Category Archives: political science

Sunday column: On an ignored law, liquor stores and Scam PACs

An elderly, gray-haired and rather wrinkled lady with a walking cane, ahead of yours truly in the line to buy a bottle of wine at a liquor store recently, was asked for her driver’s license to show that she was older than 21 and legally entitled to buy an alcoholic beverage.

“That’s the law,” said the clerk, eyeing the $50 bill the lady had laid on the counter.

“I don’t have one. It expired. I don’t drive anymore,” she replied, quickly adding that “Johnny does.”

Johnny, standing beside her, turned out to be her 20-something grandson who had driven her to the store in helping her run errands for the day. Johnny produced his photo ID and made the purchase for his grandmother, using her $50 bill.

“That’s really not the law anymore,” I volunteered as they stepped aside. “As of July 1 this year, the Legislature changed things. Now, if a person reasonably appears to be 50 years of age or older, presentation of a photo ID is not required. I’d say this lady reasonably appears to be over 50. Maybe even more than I do.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” said the clerk. “Can I see your driver’s license, please?”
Continue reading

On climbing the political internship ladder

After previously serving as an intern for state Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron and two Tennessee Democratic congressmen, recent Middle Tennessee State University graduate Davis Thompson has just completed an internship at the White House, working in Michelle Obama’s office, reports The Jackson Sun.

Thompson, an Alamo native and graduate of Crockett County High School, was part of the White House Internship Program, a program that allows students across the country to gain experience working in the White House.

Thompson worked in the communications department of the office of first lady Michelle Obama. He said she passed by his desk every day.

“I did a lot of news monitoring and compiling news clips of the first lady’s coverage, and the articles that are relevant to her initiatives and subject areas,” Thompson said.

…Thompson said he learned a lot through the process. He said before the internship, he did not understand the level of detail that goes into planning things with a high-level person like the first lady. He said it takes a lot of work and preparation.

“I’ll never look at the first lady on the cover of a magazine again without thinking about that process,” Thompson said.

…Thompson said he did several internships leading up to the White House. His sophomore year, he interned with Sen. Bill Ketron in Nashville. He later worked for Congressmen Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen.

“I used them as recommendations for the White House internship,” Thompson said. “I would definitely recommend doing some internships first.”

…Thompson graduated from MTSU in May. At the end of August, he will leave for Slovakia, where he has a Fulbright scholarship to teach English.

Haslam names Jim Henry as chief of staff in shakeup of administration’s top slots

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Jim Henry as his new chief of staff. Henry currently serves as commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) and replaces Mark Cate who announced his departure last month.

“Over the past four years, Jim has led two departments in state government that handle some of our most difficult work concerning our most vulnerable citizens,” Haslam said. “Along with his experience in DIDD and DCS, he has been a mayor, a legislator and businessman. I appreciate his willingness to serve in this capacity and bring his knowledge and expertise to our office.”

Henry, 70, first served in the Haslam administration as the first commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), which was formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration before becoming a state department on January 15, 2011. He became commissioner of DCS in 2013.

“I am honored to serve the administration in this new capacity and look forward to working in the governor’s office,” Henry said. “I’ll miss working every day with the dedicated and hardworking employees at DCS but know that they will continue to do great work for the state.”

Before joining the Haslam administration, Henry served as president and chief executive officer of Omni Visions, Inc., a company serving adults with developmental disabilities and children and families in crisis. A Vietnam veteran and former mayor of Kingston, Henry spent 12 years as a state representative and six of those years as minority leader.

Haslam also announced that Leslie Hafner, 45, who currently serves as director for legislation, will be promoted to senior advisor to the governor. Hafner is a 20-year veteran of legislative plaza and Tennessee politics. Before joining the Haslam administration, she was a principal at Hafner/Alexander Government Relations. She has also been director of government relations for Bass, Berry & Sims and served seven years in the administration of Gov. Don Sundquist.

In addition, the governor announced that Will Cromer, 30, who currently serves as policy director will be promoted. Cromer will become special assistant to the governor for strategy and will also continue to serve as director of policy. Prior to joining the Haslam administration, Cromer served as policy director for the 2010 Bill Haslam for Governor campaign and as a member of the governor-elect’s transition team. Cromer previously worked for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and before that worked in the Washington, D.C. nonprofit sector promoting free market policies.

The governor also announced that Deputy Director for Legislation Warren Wells, 31, will become the new director for legislation. Before joining the administration as a legislative liaison to the Department of Finance and Administration, Wells served as a research analyst for the Senate Transportation Committee and worked in the office of Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville). Before that he spent nine years in the Army National Guard. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was stationed at Al Taqaddum, Iraq, where he earned a Combat Action Badge and Army Commendation Medal.

The appointments are effective August 1.

TN rated 6th ‘least politically engaged’ state in study

From the Nashville Business Journal:
Tennessee is the sixth-least politically engaged state, according to a new report from personal finance site WalletHub.com.

WalletHub analyzed the 50 states and Washington, D.C., across six metrics to generate its rankings. Metrics ranged from the percentage of registered voters in the 2012 presidential election to the voter turnout in the 2010 midterm elections.

Tennessee ranked second to last in turnout for the 2010 midterm elections, behind only Texas in terms of the percent of citizens who voted. The Volunteer State ranked No. 46 in turnout in the 2012 presidential election. It also ranked in the bottom third of states for the percent of citizens who were registered to vote in the last presidential election.

Here’s how Tennessee measured in several key categories:
No. 38: Percent of registered voters in 2012 presidential election
No. 50: Percent of citizens who voted in the 2010 midterm elections
No. 46: Percent of citizens who voted in the 2012 presidential election
No. 38: Total political contributors per adult population

There’s one improving sign in Tennessee: The state ranked No. 11 nationwide in voter turnout increase from the 2008 to the 2012 elections.

Note: The WalletHub report is HERE. The listing as 50th in 2010 midterm voting turnout is interesting in that, going by early voting totals so far, it appears the 2014 midterm turnout in Tennessee will be somewhat lower than in 2010. Black Fontenay, press secretary at the Secretary of State’s office, sent the following in response to a request for comment on the report:

Without having examined the methodology for the report, it is difficult to comment on the results in the report.

However, we have implemented several initiatives in the Division of Elections that are designed to encourage people to vote. Specifically, we unveiled our voter app which can be used on both the iPhone and the Android smartphones, we actively promoted voter registration through our “I’m Registered” social media campaign, and we launched the Honor Vote Program to give registered voters of Tennessee the opportunity to dedicate their votes to active-duty military personnel and veterans.

The voter app allows voters to use their smartphone to access the following information:

· Early voting and Election Day polling locations and hours of operation
· Candidate lists for the upcoming election
· Sample ballots for upcoming election
· Directions to early voting and Election Day polling locations
· County election commission information
· Access online election results through the application

In 2013, Tennessee created the “I Am Registered to Vote. Are You?” campaign. That campaign has proven extremely successful and we have had tremendous participation from celebrities as well as people from ordinary walks of life.

During September, National Voter Registration Month, we had almost two dozen colleges across Tennessee who participated in the month-long voter registration drive. Due to these concerted efforts, more than 1,000 Tennesseans become registered to vote.

Finally, the Honor Vote Program is a simple gesture which pays tribute to our active-duty military personnel and veterans. As our Tennessee voters participate in elections, the Honor Vote Program provides one more opportunity for them to say “thank you” to our active-duty military personnel and veterans for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our country.

UT study: Governors speeches impact business investments

News release from University of Tennessee:
The tone and content of a politician’s speech affects whether businesses make financial and employment investments in that politician’s state, according to a new study from UT.

Larry Fauver, the James F. Smith Jr. Professor of Financial Institutions in the College of Business Administration, co-authored the study, which examined gubernatorial speeches in the United States.

In the year following the speech, businesses in states where the governor gave a more optimistic speech invested 2 percent more of their capital compared to firms in states where the governor gave a more pessimistic speech.

Similarly, firms in states where the governor gave a more pessimistic speech employed 0.4 percent fewer workers than those in states that heard a more optimistic speech, according to the study.
Continue reading

Trace Sharp Named XD of Crockett Policy Institute

Trace Sharp, veteran Tennessee blogger (Newscoma) who worked in Democrat Mike McWherter’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign, has been named executive director of the Crockett Policy Institute.

Here’s the announcement of her appointment, cut and pasted from today’s edition of Out of the Blue, “The Daily Buzz,” an emailed, Democrat-oriented Tennessee politics/public policy newsletter launched by Sharp and soon to be distributed by Crockett Policy Institute. (Note: It’s free, but you have to sign up for it, HERE.)

In 2011 we created Crockett Policy Institute as a non-partisan, non-profit organization, dedicated to improving the lives of Tennesseans by promoting practical, workable and fair solutions to the challenges facing Tennessee and the surrounding region. Since that time we have focused on jobs, education, energy, and governance seeking to encourage reasonable and bi-partisan approaches to solving problems in those four areas. We think Tennesseans are tired of the extreme partisan rhetoric and ready for creative and thoughtful ideas, from whatever source, that can make life better for us and for our children.

In a step forward we are proud to announce that Trace Sharp will be our new Executive Director responsible for the day-to-day operations of CPI. She has been the moving force behind the electronic publication “The Daily Buzz” providing a rundown of critical issues facing our region. Beginning September 3d, Trace will bring an extensive background in journalism, public service, and civic action to our organization. Her many talents will be well utilized as CPI expands its depth and reach.
Continue reading

Young, Old Republicans Split on Same-Sex Marriage?

Excerpt from a Bloomberg article on the culture clash between young and older Republicans over same sex marriage:
Even in Tennessee, which banned gay marriage by constitutional amendment in 2006 with the support of 81 percent of voters, there are signs of change. Vanderbilt University released a poll May 12 showing 49 percent of those surveyed favored either same-sex marriage or civil unions. Among those under 30, support ran at 69 percent.
“The whole country is moving toward gay rights broadly,” said John Geer, chairman of political science at Vanderbilt, who oversees the poll. “Tennessee is part of that, not in the same place as Massachusetts but moving in the same direction.”
And young adults are driving the change. John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, said surveys of millenials — people born between 1980 and 2000 — showed they either favored recognizing same-sex marriage or said they didn’t care by a ratio of 3-to-1.
“This is saying that 26 percent of young Americans don’t believe it should be recognized,” Della Volpe said. “This demographic group that we are polling is the largest generation in the history of America, larger than Baby Boomers, most are of age and they will continue to become a more important force in elections.”
…(State Sen. Stacey) Campfield, in an e-mail response to questions, said he questioned the premise that attitudes on the issue had shifted.
”When put on the actual ballot, homosexual marriage has seldom passed on its own and I think has only passed by ballot initiative in small-population, liberal states,” he wrote. ”As for youth polling, young people often say and do things completely different when they actually grow up, get a real job, begin paying taxes and start trying to raise a family.”
”If we left all decisions up to youth polling,” he wrote, ”’beer pong’ would be an Olympic sport.”

Vanderbilt Poll: More Tennesseans Support Medicaid Expansion (but not ‘Obamacare’)

A growing majority of Tennesseans support expansion of Medicaid within the state though most at the same time have an unfavorable impression of the federal law that authorizes expansion, according to a Vanderbilt University poll released Tuesday.
About 63 percent of the state’s registered voters have a favorable opinion of Gov. Bill Haslam, who has tentatively rejected Medicaid expansion. That’s down five points from six months ago, though Vanderbilt pollsters said the decline is “statistically insignificant” given the poll’s four point margin of error.
The survey of 813 registered voters, taken May 6-13, found solid approval for the state’s two U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, while a more narrow 51 percent said they like the Tennessee General Assembly with its Republican “supermajority.”
Opinions were mixed on whether state sales tax collection for internet sales should be enforced. When asked if online sales taxes was bad idea, 55 percent agreed with 38 saying it was a good idea. But when the question was framed as to whether it’s fair for in-state retailers to collect the taxes while out-of-state retailers do not, the result was a 47-47 percent tie.

Continue reading

Odds & Ends for TN Political Junkie Holiday Weekend Reading

DesJarlais Not Debunked
Politifact Tennessee has rated as “mostly false” the Tennessee Democratic party’s contention that Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais has broken his promise not to support any “earmarks.”
Death of a Hospital
Scott County’s only hospital, built in 1955, has closed. It was that or a property tax hike. Story HERE.
Mudslinging in Roane County
Charges of “mudslinging” and voter harassment in the Roane County property assessor’s race, HERE.
Chattanooga Democrats Speak, Squabble
The Chattanoogan reports on Hamilton County Democratic legislative candidates presenting this views at a party function, HERE. Perhaps more interestingly, there’s also a rundown on some Hamilton County Democratic party infighting, HERE.
Indecent Exposure? No Foster Kids
Three foster children were removed from the home of Knox County Commissioner Jeff Owenby after he was charged with indecent exposure, allegedly because police found him having sex with another man. HERE.
Gateway Sex, Horse Abuse
Catching up with Gail Kerr: Recent columns include the observation that the “gateway sexual activity” bill made Tennessee a “laughingstock” and that abusing horses is a bad thing
Victor Ashe is Getting Old
Victor Ashe recently hosted an event for reunion of friends and some reminiscence on the 25th anniversary of his first run for Knoxville mayor. HERE.
Robert’s Ranting
Robert Houk is off on a self-described “rant” aimed at Rush Limbaugh (“Mighty Mouth”), an anti-Obama conspiracy theory and a Washington County commissioner.
Term Limits Not Really Necessary?
Frank Cagle, in a recent column, talks about term limits and whether they’re a good idea given recent Tennessee history in congressional elections.
Home Cooking Deregulated
ICYMI, the governor has signed into a law deregulating – well, sorta – the sale of products produced in home kitchens. News release HERE.
More Troopers, Busy This Weekend
The state has 44 new state troopers. A TV report HERE. And how are they spending their first weekend? News release HERE.
Monkey Business & Politics
Remember the “Monkey Trial,” which came long before the “Monkey Bill?” WPLN does.
Indian Protection, Disruption
About the same time TVA held a workshop with Native Americans on how best to protect artifacts and remains on TVA land, four Alabama men were fined in federal court for disturbing Native American remains on TVA property. HERE
Mama’ Tune Passes
Martha “Mama” Tune, a retired schoolteacher known for the Election Day meals she prepared for generations of Nashville politicians, died Wednesday. She was 91. HERE.

Super Tuesday Affirms Social Conservative Rule of Tennessee GOP

Going into Super Tuesday, it seemed possible that the Tennessee Republican primary tradition of conservatives splitting their votes to assure plurality victory for a moderate would hold true.
Coming out of Super Tuesday, just maybe a new normal has been achieved wherein the conservative wing of the Republican party can believe in better.

Continue reading