Tag Archives: Barrett

Tea Party-backed ‘Solicitor General’ Bill Dies in House Sub

A bill stripping the state attorney general of most responsibilities and giving them to a “solicitor general” was killed in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday.
The new office of solicitor general, under HB1072, would have been filled by appointment of the state House and Senate, meeting in joint session. Tennessee’s attorney general is now appointed by the state Supreme Court under a provision of the state constitution.
House sponsor Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville, said the bill had been brought to him by the Fayette County Tea party and was priority legislation for tea party members statewide. Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, sponsored the measure in the Senate.
Many tea party members were upset when Attorney General Bob Cooper last year failed to file a lawsuit against the federal Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, as did attorneys general in other states.
“If we determine, as a Legislature, that we should file an injunction (against a federal law considered unconstitutional), the attorney general would not have to pursue that,” Rich said.
With enactment of the bill, the solicitor general would be obliged to file such a lawsuit to “fend off the federal government,” Rich said.
Rich said the creation of a solicitor general position is permissible under the state Constitution because, while granting the Supreme Court authority to name the attorney general, the document gives the position no duties other than reporting decisions of the Supreme Court. Thus, he said current attorney general duties such as representing the state in lawsuits and issuing legal opinions can be assigned by statute to a solicitor general.
But other legislators questioned that contention. They included Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, also an attorney, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ootelwah, a former judge.
Carter said he “understands the frustration behind this,” but believes that the bill might lead to a lawsuit rather than correcting the problem and to situations of “the state of Tennessee suing the state of Tennessee.” Appropriately addressing the situation, Carter said, “may require a constitutional amendment, to be honest with you.”
Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, asked how members of the judiciary felt about the bill. Rich said he did not know, but conceded “they probably wouldn’t like it.”
The bill was killed on a voice vote. Only one member of the eight-member subcommittee, Republican Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah, had himself recorded as supporting the measure.

Most TN Provisional Ballots Weren’t Counted

Nearly four out of five provisional ballots cast in Tennessee in November were tossed out, according to statewide data. The Tennessean says this indicates that measures meant to ensure all legitimate votes were included resulted in only a few more being counted.
Only 1,623, or 23 percent, of the 7,097 paper provisional ballots cast by people who experienced trouble at the polls during the Nov. 6 general election were ruled legitimate by election officials, figures compiled by state election officials show.
The numbers suggest that at least some voters were disenfranchised by steps Republicans took before the 2012 elections, opponents say.
“People ought not to have to fight to vote in a democratic society,” said George Barrett, a Nashville civil rights attorney who is challenging the state’s photo identification law.
Republicans pushed the law through the legislature in 2011 as part of a nationwide attempt to ensure voter integrity, but Barrett and others have called it an attempt to deter voting among traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Election officials say the figures also show that only two-tenths of 1 percent of the 2.4 million Tennesseans who cast ballots in November actually ran into problems when they went to vote, which they take as an indication that the voter ID law worked how it was supposed to.
“I’d like to get to the point where it’s even lower,” said Mark Goins, Tennessee’s coordinator of elections, “but I’ll take this number when you look at the full scale of things.”

Lawmaker Calls Parole System ‘a Failed Experiment’

In a Sunday review of the state parole practices, The Tennessean provides examples of violent offenders going pretty much unsupervised and committing crimes while parole officials were supposedly “supervising” dead offenders.
And some legislators are quoted as saying it’s time for a shakeup.
State Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville, who chairs a legislative committee that oversees parole and probation issues…has tried unsuccessfully in the past to abolish parole in Tennessee and said the current state of supervision proves his point.
“I don’t think it’s currently doing what it’s supposed to be doing, what it’s designed to do,” Rich said. “I think it’s a failed experiment.”
An audit released this month accused the Tennessee Board of Parole of not only keeping dead felons under active supervision, but of also falling far short of state guidelines on supervising live felons and failing to adequately punish people who rack up numerous violations.
…House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said Tennessee taxpayers expect better from the state.
“Certainly this is not something that we can tolerate, and it’s not something the taxpayers should tolerate,” Harwell said Friday. “We will expect changes to be made.”
…The Board of Parole blamed the continued supervision failures on increasing caseloads.
“From a historical perspective, the board continued to move forward in addressing supervisory issues in its audits,” said Melissa McDonald, spokeswoman for the Board of Parole. “The board has consistently experienced increases in caseloads as the population served continues to grow.”
She said the number of felons under supervision has increased by 6.1 percent annually for the past 10 years.
It’s a familiar refrain. In 2001, after an audit showed the agency wasn’t fulfilling its supervision duties, it responded by complaining that caseloads had become untenable at 96 felons per parole officer. In 2006, it complained when they reached 100. In 2012, caseloads had grown to 113 for some parole officers.
Rep. Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, said the state legislature deserves some of the blame for not funding more parole officers to address caseloads in the past.
“The parole people kept saying, ‘We’re getting too high of a ratio, too high of a ratio, too high of a ratio,’ and never got the funding that they’ve needed,” he said. “The legislature has to be upset with itself, too.”
Rich laid some of the blame at the feet of Board of Parole Chairman Charles Traughber, who has held the position since 1988 with on-and-off stints at the agency going back to 1972.
“I don’t think that Mr. Traughber specifically is the cause, but I believe that, in and of itself, I would be embarrassed to know that under my watch that this has happened,” he said.

Traughber responded only by saying, “I have the utmost respect for Representative Rich.”

Appeal to Supreme Court Filed in Photo ID Lawsuit

On behalf of the City of Memphis, civil rights attorney George Barrett Wednesday filed an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals of a recent state court decision that found Tennessee’s voter identification law to be constitutional, according to the Tennessean.
His application for emergency appeal asks state officials to remove government-issued photo ID as a voting requirement in the November election. The appeal requests a hearing no later than Oct. 12. Tennessee’s early voting starts Oct. 17.
Barrett has been at war for months with state officials over the state’s voter ID law, which took effect this year. He has called the law “an unconstitutional impediment on the right to vote.”
Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled last week that neither of the two Shelby County voters Barrett represented were harmed by the voter ID law, so the question of whether the law is constitutional or not could not go forward.
The lawsuit followed a ruling by a federal judge that Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell, the two voters, could not use library identification as valid voter IDs.

TCPR Hires Former Rep. Rowland as Part of Staff Buildup

News release from TCPR:
Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Center for Policy Research today announced that it has added five senior fellows to its team.
Former state Rep. Donna Barrett, University of Tennessee professor Harold Black, Rhodes College professor Art Carden, Lipscomb University professor Richard Grant, and Paul Stumb, Dean of the Cumberland University Business School, will join the organization as senior fellows.

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