Monthly Archives: February 2016

House spurns skunks as pets

A Senate-passed bill that would legalize the keeping of skunks as pets in Tennessee failed on the House floor Monday evening after coming in for criticism from state veterinarians.

The bill (SB1821) had passed the Senate 27-3 on Feb. 17. But when sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, brought it to the House floor Monday, Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Hendersonville, promptly asked him about veterinarian objections.

Skunks are rabies carriers, she said, and there is no vaccine against rabies for skunks.

Faison disputed that proposition, contending there is a vaccine — though it’s “off-label.” And he said there has never been a case of rabies from pet skunks in 17 states that now allow keeping them as pets.

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, also spoke against the bill. Jones said she had a pet skunk “as a kid” and “no matter what they remove it still smells like a skunk. And they have very sharp teeth.”

When the bill came up for a vote, it got only 44 yes votes while 38 voted no and the rest either abstained or simply didn’t vote. A bill needs 50 yes votes for passage.

Note: News release from the veterinarians association is below.
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Beavers seeks resurrection of ‘natural marriage’ act

News release from Sen. Mae Beavers
NASHVILLE, (February 29, 2016) — State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) today reiterated support for legislation she is sponsoring in the Tennessee General Assembly to defend marriage as a union of a man and a woman as recognized by the people of Tennessee in the State Constitution. Beavers said the only constitutionally sound resolution of the Obergefell v. Hodges opinion would be for the legislature to ignore and nullify it on the basis of the Tenth Amendment alone, which is the aim of the bill called the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act.

“Justice Antonin Scalia characterized the Obergefell ruling as ‘lacking even a thin veneer of law,” said Senator Beavers. “The U. S. Constitution specifically enumerates the powers of the federal government, including the judiciary. The Tenth Amendment precisely states that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people. As the regulation of marriage is not a federally enumerated power, no branch of the federal government has the constitutional authority to interfere with the institution.”

Beavers said that the actions by Governor Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery recognizing same sex marriages as legal in the days following the Obergefell decision plunged Tennesseans into a moral and constitutional quagmire. “This was the equivalent to an illegal decree,” added Beavers. “Because the Tennessee Code can only be enacted by the General Assembly, the governor’s and attorney general’s actions were, in and of themselves, lacking even a thin veneer of law as Justice Scalia said.”
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Senate approves WIGS fix — with ‘protectionism’

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Efforts to restrict the number of liquor stores that can be owned in Tennessee drew vocal opposition from a Republican lawmaker Monday, who said it is contrary to GOP principles and suggested that supporters may have been “bought and paid for” by lobbying groups.

Republican Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains derided the bill as “pure, cold, hard protectionism” during a Senate floor debate.

“We didn’t tell CVS and Walgreens that they can’t come in and protect the mom-and-pop pharmacies,” he said. “If you’re for protectionism, you’re probably not a Republican.”

“If you’re voting for this bill because some lobbyist contributed heavily to your campaign, you’re bought and paid for,” Niceley said.
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DesJarlais backs Trump

From the News Sentinel
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais on Monday became the first member of Tennessee’s congressional delegation to say he is supporting Donald Trump for president.

The South Pittsburg Republican said in a statement released by his office that he voted for the New York real estate mogul and reality TV star during early voting.

“Republicans are fortunate in that we have an incredibly strong field of candidates running in the Republican Presidential Primary,” DesJarlais said. “While there are certainly things that I admire and respect in each of the remaining candidates, I believe Donald Trump is the candidate best poised to make America great again. As such, I was proud to cast my vote for Mr. Trump.”

Hall clutter: Multiple measures to cut investment tax

While there is a strong inclination among Republican legislators to do something toward reducing or eliminating the state’s tax on investment income this year, there seems no consensus at all on what that something should be.

As an illustration of the indecision, a subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, charged with reviewing tax bills, last week recommended passage of seven different proposals involving the Hall Income Tax. They vary substantially, ranging from total repeal to giving modest reductions in tax liability to disabled veterans in one case and to senior citizens in another.

Besides approving seven conflicting proposals, the panel also pulled back to committee a proposal approved earlier by both the Revenue Subcommittee and the full Senate Finance Committee so that it could be amended. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, says that measure — SB47, sponsored by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville — could become a vehicle for some sort of compromise with further tinkering.

As approved earlier, the bill basically calls for reductions in the Hall tax rate — now 6 percent — by a percentage point each year, but only in years when the state has a revenue surplus. A contemplated amendment would add to the bill provisions in another subcommittee-approved bill (SB2619) that would allow local governments to levy a Hall Income Tax themselves if the state tax is repealed.

Revenue from the Hall tax currently is split between state and local governments. Last year, the tax brought in $303 million in total revenue, with about $189 million flowing to the state’s general fund and the remaining $114 million distributed to local governments that are home to those paying the tax.

Gov. Bill Haslam, while declaring a general distaste for the Hall tax, has also opposed repeal without any replacement for the hole that would be created in state and local government budgets. Most repeal bills call for the state to reimburse local governments for their lost revenue. Haslam notes that would not only leave the state to bear the entire burden, but would effectively mean taxpayers in the poorest areas of the state — who pay sales taxes and property taxes but not the tax on investments — would be subsidizing those in the wealthiest areas of the state, where there is substantial investment income from residents subject to the Hall tax.

Other subcommittee-approved Hall tax bills include SB144, which reduces the tax rate from 6 percent to 5 percent for veterans with disabilities; SB1461, which decreases the rate for all to 5.5 percent; SB1551, which increases the income threshold for those aged 65 and older who must pay the tax from $37,000 to $50,000 for single filers and from $68,000 to $100,000 for joint filers; SB2, which abolishes the tax but requires state government to pay local governments for their lost income; and SB2539, a Haslam administration bill that gives “angel investors” a refund of Hall payments of up to $50,000 each.

Most of TN GOP establishment OK with Trump

Members of Tennessee’s Republican political establishment are gradually coming to terms with the real possibility that Donald Trump could end up as their party’s nominee for president, according to Michael Collins.

Along with that realization come the obvious questions: Will they vote for him in November, despite his barrage of attacks against the GOP establishment and fears that his insults of women and other minorities could turn off mainstream voters? Or will they stay home in silent protest on Election Day?

For many, there’s nothing to debate. If Trump is the Republican nominee, he will get their vote in November.

“I’m going to eagerly and enthusiastically support whoever gets the Republican nomination,” said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., a Knoxville Republican.

Duncan said while agrees with most of Trump’s views, “I do wish he had a little more humility,” he said. “But there never has been and never will be a perfect candidate for any office. I’ve said all along, any of our candidates would have been far better than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. I felt that way when we had 16 or 17 people running. I still feel that way today.”

Like Duncan, Tennessee’s other six Republican U.S. representatives said they would support the GOP nominee, as did Corker. Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander, both endorsing Rubio, have not said so at this point.

Clinton campaigns in Nashville, Memphis

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton swung through Tennessee Sunday, seeking to energize voters during campaign stops in Nashville and Memphis ahead of Super Tuesday voting, reports The Tennessean.

Fresh off a commanding victory in South Carolina, Clinton used a speech at Meharry Medical College to tout her plans to continue building on President Barack Obama’s agenda, including finding a way to encourage states such as Tennessee to deepen their participation in the Affordable Care Act.

“We can’t go back,” she said as she reeled off statistics, pointing out that 19 million people have received health insurance as a result of the president’s effort to expand health care coverage nationwide.

Clinton said states, including Tennessee, which did not expand their Medicaid coverage, have seen rural hospitals close at increasing rates.

“I’m really sorry that your state did not extend Medicaid to 200,000 working Tennesseans,” she said. “I’m going to do whatever I can as president to convince governors and state legislatures — it’s a pretty big deal.”

The reference to Tennessee was one of many that Clinton made during her nearly 30-minute speech in front of a lively audience that included Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville.

In Memphis, Clinton attended Sunday church services, telling two predominantly black congregations she would work to “break down every barrier” of discrimination, reform the criminal justice system, expand health care coverage and deliver greater economic opportunities.

And in an apparent shot at potential GOP general election opponent Donald Trump, who has promised to “make America great again,” Clinton said, “America has never stopped being great. Our task is to make America whole.”

Clinton’s appearances at Greater Imani Church Cathedral of Faith in Raleigh and Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Midtown came two days before voters in Tennessee and 11 other states go to the polls for Super Tuesday primaries. In those races, she hopes to build on the momentum she received Saturday in the form of a landslide victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in South Carolina.

Cruz, friendly PACs have big lead on TN TV

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his political action committee supporters have spent more than $1 million in television advertising in Tennessee as a prelude to Tuesday’s presidential primary, some of it devoted to attacking Donald Trump, a review indicates.

The television ad total for Cruz and two supportive Super PACs substantially surpasses the apparent total of about $700,000 for all other Tennessee TV ad spending in support of presidential candidates combined, based on a review of filings by TV stations with the Federal Communications Commission as of Sunday, national media reports and other sources.

Here is a breakdown of the estimated TV ad spending in Tennessee:
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A sampler of presidential campaign ads in TN

Following is a sampler of presidential campaign advertising commercials that are running in Tennessee prior to the Super Tuesday primary or — in some cases — ads that may be running.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign (with no ad competition from Bernie Sanders within the state) has openly promoted its commercials and, on the Republican side, Marco Rubio’s campaign has ballyhooed its TV ad on Gov. Bill Haslam’s endorsement – previously appearing on this blog (HERE).

A Rubio spokesman refused to identify any other Rubio campaign ads running in the state, even though yours truly watched one (included below) that is otherwise publicly available. Other Republican campaigns and their supporting Super PACs declined to even respond to inquiries asking for their ads running in Tennessee. These folks think, perhaps accurately, that there are strategic reasons for not letting the opposition know exactly which ads are running where – even though the ads are in many cases posted on Youtube or elsewhere on the Internet. Still, one who watches a bit of TV and talks with other political junkies doing so around the state can make, I think, a pretty good guess on ads that are afoot. Here’s the sampler:

From Keep the Promise, a SuperPAC supporting Cruz. It’s running in TN.

From the Rubio campaign, running in TN.

From Conservative Solutions, a SuperPAC supporting Rubio, running in TN.

From the Trump campaign (similar, but not exactly same, as one certainly running in TN but not found in an Internet search).

From the Cruz campaign, I can’t confirm as running in Tennessee – one viewer says she saw something like this — but much promoted on the Internet

From Hillary Clinton, running in TN (another Clinton ad was previously posted HERE)

From Stand for Truth, another Cruz-supporting SuperPAC, and verified as running in the state

Poll: Trump, Clinton both winning 2-to-1 in TN

Excerpt from an NBC News report:

Donald Trump is leading in the Super Tuesday states of Georgia and Tennessee, while Ted Cruz is ahead in his home state of Texas, according to a trio of new NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls.

And Hillary Clinton is topping Bernie Sanders in all three of those southern states by about a 2-to-1 margin.

In Georgia, Trump gets support from 30 percent of likely Republican voters — followed by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio tied at 23 percent each, and Ben Carson and John Kasich tied at 9 percent each.

…In Tennessee, Trump leads Cruz by 18 points, 40 percent to 22 percent, while Rubio gets 19 percent, Carson 9 percent and Kasich at 6 percent.

…(On the Democratic side) In Tennessee, Clinton is ahead by 26 points, 60 percent to 34 percent.