Monthly Archives: March 2016

Shelby County’s chief legal counsel appointed to appeals court

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Shelby County Attorney J. Ross Dyer to the Court of Criminal Appeals, Western Section, replacing Roger Page, who recently became a Tennessee Supreme Court Justice.

Dyer’s appointment will require confirmation by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Dyer, 43, has been the chief counsel for Shelby County since 2014, serving as the top legal advisor to the county mayor, county commission and other county officials.

Prior to that, he was senior counsel and managing attorney for the Memphis office of the Tennessee Attorney General from 2004-2014. He was also team leader and assistant attorney general in the criminal justice division of the Nashville office of the Tennessee Attorney General from 1998-2004. In those positions, he handled more than 20 cases in the Tennessee Supreme Court and more than 1,000 cases in the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
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Following ‘sexist’ flap, Haslam erases ‘governor’ from agency title

Gov. Bill Haslam has changed the name of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, which got a fair amount of negative publicity last year, to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office through an executive order. The order also transfers oversight of the agency from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security.

Executive Order No. 3, signed March 29 and effective April 1, is HERE.

Further from a Tennessean report on the move that gives some of the recent history of the former Governors Highway Safety Office:

The highway safety office generated controversy last year after launching a campaign that featured what some called a sexist approach to encouraging young men not to drive under the influence. The campaign used coasters and fliers with slogans designed to reach the “young male demographic,” the agency’s director Kendell Poole told The Tennessean at the time.

One version of drink coasters said, “Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl, only to find out she’s chatty, clingy and your boss’s daughter.”

A flier read, “After a few drinks the girls look hotter and the music sounds better. Just remember: If your judgement is impaired, so is your driving.”

Another aspect of the campaign mimicked graffiti found on the inside of a bathroom stall using a section of the highway safety office’s website.

The “Legends of the Stall” portion of the website featured behaviors such as binge drinking, promiscuity and cleaning up vomit with a cat. The website became inactive after The Tennessean initially reported about the campaign last July.

Former GOP Caucus chair is new TSEA executive director

News release from Tennessee State Employees Association
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Employees Association today announced the selection of Randy Stamps as their new executive director. Stamps takes over the position from LaTanya McAdoo, who has served as interim executive director since last April. The selection was made at the March meeting of TSEA’s board of directors after a regional search and interview process during which Stamps served as government affairs director for the association.

“It’s my privilege to announce Randy Stamps as our new executive director,” TSEA President Bryan Merritt said. “Randy has an impressive political background working directly as a Legislator and in Party support roles. I personally have every confidence in him and believe our board has made a fantastic choice.”

Stamps served as state representative for the 45th District for five terms, from 1988-1998. He also served as political director for the Tennessee Republican Party from 2003-2009, as well as policy and research counsel to the TN House of Representatives. Most recently, Stamps has been the government affairs director for TSEA since 2014.

“I have talked and visited with state employees across our state, I am well aware of the many challenges facing our members, and I am honored to lead the team of professionals at TSEA,” Randy Stamps said. “Tennessee is blessed to have dedicated, hardworking professionals serving our state, and I plan to continue to using my contacts and experience as both a legislator and legislative staffer to fight for all state employees.”

“It is with great excitement that I relinquish the duties of executive director to Randy Stamps,” TSEA Interim Executive Director LaTanya McAdoo said. “Two years ago, when he joined our staff, Randy quickly established his commitment to TSEA’s mission and to our members. During that time, through his humility, he also earned the respect of the TSEA board and staff. Randy’s expertise and respect on the Hill is a remarkable benefit that, like Randy, is a great asset for TSEA. He will lead this association forward!”

Randy Stamps earned his law degree from Pepperdine University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Government Public Administration from Lipscomb University.

Note: While serving as a legislator, Stamps did a stint as House Republican Caucus chairman. His tenure as political director of the state Republican party came while Beth Harwell, now House speaker, was chair of the state GOP. McAdoo became interim executive director of TSEA following the departure of John Summers, apparently after a dispute with the organization’s board.

Let legislators fill U.S. Senate vacancies? Senators say no

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill to have state lawmakers fill U.S. Senate vacancies has been defeated.

Under a proposed amendment to the bill (SB1793) sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee lawmakers would have been called into a special legislative session to decide the successors of U.S. senators who don’t complete their full six-year terms.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee defeated Beavers’ amendment on a voice vote on Wednesday, and then voted 6-2 against the original version of the bill that would have called for a special election to be held within about 100 days of any vacancy.

Under current state law, the governor appoints a temporary successor until a new campaign to complete the unexpired term is held at the next regular two-year election cycle.

Note: Not surprisingly, the Haslam administration opposed the bill — both in the original and the amended versions.

List of bills signed by the gov (through March 24)

Following is a long list of bills signed by the governor as provided by his communications office — the third listing posted on this blog for the 2016 session. The last list was reported as covering bill signings as of March 14, but apparently some were omitted then and are included here. This list is said to cover signings through March 24.

House Bill 238
This bill allows specially equipped school buses (Type A buses) to be in service for 15 years.
(Passed House as amended 94-2-0; Passed Senate 26-1)

House Bill 176
This bill authorizes honorably discharged military veterans with at least 3 years of service to enter the law enforcement training academy.
(Passed House as amended 93-0; Passed Senate 32-0)
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Navy pulls Lundberg from legislative session

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Rep. Jon Lundberg, a captain in the Navy Reserve, will miss the remainder of the legislative session after being called up for duty at the Pentagon.

The Bristol Republican is vacating his House seat to run for the northeastern Tennessee state Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey this fall.

It’s not the first time that Lundberg’s military duties have conflicted with his elected responsibilities. He missed the end of the 2007 session when he was called to duty in Australia.

Lundberg is a former television reporter and anchor who is the founder and president of media and marketing firm The Corporate Image Inc. in Bristol.

Ad campaign opposes bill on therapists and religion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A coalition of groups has launched an ad campaign against House Speaker Beth Harwell and other lawmakers over a controversial bill that would allow counselors to refuse to treat patients on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

One of the online ads addresses Harwell and warns that “businesses won’t come to a state that discriminates.”

Opponents say the proposal (SB1556) would allow therapists to turn away people in crisis because they are gay, transgender or practice a different religion.

The American Counseling Association, which is part of the coalition taking aim at the measure, has called the bill an unprecedented attack on its profession.

“People are looking to counselors as health care providers and the government shouldn’t step in between a health care provider and a patient. It’s just wrong,” said Art Terrazas, director of government affairs for the American counseling associations.

Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin, who sponsored the bill, has said that the legislation is an effort to overturn a 2014 change in the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics.

The proposal passed in the Senate last month. After it passed, an attorney for the gay rights group Lambda Legal said that while proposals targeting counseling rules have come in other states, Tennessee may be the first to have it pass in a legislative chamber.

This is the second time in a month that an ad campaign has targeted Speaker Harwell. A group that supports Gov. Bill Haslam’s failed effort to expand the state’s Medicaid program launched a statewide billboard campaign against Harwell earlier this month.

Templeton named TN agriculture commissioner

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of Jai Templeton, a sixth generation Tennessee farmer, as commissioner of the Department of Agriculture effective May 1. Templeton will replace Julius Johnson who last week announced his retirement.

Templeton, 44, currently serves as the department’s deputy commissioner, leading the day-to-day operations and directing programs and services that range from food safety to animal and plant health to agricultural development.

“Jai has played a critical role in developing the department’s 10 year strategic plan to grow Tennessee’s agricultural and forest industries. As a lifelong farmer, he will be a champion for the farming industry and continue the department’s work to strengthen our rural communities,” Haslam said. Continue reading

TDOT issues 3-year, $2B road project list

News release from state Department of Transportation
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer today released TDOT’s annual three year transportation program, featuring approximately $2 billion in infrastructure investments for 79 individual project phases in 42 counties, as well as 15 statewide programs.

The three-year program continues the state’s focus on providing a high quality state transportation network that is safe and reliable and supports Tennessee’s economic development efforts. New federal transportation funding through the FAST Act federal legislation includes a roughly two percent increase for FY 2017 over FY 2016’s funding. The FAST Act also provides some one-time flexibility that allows TDOT to tap into an additional $147 million in federal money.

These increases combined with the $100 million repayment to the highway fund in the Haslam administration’s proposed FY 16-17 budget will give the department a somewhat larger building program in the upcoming fiscal year – an estimated $965 million in FY 2017, compared to $660 million in FY 2016. Continue reading

Democrats compete to run against Van Huss

Murphey Johnson is the second Democrat to enter the August state primary for a shot in November at Republican incumbent state Rep. Van Huss’ 6th House District seat, reports the Johnson City Press.

The 48-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and former U.S. Navy pilot will square off against fellow Democrat John Baker in the Aug. 4 state primary. The winner will move on to challenge Van Huss in the Nov. 8 general election.

…“I’ve always been a Democrat, which is a pretty hard sell around here,” Johnson said of Washington County’s conservative base. “But I think everyone would agree: The political system is a mess, and it needs to change.

“I’m very disappointed in the performance of the incumbent, and I decided to put my name on the ballot. If nothing else, this shows the incumbent that we don’t just tacitly accept your policies.”

…Johnson has worked for the past eight years in Johnson City as a senior engineer with ShotSpotter, where he develops software programs that provide law enforcement and local governments with automated detection, location and reporting of gunshots.

…Johnson said there is blame to place on both the Republicans and Democrats, and that most of the effort — be it locally, in Nashville, or in Washington, D.C. — “causes division in the name of getting re-elected.”

“Compare it to a magician,” he said “They’re waving the right hand to distract you from the left hand. We’re being distracted while they pick your pocket.”