform, but I have my own views,” he said.
…Of one provision, Alexander was more specifically critical. “Sometimes these Audit-the-Fed bills turn into ‘substitute the Congress for the Federal Reserve Board.’ I can’t think of any organization in the country I’d trust less with holding down inflation than the United States Congress.”

And, on Sen. Bob Corker having a Democratic opponent disavowed by his own party:
“I stay up late at night worrying about whether he’s going to be sitting next to me next year,” Alexander joked. Then, turning serious, he said: “I think it’s a testament to the fact he’s done such a heck of a good job … Democrats can’t even work up enough sweat to find a candidate to run against him.”
Santorum to Tennesseans: Go to N.C
Comparing Obama to an emperor while discoursing on the French Revolution, Rick Santorum asked Tennessee delegates to join his Patriot Voices group to campaign for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in North Carolina, reports the Tennessean. The former Romney foe said he is recruiting volunteers around the country for his organization to work in five states that could determine the outcome of the November election.
“North Carolina is just off red,” he said, referring to the color often used by political analysts to designate a Republican-leaning state. “It needs some good work from folks from Tennessee. You guys talk like people from North Carolina. It’s easy for you to go over there as covert North Carolinians.”
Santorum’s plea for aid followed a brief address in which he outlined his views on the roots of American government and differences between the American and French revolutions.
Santorum said that because French revolutionaries did not recognize God in their founding documents, they ultimately let democratic principles give way to political executions and dictatorship.

TN Delegates Optimistic at End
Michael Collins has quotes from several Tennessee delegates on the end of the convention. A sample:
While most polls show the contest dead even as it enters the final stretch, delegate Randy Boyd of Knoxville said the Romney team has effectively used a campaign strategy that calls to mind the rope-a-dope boxing tactic often associated with Muhammad Ali.
The idea is to trick your opponent into thinking you’re in trouble so he’ll keep throwing punches and wear himself out.
“In the last three rounds,” Boyd said, “we’ve sat in the corner and taken punch after punch after punch. The other guy has worn himself out. And now, all of a sudden, we’re going into the last rounds and we’re fresh and have more resources, more energy, and we’re even on the balance. What a great position to be in.”

Berke Questions Virtual School’s ‘Dismal’ Performance

Sen. Andy Berke is calling on lawmakers to conduct a “thorough review” of a for-profit virtual school operating in a Northeast Tennessee school district, citing state student testing results he charges show “dismal” results, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Berke, D-Chattanooga, is a frequent critic of K12 Inc.’s Tennessee Virtual Academy, which in the 2011-12 school year opened its online school under contract with the Union County Public Schools system.
According to best estimates from K12, about 1,800 K-8 students from across the state signed up last school year to sit at their home computers and take courses online with support from K12 teachers. The company operates in states across the country.
In a letter Wednesday to Senate Education Committee Chairman Delores Gresham, Berke says state Education Department testing data for the 2011-12 school year show Tennessee Virtual Academy students “performed in the bottom 11 percent of schools statewide.
“As the [school] is advertising on television — and the state anticipates shifting millions of additional tax dollars to [the school] this school year — it is important that we examine K12 Inc.’s performance,” wrote Berke, whose efforts to require an audit of K12’s Tennessee school went nowhere in the Republican-controlled General Assembly last session.
Berke said in an interview Thursday that “if we’re going to use taxpayer dollars … we should ask for real achievement. K12 doesn’t give it to us.”
Gresham, R-Somerville, was the primary Senate sponsor of the 2011 law authorizing local school systems to contract with for-profit online schools. She did not respond Thursday to a reporter’s request to comment on Berke’s criticisms.
Tennessee Virtual Academy’s head, Josh Williams, said in an email that 2011-12 was the school’s first year of operation, suggesting it was unfair to judge results solely on that basis.
“All students were in their first year and most transferred from another district in the state,” he said. “The modality for learning and the school itself were new to every student.”

TN Supreme Court Lets Rock Quarry Operate Despite Zoning Ordinance

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated a ruling by Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood that a New Market company’s mining activities may continue under the “grandfather clause” despite the enactment of a county zoning ordinance which purported to limit the land use to agriculture.
From the 1880s until 1967, a variety of owners intermittently conducted mining activities on a property in Jefferson County. American Limestone, which sold its interest to Ready Mix, USA, LLC during the lengthy proceedings in the trial court, had re-initiated mining operations only weeks before the county enacted a comprehensive zoning ordinance, which would have prevented use of the land for quarrying gravel or crushed stone. The county issued a stop work order once the ordinance was enacted.
Today, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided that the quarry owned by Ready Mix is protected by the “grandfather clause,” a statute that permits a business to continue if “in operation” at a time a zoning ordinance, which would otherwise prohibit the activity, takes effect. In a unanimous opinion, which included a separate concurrence by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., the Court reversed a ruling by the Court of Appeals, which had dismissed the claim on procedural grounds.
To read the Ready Mix, USA, LLC v. Jefferson County, Tennessee opinion authored by Justice Gary R. Wade visit . https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/ready_mix_opn.pdf
To read the concurring opinion by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/readymix_con.pdf.

Minor Party Candidates Have Shoestring Budget, Internet Efforts in Common

Hank Hayes reports on a trio of minor party candidates from Northeast Tennessee:
History suggests Kermit Steck, Bob Smith and Suzanne “Flower” Parker have no chance of being elected to public office, but the three Northeast Tennesseans have won the right to put their names before the electorate.
They all insist third political parties are viable alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties.
On Aug. 9, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Tennessee’s ballot access law for newly qualified political parties and ordered the state to put Steck, Smith and Parker on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.
They are among about a dozen candidates listed statewide as “minor party candidates” for the general election ballot.
Steck, 56, is the Constitution Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican incumbent Bob Corker. Smith, 70, is the Green Party’s candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Phil Roe. And Parker, 40, is the Green Party’s candidate in Tennessee’s up-for-grabs 3rd House District.

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Pharmaceutical Company Settles Deceptive Marketing Settlement

News release from state attorney general’s office:
Tennessee will receive approximately $4.5 million as part of the largest ever multistate consumer protection agreement with a pharmaceutical company for alleged deceptive marketing practices.
Attorney General Bob Cooper announced that he and 35 other Attorneys General reached a record $181 million agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. The multistate group alleges that Janssen improperly marketed the atypical (second generation) antipsychotic drugs Risperdal, Risperdal Consta, Risperdal M-Tab, and Invega.
The States allege that Janssen engaged in unfair and deceptive practices when it marketed Risperdal for unapproved or off-label uses. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Janssen promoted Risperdal for off-label uses to both geriatric and pediatric populations, targeting patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety, when these uses were not FDA-approved and for which Janssen had not established that Risperdal was safe and effective.

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TN Republican Convention Notes, Thursday edition

Conventional Unity for TN GOP
At a convention where states such as Minnesota, Iowa and Maine have been divided by an insurgency led by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, The Tennessean reports that self-identified tea party activists in the Tennessee delegation have said they want to set their disagreements aside in the interest of party unity.
“I think in the state of Tennesee that we address those tea party-type issues in the legislature all the time because we agree with them,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “I just don’t think we see a lot of disunity in Tennessee.”
…”I think if you asked around, you’d have a pretty good representation of the entire spectrum of the Republican Party,” Haslam said of the delegation. “Some of that is maybe they (tea party leaders) didn’t get on the ballot to be a delegate. There’s a process you have to go through. … But I’m not certain I buy that there are no tea party people here.”

Brock Credits Tea Party
Former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Tuesday night that he credits the tea party for much of the enthusiasm at this year’s convention. (From a Commercial Appeal convention notebook).
“I love it,” he said amid the Tennessee delegation on the convention floor. “There’s a lot of different energy here. I credit the tea party a lot for bringing some real — I’m a grass-roots guy. That’s what I tried to do when I was national chairman and that’s what I tried to do in Tennessee.
Brock, 81, served one term from 1971 to 1977 then was named GOP chairman,

Winfield and Beth
Former Gov. Winfield Dunn on House Speaker Beth Harwell (from a Tennessean convention notebook):
“As the governor of the state of Tennessee, I had to deal with some interesting people,” Dunn said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d want to go up to the speaker of the House of Representatives in the state of Tennessee and give them a big hug and a kiss.”
Ramsey Remembers
While entertaining Tennesseans at the Republican National Convention, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey hopped in the way-back machine and told the story about the day he was elected Senate speaker in 2007.
His lively retelling Monday night featured the role then-Sen. Rosalind Kurita played the day she crossed party lines to vote to, in essence, hand the Republican Ramsey the gavel, according to the Memphis Flyer.
“I walk up the front of the chamber, turn around and come back and make eye contact with her, and she just winks at me. I said, ‘Hot dang, baby. We’re still in the game here. We’re still rocking and rolling.'”
(Above from TNReport, which also has a video.)

Senate Democrats Want Delay in Primary Vote Certification

News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Democratic legislative leaders requested in a letter that state election officials delay plans to certify August primary results after alarming reports of voting machines that defaulted to the Republican primary ballot.
“Voting apparatus should never default to one party or another,” the letter states. “We join citizens around the state who now doubt the outcome of the August elections in Davidson County, and we demand a full investigation. We also demand that plans to certify the election tomorrow be suspended.”
Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Lowe Finney, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh and House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner sent the letter to Secretary of State Tre Hargett Wednesday. An analysis of August turnout showed a 27 percent increase in Democratic turnout, compared to a 350 percent increase in Republican turnout.
“Frankly, it doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” the letter states.
The complete letter can be found here.

TN Becoming a Three-Party State?

In the next session of the state Legislature, there could be three political parties, says Frank Cagle: the Democrats, the traditional Republicans, and a group of ultra-conservative members that can be grouped under the rubric of the Tea Party.
This fall, in Tennessee, it won’t get any better for the Democrats.
Republicans are expected to pick up even more House and Senate seats, most likely they will have enough Republicans for a two-thirds majority in the House. That means they wouldn’t even need Democrats for a quorum and they can squelch any parliamentary maneuvers and can ram through any legislation they please.
That may not be a good thing. The new one-party rule of Republicans is unlike the one-party rule enjoyed by the Democrats for decades. The Democrats’ power in the House rested on a coalition between urban blacks and rural West Tennessee whites. In order to keep control, it was necessary for the House Democrats to be a tightly disciplined group. It was also necessary for conservative Democrats to reach out to conservative Republicans at times and form coalitions on a specific bill.
The Republicans, long in the minority and not having the power to govern, have several members who are used to being free agents. They have never had to be a disciplined group. It is also in the nature of conservative Republicans to resist authority. As former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker once observed, it’s like herding cats.
Seven incumbent Republicans were defeated in their primaries. House Speaker Pro Tem Judd Matheny has said he may challenge Speaker Beth Harwell. There will be a bitter battle to pick a new House Caucus chair, since Debra Maggart was defeated.
Holding together all the different factions within the Republican Party will be a difficult job. In addition to the usual special interests represented by lobbyists, there is now the added pressure of the Tea Party groups who will be demanding ideological purity from House members. The pressures from all sides and the natural inclination of conservative Republicans to go their own way could split the House Republicans.
…When the Democrats practiced one-party rule, the Black Caucus was a reliable voting bloc that negotiated with the rural Democrats in order to get things for their urban districts. We may see the formation of a Tea Party Caucus that sets up as a separate entity in the House and performs a similar role for the Republicans.
But it won’t be about projects and patronage, it will be about ideology.
The state’s business community may grow to miss the Democrats.

Campfield Says Rat Rump Reference to Black Caucus a GOP Catch Phrase

State Sen. Stacey Campfield says a colleague’s reference to a rat’s rump in a rebuke to the Legislature’s Black Caucus has become a “catch phrase” among members of Tennessee’s delegation to the Republican National Convention.
Expanding in a telephone interview on comments made in blog posts from the convention, the Knoxville lawmaker also said Wednesday the Black Caucus is a “segregationist organization” that should be ignored, just as Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, suggested in a controversial email.
That email, sent to Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, with a request that she forward it to other members of the Black Caucus said: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the Black Caucus thinks.” He was responding to a Black Caucus comments on a Senate subcommittee report.
Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, chairman of the Black Caucus, said Campfield’s remarks were “asinine.” Adam Nickas, executive director of the state Republican party, said in an email that Campfield was wrong about use of the phrase at the convention.
“The only catch phrase I’ve been hearing is, “We built it,” in response to President Obama’s degrading comments to hard working small business owners,” Nickas wrote.
“In regards to Mr. Campfield and Summerville’s comments: We do not endorse their comments and they are not reflective of the view of the state party. Such statements are simply ridiculous.”

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E-Book Price Fixing Lawsuit Settled; Some Consumers Get Refunds

News release from attorney general’s office:
If you purchased E-Books over the past two years, you may soon be eligible for restitution as the result of a multistate agreement to resolve price-fixing allegations, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper announced today. Tennessee is expected to receive approximately $1.2 million as part of the agreement.
The announcement comes after Attorney General Cooper and 54 attorneys general in other states, districts and U.S. territories have reached an antitrust settlement with three of the largest book publishers in the United States. Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C. and Simon & Schuster Inc. have agreed to pay a total of more than $69 million to consumers to resolve antitrust claims of an alleged unlawful conspiracy to fix the prices of electronic books (E-books). They have also agreed to change the way they price E-books in the future.
The agreement occurs in conjunction with a civil antitrust lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in New York against Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, which alleges that they and two non-settling publishers (Macmillan and Penguin) along with Apple conspired to fix prices for E-books. Specifically, the complaint states, the publishers agreed to increase retail E-book prices for all consumers and to eliminate E-book retail price competition between E-book outlets regardless of where the consumers bought their E-books.

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