Category Archives: Ron Ramsey

Unchallenged senators transfer state mailer money to Dickerson, Overbey

State senators without re-election opponents this year have transferred thousands of dollars of state government funds used for voter mailings to challenged colleagues — a practice now banned for members of the state House.

The contrast reflects differing positions taken by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell on use of the “constituent communications” funds. A review of records also shows a striking disparity in the amount of money stockpiled in the accounts by senators compared with representatives.

Only two of the 99 members of the House have more than $10,000 in their accounts, and several have used their own money — or checks drawn on their political campaign accounts — to cover the cost of newsletters, constituent questionnaires and the like because they lack money in their taxpayer-provided accounts. Most senators, on the other hand, have far larger balances — topped by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, with $117,157 stashed in his communications fund.

Bills filed in the past legislative session would have prohibited transfers from one legislator to another and put limits on stockpiling. Yet another bill would have banned mailings to voters in a legislator’s district for 90 days before an election instead of the current standard of 30 days.

The bills failed with Ramsey voicing opposition, but Harwell quietly last March acted on her own to ban transfers by members of the House, a fairly widespread practice for decades by both senators and representatives. The two speakers have overall control of how members can use the money allocated to them — $6,832 per year for senators; $2,016 for representatives.

“She firmly believes that postage money belongs to the constituents of that particular district, not the member. The funds are there to communicate with the constituents of that particular district,” said Kara Owen, spokeswoman for Harwell. Continue reading

Lundberg deemed apparent favorite to win Ramsey’s state Senate seat

State Rep. Jon Lundberg is the apparent favorite to win the state Senate seat being vacated by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, says Hank Hayes in a review of the race for the Kingsport Times-News. The August primary will decide the election since no Democrat is running.

Lundberg has the money, more than $100,000 in his campaign account… The Bristol Republican also has other resources — namely his marketing and public relations agency — to craft his message and reach out to voters. Lundberg, a former television news anchor, also has the military background as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve. He has name identification in both Kingsport and Bristol thanks to how his House District 1 boundary is drawn.

The Senate District 4 August GOP Primary ballot has four candidates, but Lundberg’s main competition without question is former state Rep. Tony Shipley whose last political campaign did not end well.

Shipley, of Colonial Heights, lost an August 2014 Republican Primary race to state Rep. Bud Hulsey by more than 1,500 votes.

Shipley, an Air Force veteran who was denied a fourth term in office, had been under attack in direct mail pieces and television ads from a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group called Advance Tennessee.

“It was the most despicable, nasty, dirty campaign I’ve ever seen in my life,” Shipley said of the Advance Tennessee attacks on election night. “It was embarrassing it was done that way, when you have a super PAC (political action committee) blow your brains out for about a month. I guess you can expect those things to happen. … Negative campaigning works.”

The group had linked Shipley’s voting record to President Barack Obama and Tennessee House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh.

“We simply can’t afford Tony Shipley anymore,” said one 2014 Advance Tennessee mailer. “He has more in common with Obama and West Tennessee liberals than he does with East Tennessee conservative Republicans.”

Shipley himself used similar tactics to defeat Democrat Nathan Vaughn of Kingsport in 2008 and 2010.

As this race plays out, it will be interesting to see which third party advocacy groups emerge to attack or support either Lundberg or Shipley.

Republicans praise retiring Ramsey

Some quotes, as reported by Hank Hayes, from a Saturday evening Sullivan County Republican Party event in honor of retiring Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:

“He’s changed the course of Tennessee politics for generations,” former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis said of Ramsey. “The heart and soul and legacy of our party is better because of Ron Ramsey.”… Davis recalled his first meeting with Ramsey in 1992, when Ramsey decided to run for the state House.

“We thought without hesitation or reservation that Ron Ramsey was going to lose that race,” Davis said.

…“This man has a compass. It’s pointed north. … This is our Ronald Reagan,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said of Ramsey to a room full of about 500 Republicans at the MeadowView Marriott.

Said U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., “Ron Ramsey is probably the most powerful politician in the state. We have the lowest debt … all because of conservative leadership.”

State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, noted the state is losing a great leader.

Ramsey, said Lundberg, helped flip the Democrat-controlled legislature to Republicans, as well as the Tennessee Supreme Court. “You have upheld our values so, so well,” Lundberg told Ramsey. (Note: Lundberg is running to replace Ramsey in his state Senate seat.)

…In a video message, Gov. Bill Haslam said if he could have been at the event, he would have reminded Ramsey that he has six grandchildren while Ramsey has five.

“I told him the other day ‘You’re leaving on top. … We will miss you,’ ” Haslam said.

After the tributes, the crowd watched a video montage of Ramsey’s legislative career, and a teary-eyed Ramsey stepped to the podium greeted by a standing ovation.

“I’m supposed to say something after that?” Ramsey joked. “Thank you. … Sindy wanted me to be sure to tell you that picture at the back of the program (which showed a much younger Ron and Sindy Ramsey with their children) that was actually my first wife. … Technically it’s true. Sindy was my first wife.”

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Ramsey: AG ready for legal fight over bathrooms

Attorney General Herbert Slatery has promised Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey that he will “wholeheartedly” defend Tennessee school systems against a federal directive on transgender bathroom use, reports the Times-Free Press. That, says Ramsey, means there’s no need for a special legislative session on the matter.

“Herbert Slatery, the attorney general, called me to say we’re going to defend that wholeheartedly,” Ramsey, the Republican Senate speaker, told Bradley County Republicans on Saturday night at their annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada has been canvassing colleagues, seeking support for a possible special session to require Slatery to defend schools sued for violating President Barack Obama’s transgender student policies.

A recent directive from the U.S. Justice and Education departments said students should be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, not biological sex.

The American Civil Liberties Union-Tennessee fanned conservative Republicans’ ire last week by asking Education Department officials to enforce the directive against Sumner County schools. The ACLU complained the district is not complying with the policy, though Sumner officials say they try to be accommodating.

The Justice Department is suing North Carolina over its law restricting transgender students to bathrooms matching their biological sex.

After the dinner, Ramsey said Slatery told him Friday “he didn’t feel like we needed a special session” to require him to defend Sumner County. He said Slatery is “100 percent on board with it.”

“He feels confident they have statutory authority to [defend a local school system],” Ramsey added.

Ramsey: TN Republicans have reached their peak

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a driving force in the Republican boom in Tennessee, is taking a final victory lap before retiring from politics.

The Blountville auctioneer was scheduled to be honored at the state GOP’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville on Friday evening, an event that has grown along with the fortunes of Republicans in Tennessee politics.

Having presided over vast Republican gains in the Tennessee General Assembly that took the GOP from an afterthought to near complete control, Speaker Ramsey, who served two terms in the state House before being elected to the Senate in 1996, announced earlier this year that he would not seek another term.

“There’s not a lot more to accomplish,” Ramsey told The Associated Press in an interview in his legislative office this week. “On top of the fact that I have five grandkids, it made that decision not that hard, honestly.” Continue reading

Harwell, Ramsey would be surprised by any more vetoes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The speakers of the Tennessee House and Senate say they don’t expect any more vetoes from fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

Sen. Ron Ramsey and Rep. Beth Harwell told reporters on Thursday that they hadn’t heard any indication from the governor that he might reject any more bills awaiting his consideration after a trip to Asia.

The governor has 10 days excluding Sundays to decide whether to sign, veto or allow bills to become law without his signature.

Among the measures Haslam has yet to decide on are legislation seeking to phase out the state’s Hall income tax on income from stocks and bonds, requiring a lawsuit to be filed over the federal government’s refugee resettlement program and stripping funding from the diversity office at the University of Tennessee.

Ramsey, as quoted in the Times-Free Press: “Before we left over whether to have a veto override session or not I got the strong hint we wouldn’t need one. But at the same time did i ask specifically about bills? No, I didn’t. So that’s the reason I don’t think he will. But whether he signs them or not is a whole different story.”

Harwell, as quoted by the Commercial Appeal: “He (Haslam) indicated toward the end (of the legislative session) that he didn’t see anything that would cause us to need an override session, so I’m anticipating that means he’s going to sign them. Or at least allow them to become law without his signature.”

Note: According to the legislative website, the refugee resolution (SJR467) and the UT diversity bill (HB2248) were sent to the governor on May 9. He has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign bills once they reach his office. The Hall tax bill (SB47) apparently hasn’t been officially transmitted to the governor yet.

Ramsey backing Trump for president ‘100 percent’

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey thinks Donald Trump is on the way to winning the Republican presidential nomination and backs him “100 percent,” reports WJHL-TV.

“First of all I didn’t think that Donald Trump would ever get in,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said he thought the real estate billionaire’s campaign would fizzle out.

“And that didn’t happen but I do think people are so fed up with Washington D.C. they want somebody from the outside, somebody that’ll shake things up, and he’s riding that wave,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said he wasn’t initially on the wave of support for Trump.

“I like to keep it a secret who I voted for but I was not a Trump person of course…but now I’m behind him 100 percent,” Ramsey said. And he hopes eventually, the Republican Party will back Trump too.

“Trump has pretty much locked down the nomination so whether you’re for him or against him to begin with, obviously I’m for whoever the Republican nominee is,” Ramsey said.

…“If he’s not at the 1,237 that it takes, the delegates, then he’ll be very, very close. I think that’ll be almost impossible to take that away from him, and hopefully it doesn’t because the people have spoken,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey appoints Hill to new 6-year term at TRA

Kenneth C. Hill of Blountville, first appointed a director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority in 2009, has been named to another six-year term by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey.

Hill, father of state Reps. Mathew Hill and Timothy Hill, House and Senate resolutions confirming the appointment of Hill, is a past chairman of the utility oversight agency.

Resolutions confirming Hill’s appointment (SJR693 and HJR758 await approval by the Legislature on Wednesday, expected to be the final day of the 2016 session.

Former Rep. Shipley eyes run for Senate District 10

Seven people have now picked up the paperwork needed to run for the state Senate District 4 seat being vacated by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Among the latest potential contenders are former state Rep. Tony Shipley, who lost his House seat two years ago, and Kingsport lawyer Alice Alexander, who lost a run for county attorney in 2014.

Alexander and Shipley joined Brad Baker and Steve Godsey (former county mayor and state representative) as would-be candidates who have picked up, but not yet filed, the qualifying paperwork.

State Rep. Jon Lundberg filed his qualifying petition on March 18, followed by Neal Kerney on March 21 and John Paul Blevins on Monday.

…Meanwhile, five hopefuls have picked up the paperwork to run for the District 1 House seat Lundberg has held for 10 years.

They include: Sullivan County Commissioner John Crawford (filed Monday); Bristol Tennessee City Council member Michelle Denise; Bristol Tennessee Vice Mayor Chad Keen; Bart Long (former county commissioner and register of deeds, filed Monday); and Sullivan County Commissioner Mark Vance.

Lundberg was elected to the House in the 2006 general election, after first besting Crawford in the Republican primary earlier that year by only 22 votes — 1,793 to 1,771.

House beats Senate in corny competition

House Speaker Beth Harwell’s team defeated Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s team for the second year in a corn shelling competition held as part of “Agriculture Day on the Hill. This follows two years of House team victories in milking contests that were the standard before “Ag Day” became corny competition for the House and Senate.

From the Tennessean’s account:

House Speaker Beth Harwell and her bipartisan team of corn shellers have got a good thing going.

The three-member team, including Harwell and Reps. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, narrowly edged a Senate team led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to retain a golden trophy commemorating the annual competition.

Although Harwell lost a coin toss resulting in her team going first, her squad bested Ramsey’s, which included Sens. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains — who was wearing coveralls on top of his regular garb — after shelling 16 pounds of corn. The Senate team, who jokingly accused Harwell’s team of cheating in last year’s competition, managed to shell 15.8 pounds.

Note: Cheating allegations are nothing new to House-Senate contests, both during “Ag Day” and otherwise. A post on the Ag Day scandal of 2012 is HERE.