Category Archives: Uncategorized

On proposed TN tax collection by out-of-state retailers

A proposed Tennessee Revenue Department rule that would require out-of-state retailers to begin collecting Tennessee sales taxes on items sold here is pitting state-based retailers who use the internet, catalogs and cable to sell across the country against traditional brick-and-mortar stores that don’t.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

At a departmental hearing on the proposed rule Monday, opponents testified against the plan to require remote sellers with no physical presence in Tennessee to begin collecting sales taxes from in-state buyers in 2017.

States like Tennessee require in-state retailers to collect state and local sales taxes. But two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the second one rendered back in 1992 before the explosion of the internet and internet commerce, bar states from requiring sellers with no physical presence in their state to collect sales taxes.

While representatives for traditional brick-and-mortars didn’t testify, they filed letters in support of the proposed rule, which would require out-of-state vendors who sell to Tennesseans to charge state and local sales taxes that can hit 9.75 percent.

Opponents’ chief concern is that other states may retaliate.

“While the rule appears to be targeted only at out-of-state sellers, it could actually cause a boomerang effect that would bring real and serious harm to retailers and businesses right here in Tennessee,” said a group of five businessmen and businesswomen in a letter to the Department of Revenue.

They warned the Haslam administration’s proposed regulation “would encourage other states to impose similar obligations on Tennessee businesses that sell to customers in other states — a situation that could lead to a chaotic patchwork of tax regulations and laws that reach beyond state borders and into Tennessee.”

Knox Democrats eye three for Armstrong’s seat

Three names have emerged as potential candidates to replace Rep. Joe Armstrong as the party’s House District 18 nominee on the November ballot and the Knox County Democratic Party will pick one or perhaps another person who steps forward, reports the News Sentinel.

Armstrong, who had run unopposed in his primary race last week, was convicted Monday on a felony charge of filing a false income tax return, disqualifying him from seeking re-election.

Party members Monday pointed to outgoing County Commissioner Sam McKenzie, City Councilman Dan Brown and community advocate Rick Staples, who most recently lost in the March primary to replace McKenzie, as top candidates to replace Armstrong on the ballot.

Knox County Democratic Chairman Cameron Brooks said he called an Aug. 18 meeting of the Board of Governors for 6 p.m. at the party headquarters. The 16 members who live in House District 15 will nominate and vote on the nominee, he said.

“We’ll take nominations and then go through a roll call,” he said, adding that a majority is not required and whoever received the most votes will face perennial Independent candidate Pete Drew in the general election.

A nominee must be submitted to the state by noon on Sept. 29, which is 40 days before the Nov. 8 election, according to state officials.

Black blasts Carr in 6th District

U.S. Rep. Diane Black trounced challenger Joe Carr in the Republican primary of Tennessee’s 6th congressional district, overcoming a barrage of attacks from her opponent that sought to tap into a national wave of anti-establishment GOP politics.

From The Tennessean’s report:

Black, a three-term congressman, beat Carr, a former tea party-aligned state representative from Rutherford County, by a nearly 2 to 1 margin Thursday. Republican primary candidates Tommy Hay and Donald Strong each have below 3 percent of the vote.

Black, a 65-year-old former nurse and ex state lawmaker from Gallatin, will now be a heavy favorite as the Republican nominee in the November general election against Democrat David Kent, who defeated Flo Matheson for the Democratic nomination Thursday.

For Black — despite outspending Carr 10 to 1 in campaign spending — the race presented an important political test as she considers a Republican run for governor in 2018. Losing her congressional primary would have derailed any statewide ambitions.

Note: Returns available on Division of Elections website, HERE.

Black, a three-term congressman, beat Carr, a former tea party-aligned state representative from Rutherford County, by a nearly 2 to 1 margin Thursday. Republican primary candidates Tommy Hay and Donald Strong each have below 3 percent of the vote.

Black, a 65-year-old former nurse and ex state lawmaker from Gallatin, will now be a heavy favorite as the Republican nominee in the November general election against Democrat David Kent, who defeated Flo Matheson for the Democratic nomination Thursday.

Haslam puts $150K into legislative campaigns

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has opened his wallet for state legislative campaigns throughout the state.

According to the final campaign finance reports to be filed before the Aug. 4 primary, Haslam gave $150,000 to his political action committee, Jobs4TN. The committee then contributed all but $4,000 of that amount to the campaigns of 44 lawmakers.

Top recipients got $6,000 each from the PAC, including Bo Watson of Chattanooga and Randy McNally of Oak Ridge in the Senate; and Charles Sargent of Franklin, Beth Harwell of Nashville, Eddie Smith of Knoxville , Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, Mark White of Memphis, Steve McDaniel of Parker’s Crossroads and Pat Marsh of Shelbyville in the House.

The governor also directly gave $3,000 to Nashville Sen. Steve Dickerson, who faces retired physician Ron McDow.

Windup TN notes on GOP national convention

Press release from TNGOP
CLEVELAND, Ohio-July 21, 2016–The Tennessee Republican Party released the following statement from Chairman Ryan Haynes regarding the conclusion of the 2016 Republican National Convention:

“While 2016 has showcased the passions within our Party, it only serves as evidence of how ready we are to get to work. Congressman Marsha Blackburn clearly and concisely laid out what’s at stake. With delegates voting to name Donald Trump and Mike Pence the Republican nominees for President and Vice President, all of us are ready to get to work and do everything possible to defeat Hillary Clinton and the Democrats in November.”

“This has been an incredibly successful week for the Republican Party. For Tennessee, our delegation came together with the objective of uniting—and we did. One thing that struck me is how all of us want to believe this nation can continue its exceptional run of the last 240 years as a beacon of opportunity, hope, and stability in an uncertain world. We’re the Party that can turn that belief into a reality. That’s the message the Tennessee Republican Party will be engaging voters with this fall.”

TN talk on Trump and NATO
By the Associated Press
Tennessee Republican National Convention delegate Victor Ashe, a former ambassador to Poland, says he hopes Donald Trump clarifies a suggestion that the U.S. might abandon its NATO military commitments if he were elected president.

Trump told The New York Times that he would review allies’ financial contributions before acting under NATO’s mutual defense clause, if any of the countries were attacked by Russia.

Ashe says he hopes Trump will reiterate strong support for the nation’s NATO treaty obligations. He says they are “an important component of our European alliance” and as binding on a president as a law.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Trump supporter and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, says Trump was only expressing exasperation that the U.S. plays an outsized role in the protection of NATO allies. Continue reading

DesJarlais’ first TV ad bashes ‘California trust fund millionaire’

More than a week after 4th District GOP primary rival Grant Starrett began airing a new television ad assaulting U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ record, the Tennessee congressman is returning the favor with his own TV spot slamming Starrett, reports the Times-Free Press.

DesJarlais’ “Mr. California” ad is slated to begin airing in the Chattanooga market on Tuesday. It portrays Starrett, an attorney who lives in Murfreesboro, as a youthful, out-of-state trust-fund millionaire trying to buy a seat in the largely rural 4th Congressional District.

Starrett has been running ads since early June, but this is DesJarlais’ first in the 2016 primary and comes as early voting is under way in the Aug. 4 election.

Running to DesJarlais’ right, Starrett has slammed the three-term incumbent on several votes and repeatedly has skewered him for passing on a 2015 opportunity to grill the head of Planned Parenthood at a congressional hearing.

DesJarlais’ first spot, which borrows heavily from an earlier direct-mail piece, is a take-off on the old TV series “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” featuring a gushing narrator with a British accent.

“‘Mr. California,’ starring Grant Starrett, the 28-year-old California trust-fund millionaire,” the announcer says. “Starrett grew up in a $10 million ocean-view mansion, moved to the 4th District last year just to run for Congress, using inherited fortune and out of state cash to join the club in Washington.”

Doctored images include a smiling Starrett on a California beach or grabbing his moment on a Hollywood red carpet, and images of $100 bills raining down on the candidate.

The ad shows DesJarlais speaking with a farmer and an elderly couple as the announcer, in an American accent, says, “Dr. DesJarlais fights for us, not the Washington establishment, making Scott DesJarlais the fourth most conservative congressman in the country.”

Tyler Privette, DesJarlais’ campaign coordinator, said the candidate has made a “significant ad buy covering both cable and network in the Chattanooga and Nashville media markets.”

Federal Communication Commission filings by Chattanooga broadcast TV stations on political advertising show an initial purchase of $11,029.

Note: A link to the ad is HERE.

TN student testing time reduced by 30 percent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Education officials say changes in standardized testing in Tennessee are expected to reduce testing time for students and teachers by about 30 percent.

The state has cut the first part of spring standardized testing to create only one assessment window at the end of the school year, The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/2a3kAh5) reported.

The changes stem from the Tennessee Department of Education’s two-year, $60 million contract with Minnesota-based Questar Assessment, which was finalized Thursday.

The changes mean that in grades 3-8, students will spend about three-and-a-half hours less time on state-mandated standardized testing each year. High school students will also see a cut in year-end tests with a typical 11th-grader seeing about the same reduction in testing time. Continue reading

Durham disputes sex allegations, suspends campaign

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A state representative accused of sexually harassing at least 22 women said Thursday that nearly all of the allegations in an attorney general’s report are either false or taken out of context.

Republican state Rep. Jeremy Durham said he never attempted sexual contact with any of the women whose stories are described in the report. He also said he was suspending his re-election campaign to focus on his family, although he stopped short of resigning his seat.

Reaction from leadership in the supermajority Republican General Assembly was quick, with House Speaker Beth Harwell calling Durham’s denials “insulting to the brave women whose testimony was detailed in the report.” She also said he needs to make it clear that he is not running for re-election. Early primary voting starts Friday, so Durham’s name already is on the ballot.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Durham should resign immediately.

“His actions were beyond disgraceful,” Ramsey said in an emailed statement. “Suspending his campaign but refusing to resign is an affront to the women of this state and the taxpayers who pay his salary.” Continue reading

Democrats question Haslam fundraiser at governor’s residence

News release from Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville
NASHVILLE – Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris and State Rep. John Ray Clemmons sent a letter to Attorney General Herbert Slatery today formally requesting his legal opinion on several issues surrounding the Governor’s planned fundraiser for Rep. Diane Black at the Executive Residence.

“In the spirit of responsibly representing Tennessee taxpayers, we are seeking answers to some serious concerns that we have about the Governor’s political activities on state property and his consistent refusal to release his schedule,” stated Rep. John Ray Clemmons. “Transparency has been an issue for this administration from day one. From Governor Haslam’s very first Executive Order that eliminated financial disclosure requirements for him and his top aides to his secretive out-sourcing scheme, he has consistently skirted the sunshine.”

“Today, we are posing some legitimate questions, such as, ‘Can the Governor host campaign fundraisers at the Executive Residence?'” stated Sen. Lee Harris. “We don’t think the Executive Residence is a place where campaign events should be held, but that is why we are seeking clarification. If President Obama used the White House to host campaign fundraisers, many on the other side of the aisle probably would be up in arms about it. This is the same thing.”

These questions come on the heels of media reports that the Governor will be hosting a campaign fundraiser at the Executive Residence for Congressman Diane Black’s re-election efforts on July 21, 2016.

A copy of the letter to General Slatery can be found here.

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