Miscellaneous TN Political News and Opinion Notes

Legislature Inspires Prayer
Robert Houk recalls the Rev. Will Campbell, the civil rights activist and colorful Baptist preacher, who died June 3, delivering a prayer before a floor session of the Tennessee House of Representatives that included a line something like: “Oh Lord, please don’t let these legislators mess up Tennessee any more than it already is.” The same sentiment applies, he writes, in the current Medicaid expansion debate.
On Electing Scandal-Plagued County Officials
The opening line of Frank Cagle’s latest: I have always opposed taking away the people’s right to vote and have long advocated that Tennessee elect more people to office–a state attorney general and school superintendents, for example. I still think it is a good idea to elect the department heads down at the courthouse–the so-called fee offices like trustee, county clerk, register of deeds. But it’s getting harder and harder to defend.
On Electing Judges (or not)
From Frank Daniels III, writing on the Judicial Nominating Commission’s push to choose new appellate judges for vacancies that don’t exist yet:
The unseemly rush to selection by the panel is forced because next year Tennessee voters will get a chance to decide, after 40 years, whether they agree with the petite bargain forged in the 1970s that took away their right to choose who sits in judgment and replaced it with a wax-and-bailing-wire version of a judicial election process politely called the Tennessee Plan. Tennesseans had previously directly elected all their judges, but after the unthinkable happened in 1966, when Republican Howard Baker won a U.S. Senate seat, and in 1970, when Winfield Dunn, another GOP in the Democratic bastion of Tennessee, beat John Jay Hooker, the state’s political leaders feared what would happen if voters suddenly began electing all kinds of people who were not properly vetted in the backrooms and boardrooms.
John Jay Hooker ‘Right on Every Count’
Beginning of a Chattanooga Free Press editorial on the judge selection plans:
Tennessee officials are on the verge of violating the law, ignoring the state Constitution and disregarding logic, and no one seems to be putting up much of a fight. No one, that is, except for John Jay Hooker Jr., a Nashville lawyer and former Democratic candidate for governor. HERE.
Lawmaker Against Road Project Before He Was For It?
Hank Hayes chronicles the email exchanges between state Rep. Tony Shipley and Transportation Commissioners John Schroer, who had differing notions about a Kingsport area highway project. TDOT rejected Shipley’s advice and chose another option… though the lawmaker is now praising the project in speeches. HERE
Remenberiing Gay Bashing
Betty Bean recalls “what has come to be remembered as the ‘gay-bashing meeting'” of the Knox County Commission 20 years ago and how things have changed. HERE.
On UT Begging for Money, Giving Pay Raises
From Sam Venable on the University of Tennessee’s financial status: I find it astounding that UT’s brain trust can miraculously produce money to lavish on the execs, but then must go hat-in-hand to pay for routine operations.
Comptroller Can Control Cities
State Comptroller Justin Wilson tells Jackson Baker that, yes, he has authority under existing state law to take over Memphis’ budget – or that of any other city with bonded indebtedness – but he doesn’t want to do so.
“It’s pretty strong, and there’s absolutely no question that I’ve got to approve the budget. If the budget doesn’t balance, I can bring it into balance. There’s no question I can raise taxes. I want to be real clear about this. I hope we never get there. I do not anticipate that we get there. It’s the last thing in the world I want to do. This is not what I’m about. I don’t want to argue about my authority and all that kind of stuff. “

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