Monthly Archives: January 2014

TN Supreme Court to meet in historic location while new location is considered for Register of Historic Places

News release from the Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. ­– History will be the stage for the Tennessee Supreme Court as they hear oral arguments next week in the Supreme Court Chambers of the Tennessee State Capitol.

The Court regularly hears cases in the Supreme Court buildings in Jackson, Knoxville, and Nashville, but an invitation from Gov. Bill Haslam will bring them back to the place where the Court heard oral arguments in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Gov. Haslam is scheduled to welcome the Court to the chambers in the Capitol after the session opens at 8:55 a.m. on Thursday, February 6. The Court has six cases on the docket for oral arguments that day. The five state Supreme Court justices – Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, Justice Cornelia A. Clark, Justice Janice M. Holder, Justice William C. Koch, Jr., and Justice Sharon G. Lee – will sit on the panel. ­

The original Supreme Court chambers are located on the first floor of the structure, along with the offices of the governor and the constitutional officers – the secretary of state, the treasurer and the comptroller. That area also held chambers for the federal court at one time.

The Tennessee State Capitol ­– a National Historic Landmark – opened in 1859 and is one of the nation’s oldest working statehouses still in use. It is designed by William Strickland and is considered one of the country’s best examples of a Greek-revival style building.

The Tennessee Supreme Court moved its Nashville operations across 7th Avenue in 1937, when the current Supreme Court building was completed. The new home for the judiciary marked the first time a branch of state government moved out of the Capitol building in Tennessee. The Supreme Court chambers were remodeled into offices in the late 1930s, but restored to the original 1850s-era look in 1988.

The Supreme Court building celebrated its 75th year in 2012 and is poised to be named to the National Register of Historic Places. The Capitol building has undergone several renovations in its 155-year history – the most recent one completed just over a year ago.

Note: Perhaps not coincidentally, as reported by The Tennessean:
Simple and restrained in its design, the Tennessee Supreme Court building could soon be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1936 and 1937 in the shadow of the Tennessee state Capitol, the building that houses the state’s highest court was nominated this month for recognition. The building was one of eight nominated from across the state this year and the only one in Middle Tennessee.

The 77-page application celebrates the court’s important civic standing and its significance as a New Deal project partially funded by the Public Works Administration.

Architecturally, it’s an example of the “stripped classicism” often carried out by city firm Marr and Holman, which also oversaw the more ornate art deco-style Nashville Post Office that is now Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

New group formed to oppose contested elections for appellate court judges

News release from Tennesseans for Independent Courts:
Nashville, TN—Tennesseans for Independent Courts, Inc., a non-profit political action committee, was formed on January 10, 2014, by Randy C. Camp. Mr. Camp states that the non-profit corporation will be dedicated to informing, educating, engaging and involving the citizens of Tennessee in ensuring that the judicial branch of Tennessee’s government remains free and independent of partisan political pressures from any group or organization.

The organization will work at the grass roots level throughout the State of Tennessee to ensure that citizens are made aware of the dangers of partisan political pressures on judicial elections and appointments, lend support to judicial candidates who wish to run for office without political affiliations or commitments and lend support to legislative and gubernatorial candidates who support those ideals.

Though the organization is still in its formative stages, its by-laws have been drafted and an initial Board of Directors has been appointed. The initial Board Members will be instrumental in establishing the priorities of, as well as setting the direction of, the efforts and resources of the organization and will appoint Executive Committees across the state to spread the work and the word throughout Tennessee.

The organization has applied for Section 501 (c) designation with the Internal Revenue Service.

Randy C. Camp served as Executive Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts in Tennessee and served as Commissioner of Personnel for the State of Tennessee under Governor Phil Bredesen. He also served as Claims Commissioner for the Western District of Tennessee under appointment by Governor Don Sundquist, hearing and adjudicating all statutory claims against the State of Tennessee. Camp has more than 30 years’ experience in all 3 branches of Tennessee’s government in addition to his time as an attorney, arbitrator, mediator and General Sessions/Juvenile Judge in Crockett County, Tennessee. He graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin with a B.S. in Political Science and received his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University of Memphis. He worked as campaign and congressional aide to Congressman Ed Jones in the 1970’s and served as Executive Assistant and Chief of Staff to Lieutenant Governor John S. Wilder in the 1980’s. He has been engaged in public service since he attended high school in Crockett Mills, Crockett County, Tennessee, and continues that legacy with the formation of Tennesseans for Independent Courts.

Haslam raises $5.2M to campaign against nobody (except Coonrippy and, maybe, John Jay)

News release from Bill Haslam re-election campaign:
NASHVILLE – The Haslam Campaign announced today that it has so far raised more than $5.2 million for the governor’s re-election effort, and more than $2.9 million in the most recent reporting period. The campaign also announced it had more than $4.5 million on-hand.

“Crissy and I are humbled by the support and encouragement we’ve received from so many Tennesseans, and honored by the trust the people of Tennessee have placed in us to continue doing that work,” Haslam said. “We are proud of the things we’ve been able to accomplish, and look forward to the work ahead.”

“I will continue to do my absolute best to address Tennessee’s challenges, and make our state the number one location in the southeast for high-quality jobs.”

Bill Haslam is the 49th Governor of Tennessee. He was elected in 2010 with 65% of the vote. As governor, Haslam has focused on recruiting jobs, improving education, and managing the state efficiently, effectively and in a fiscally conservative manner.

Note: Best I can tell from checking the Registry of Election Finance website, Mark Brown — also known as “Coonrippy” and so far the only announced candidate against Haslam (most recent post HERE) — has not filed a campaign disclosure or registered for fundraising (not necessary if your receipts or expenditures are less than $1,000). Another recent post perhaps of interest HERE.
It’s safe to say, at any rate, that the governor has an advantage over his opponents in fundraising.
John Jay Hooker is thinking about running, sorta. Since this post, he has advised that he is more strongly inclined toward entering the race if Haslam doesn’t embrace popular election of appellate court judges (which is probably rather unlikely).

Alexander raised $770K in 4th quarter; Carr $251K (balances: Alexander $3.2M, Carr $405K)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s campaign says it raised nearly $770,000 in the fourth quarter and that it ended the year with $3.2 million on hand.

Alexander, a former Tennessee governor, is running for a third term in the Senate. He raised a total of about $4.7 million in 2013, and his minute-long television ads have been in heavy rotation around the state.

Alexander is being challenged in the Republican primary by state Rep. Joe Carr of Murfreesboro, who said he raised $250,000 in the fourth quarter, after raising just $52,000 in the previous reporting period.

Carr, who in August dropped a congressional bid to instead challenge Alexander, raised about $609,000 in 2013 and had $405,000 remaining at the end of the quarter.

Note: Campaign fundraising spin (also known as press releases) below.
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State’s appellate court clerk leaving to become Roman Catholic Church deacon

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. ­– Clerk of the Appellate Courts Mike Catalano announced today he will retire in June of this year and become an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, pursuing his ministry on a full-time basis.

Mr. Catalano has served the state of Tennessee for more than 35 years in a variety of roles. He was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to be the appellate court clerk for a six-year term starting in January 2004 and was reappointed for a second term starting January 2010.

“Mike Catalano is the consummate professional – a public servant of the first order. As a valued leader within the office of the attorney general and as clerk of all of our appellate courts, he has performed his duties in an exemplary fashion – with class, dignity, and courtesy, “ said Chief Justice Gary R. Wade. “That he has chosen to spend the balance of his career in service to the highest authority is the best reflection of his true character. Our courts will sincerely miss this good man.”

Mr. Catalano attended night classes for four years to study to be a deacon. He will be ordained June 9.

While the clerk of the appellate courts, Mr. Catalano oversaw the implementation of a new case management system launched in August that provides lawyers, litigants, and the public with greater access to digital copies of documents filed in the appellate courts through the Tennessee court system website, TNCourts.gov. He also implemented the online posting of audio digital recordings of all appellate court arguments.
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TN unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent in December (still above national average)

News release from Department of Labor and Workforce Development:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today Tennessee’s unemployment rate for December is 7.8 percent, which is three tenths of one percentage point lower than the November revised rate. The national unemployment rate for December 2013 was 6.7 percent, down three tenths of one percentage point from November.

Economic Summary:

• Over the past two months, Tennessee’s unemployment rate decreased from 8.5% to 7.8%.

• The labor force is the lowest since March 2010, influenced by unemployment being the lowest since Oct. 2008.

• Total nonfarm employment decreased 900 jobs from November to December. The largest decreases occurred in leisure/hospitality, health care/social assistance, and government.

• Over the year, nonfarm employment increased 31,400 jobs. The largest increases occurred in leisure/hospitality, retail trade, and durable goods manufacturing.

Note: A table of statistics, including county-by-county rates, is available HERE.

Resolution urging Sean Hannity move to TN rated ‘a little stupid’

The Nashville Scene’s Pith in the Wind has revived its “Legislative Stupidity Index” to rate state Rep. Andy Holt’s resolution urging Sean Hannity, conservative talk show host on radio and Fox News television, to move to Tennessee from New York.

The resolution is HERE. The Pith commentary says, basically, that the resolution has its demerits but could be worse – in part because Holt includes statements that are correct, such as New Yorkers being obnoxious.

Beyond that, it’s always good to judge a piece of legislation coming from this bunch based on the damage that could be done if it passes. In this case, the risk is relatively low. Let’s say the resolution passes (it will) and let’s say Mr. Hannity receives his copy, and is so persuaded by it that he decides to move here. Well fine. So be it. So long as he doesn’t run for anything, it’s hard to determine anything too terrible that could come of that.

While we’d normally argue that state legislators should be spending their time on more important things, it’s often a blessing in disguise when people like Holt are distracted by shiny objects like this. Better that he spend his time crafting a love letter to a Fox News host than proposing actual laws. (Note: Carrie Underwood, if you’re reading, we’re glad you already live here.)

Lastly, while Holt’s resolution does make much of Tennessee’s low taxes, it’s nice to see that Mr. Hannity at least won’t be getting the huge tax breaks and cash we offer to everyone else we’re trying to attract to, or keep in, the state.

We rate this A LITTLE STUPID:

President pitches pre-k expansion in Nashville visit (and link to transcript)

President Barack Obama pushed his plan for expanding early childhood education during his visit to McGavock High School this afternoon and praised Nashville and Tennessee for the educational gains both have made, according to The Tennessean.

“I wanted to come here today because I heard great things about this high school and all of you,” Obama said to a boisterous crowd in the school’s auditorium.

“If Nashville can bring schools, teachers, business and parents together for the sake of our young people, then other places can,” Obama added.

Nashville was the president’s final stop in a two-day, post-State of the Union tour of the nation. Earlier Thursday, he visited General Electric’s Waukesha Gas Engines plant near Milwaukee, Wis., and on Wednesday toured a steel mill near Pittsburgh and a Costco in Maryland.

Air Force One touched down at Berry Field at 3:41 p.m. and a presidential motorcade whisked the president to McGavock. He met briefly with former Vice President Al Gore and the family of Kevin Barbee, a 15-year-old student who was killed earlier this week.

Obama entered the McGavock High School auditorium to a loud ovation at 4:49 p.m. after the school’s student body president, Ronald Elliott, introduced him.

Obama recognized Elliott, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen and Gore. He then mentioned the student struck down on Tuesday night.

“I also recognize the past couple of days have been hard. Some of you have lost a good friend,” Obama said. “It has been heartbreaking.”

He said he and the First Lady are praying for the community.

…Tennessee and McGavock were selected for today’s speech in part because of the education reform efforts underway here.

Tennessee was the first state to win Obama’s Race to the Top competition in 2010. And McGavock is among the top schools in the state for student growth and has combined college-preparatory courses with work- and project-based learning.

Obama said the nation must guarantee “every young person access to a world-class education.”

He said there have been successes, citing rising graduation rates and declining dropout rates. He specifically praised Tennessee and Nashville for the efforts underway here. That includes proposals for expanding pre-K in Metro schools.

“You have made huge strides in helping young people learn the skills they need for a new economy,” Obama said.

Note: The transcript of the presidential speech in Nashville is HERE.

Obama offers condolences to slain Nashville teen’s family

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Barack Obama says he and the first lady are praying for the families affected by a fatal shooting between students at a Tennessee high school where he is speaking.

Obama says he knows the past few days have tested people’s spirits. But he says he wanted the McGavock High School community to know it is in his thoughts and prayers.

Obama visited the Nashville school Thursday to speak about education. He also met with the family of the deceased 15-year-old before his remarks.

Authorities say the off-campus shooting happened Tuesday when a 17-year-old was playing with a pistol. It discharged a bullet that struck his 15-year-old friend in the face.

Both were 10th-graders at McGavock.

ACLU’s ‘Countdown to Colbert’ gets columnist’s attention

The American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee is hosting a “Countdown to Colbert” website devoted to counting the days until the state Legislature gets mentioned on the Comedy Channel’s show starring Steve Colbert. Robert Houk, in his weekly column, predicts there won’t be many – though on Thursday, 17 days had passed without a joke on the Tennessee Legislature. (Note: the website is HERE.)

Excerpt from Houk’s column:

It’s an effort “to raise awareness about pending legislation in Tennessee that could limit our freedoms, and to engage Tennesseans in taking a stand against the kind of bills that land us on political comedy shows,” Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-Tennessee’s executive director, said in a recent news release.

…I would wager we won’t have to wait very long before Tennessee is mentioned on a comedy show.
It’s just weeks into the session and lawmakers have already filed bills to do away with lunch breaks for service employees and allow local school boards to do their part to defend pupils from the so-called “War on Christmas.”

My money is on Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville. His skill for legislative buffoonery is unequaled in the General Assembly.

Last year, he was thoroughly lampooned on “The Daily Show” for his “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Campfield also had a memorable appearance on MSNBC, where he defended his bill to reduce welfare payments to families with a child failing in school by saying that while he doesn’t expect poor children to be “rocket surgeons,” he does believe they should be getting good grades.

It’s only a matter of time before Campfield’s antics are mentioned again on “The Colbert Report.”