State legislation that would give local governments the power to create partisan school board elections is dead, reports the News Sentinel. Sen. Becky Massey and state Rep. Bill Dunn, both Knoxville Republicans, confirmed Thursday that because the Knox County Commission tabled a resolution to support the proposal, they will not present the bill (HB420), which they sponsored, before committee.
“I think the plan is that maybe (the commission) will look a little more into it over the next several months, but I’m not going to do anything with the bill,” said Massey.
The senator added that she and Dunn initially agreed to push the bill if the commission “had strong feelings,” but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Officials with the Knox County Board of Education said state lawmakers and the commission did the right thing.
“I’m glad everyone is taking a common sense approach to this,” school board member Indya Kincannon said. “We don’t need more partisanship. We have plenty of issues and challenges that we’re facing in our community and schools.”
School board Vice Chairwoman Lynne Fugate agreed.
“I’m not sure how partisanship would actually improve education for the children in Tennessee,” she said. “Without it . . . helps keep the focus on education and not on politics.”
…After Commissioner Mike Hammond argued last Monday that he wanted public hearings before approving a resolution expressing support of partisan school board races, the commission tabled the matter in a 6-5 vote.
Later, Hammond acknowledged that the board would probably not discuss it further until the state takes action.
But, the General Assembly wants to adjourn by April 19. And the only way for the commission to revisit the proposal within 90 days is if someone on the prevailing side wants to bring it back, and only if the official gets two-thirds support to do so from the 11-member commission.
School board elections could become partisan contests under legislation filed by two Knoxville legislators who say they were acting at the behest of Knox County commissioners.
Current state law calls for nonpartisan school board elections. The bill (HB420) filed by Rep. Bill Dunn and Sen. Becky Massey, both Knoxville Republicans, authorizes county commissions to convert to partisan elections instead by a two-thirds majority vote.
Dunn said the idea was initially proposed by Commissioner Larry Smith in a conversation at a recent Knox County Republican meeting and was subsequently endorsed by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. Massey said “a number of other constituents” had also supported the idea.
Both legislators said they also support partisan elections for school board members, though Massey said she does not plan to push forward with the bill unless the Knox County Commission passes a resolution of support.
“I personally like partisan elections,” she said in an interview. “It gives the voters a base to know a candidate’s core philosophy.”
Dunn voiced similar sentiments.
“It gives people more information,” he said. “It gives them kind of an idea what a person’s philosophy would be, whether more liberal or more conservative.”
Those who do not wish to be categorized as a Republican or Democrat, Dunn noted, can still run as an Independent.
Dunn and Massey both said the measure was not aimed at anyone now serving on a school board.
Republican incumbent Becky Duncan Massey is being challenged by Evelyn Gill, 45, who teaches special education at Carter High School, in state Senate District 6. Jim Balloch has talked with the candidates. Massey, 57, has the backing of the politically popular Duncan family, and the district lines are drawn to favor the GOP. The District stretches from the Bluegrass community to Corryton, surrounds much of Knoxville and includes rural, urban and suburban sections.
She has a record of legislative success. Of the 31 bills she introduced or co-sponsored, 22 have became law, including those that were compromised or amended.
“She thinks things out and is not easily stampeded,” said fellow GOP Sen. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge, “She has a special and personal interest in issues that effect senior citizens, and our citizens who are mentally or physically disabled. She has an easy manner, but doesn’t beat around the bush. She very much comes to the point on issues.”
Gill is originally from Mississippi. She holds a master’s degree in public planning and administration from Rutgers University. Her master’s thesis was on poverty in urban and rural areas.
She said she is waging a classic grass roots campaign. She emphasizes education, economic development and the environment. She said her experience as a teacher makes her particularly better suited to deal with education issues than her opponent is.
Gill has lived or worked in three different sections of the district for many years. That, she says, gives her a better grasp of the district’s wide geographic diversity, and the multitude of issues that arise from such a district.
“I can represent the district on a personal as well as a professional level, and make sure that all of the voices in the district are heard,” she said. “In the end, the issues of education, economic development and the environment are all tied together.”
Libby Miller was rejected as a voter for lack of proper photo identification and in a subsequent attempt to get one was told that the supposedly free card would cost $17.50, according to her parents.
At least 284 people statewide were stopped from casting a ballot in the Aug. 2 election because they had no photo ID, officials reported. But that figure doesn’t include people like Miller who did not request or receive a “provisional ballot.” No record is kept of those who were simply turned away without a provisional ballot.
Miller, a “mentally challenged” 60-year-old who has voted in every election since registering as voter at age 18, was disappointed at being turned away from the ballot box by poll workers who knew her, said her mother, Viola “Vi” Miller, 82.
A fundraiser will be held today for state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Rep. Harry Brooks at the Powell home of a couple who have been in the news for operating a company without a Tennessee license, reports Georgiana Vines. Massey’s brother, U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, will be the honored guest, according to the invitation.
The problems of Chris and Andrea Ball and their firm, HR Comp LLC, came to light last month after they appeared in a photo with Gov. Bill Haslam when he signed into law a new statute governing the operation of staff leasing companies.
Tom Ingram, a government affairs specialist/lobbyist who lives in Knoxville, said Friday the Balls’ competitors had been busy notifying the media of their problems.
“I’ve worked with them over a year. They have a new license. In the end, Andrea worked hard with (an) association to tighten up regulations in the industry that has been subject to abuse. They’re building a good business,” Ingram said.
Ingram said Andrea Ball worked with the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations on the legislation passed this year.
In a consent order signed April 9, the Balls’ attorney acknowledged their business had acted as an employee leasing agency without a license and the Balls had given false responses when asked about it, according to The Tennessean in Nashville.
The newspaper also reported a $10,000 fine was issued. In the consent order, the Department of Commerce and Insurance determined Andrea Ball was not of “good moral character because the Jan. 12, 2010, response she sent about HR Comp’s unlicensed activity was not true.”
The new license, which is probationary, is for HR Comp Employee Leasing. Andrea Ball said Friday she is the owner and her husband is not part of the business. She also said a $3.5 million federal tax lien is being paid off monthly.
“I’ve spent 1½ years trying to address an old situation,” she said.
Ball said former Knoxville mayoral candidate Mark Padgett has been hired to help with sales.
— Note: Previous post HERE.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is defending his decision to pay $7,600 in salary to his sister, son and niece for working on his campaign in light of a new report that questions the practice, reports Michael Collins. The report, by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, accuses Congress members of using their positions to financially benefit themselves and their families. (Note: The full report is HERE. In the Tennessee section, there are also items on Marsha Blackburn, Jim Cooper, Chuck Fleischmann, Stephen Fincher and Scott DesJarlais.)
“This report shows lawmakers still haven’t learned it is wrong to trade on their positions as elected leaders to benefit themselves and their families,” said Melanie Sloan, the organization’s executive director.
Campaign funds can be used to make salary payments to members of a candidate’s family as long as the family member is providing a bona fide service to the campaign and is paid fair market value. But the question of whether a payment constitutes fair market value can be difficult to determine and is rarely challenged, the report said.
According to the report, Duncan’s campaign paid $4,500 in salary to his sister, Becky Duncan Massey; $2,100 to his son, Zane; and $1,000 to his niece, Courtney Massey Kohlhepp. All of the payments were made during the 2010 election cycle, which covers two years.
False claims of military service could lead to a $500 fine or six months in jail under legislation sent to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature by a Monday night state Senate vote.
The Senate vote on HB2491 was 33-0 with Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, as sponsor and virtually no debate. The House had approved earlier with a vote of 93-2 with Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, as sponsor.
“Apparently, there were some people putting on their tombstones that they were World War II or Vietnam veterans,” Massey told colleagues in a brief Senate floor discussion.
Dunn said earlier that a woman constituent, who he declined to identify, had seen the tombstones bearing claims of military service that she knew were bogus.Her concerns inspired him to file the bill, Dunn said.
Dunn said he considered any false claim of military service to be a “theft of valor” and there should be a penalty.
The bill exempts people wearing military uniforms in parades, acting performances or for educational purposes. The sponsors noted there’s already a state law that makes it illegal to wear military medals that were not earned in military service and said the new law will basically broaden the existing statute.
Rep. Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, one of the two representative who voted against the bill, said he thought the measure went too far and wondered whether the new law would be enforced against, for example, against teenagers wearing an Army surplus hat. Dunn said that the prosecution would require actual intent to deceive others about military service and such a situation would not meet the standard.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Becky Duncan Massey has been sworn in to represent Tennessee’s 6th District in the state senate.
The Knoxville Republican was sworn in Sunday before a crowd of about 100 people inside the auditorium of Central High School in Knoxville, according to The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/rXaFCH).
The Senate swearing in usually takes place in Nashville, but Massey asked that the ceremony be in her hometown.
Massey defeated Democrat Gloria Johnson earlier this month to win the seat that was formerly held by Jamie Woodson.
From the Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement on the election of Republican Becky Duncan Massey as State Senator for District 6.
“Tennesseans have repeatedly voiced their desire for elected officials who understand what it takes to create an environment for job creation and economic growth. Voters in Knox County once again voiced that desire by electing Becky Duncan Massey to the State Senate in the 6th District special election. Her commitment to smaller government, low taxes, and less regulations is exactly what voters in Knox County want. I congratulate Becky on this convincing victory, said Devaney.
“I also want to thank Jamie Woodson for her years of representation in this seat and interim State Senator Sue Atchley for her willingness to serve the voters of District 6 during this transition period,” concluded Devaney.
With most precincts reporting, Massey received 65% of the vote, compared to 35% for Democrat Gloria Johnson. District 6 includes a portion of Knox County.
— From the Senate Democratic Caucus:
Headlined, “Statement from Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney on Senate District 6”: “Gloria Johnson’s dedication to the State Senate District 6 race set a great example for all Tennessee Democrats,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney (D-Jackson). “She fought hard to raise awareness for issues facing working families throughout Knox County, and we look forward to seeing more great things from her in the future as she serves the children and families of Knoxville while giving a voice to some of the hardest-working people in Tennessee: our teachers.”
From the News Sentinel:
State Senate candidate Becky Duncan Massey kept Knox County’s 6th District seat firmly in Republican hands, outpacing Democrat Gloria Johnson on Tuesday night by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
Massey garnered nearly 64 percent of the general election vote among 15,740 votes cast in the race, according to unofficial returns from the Knox County Election Commission.
The 6th District seat, which represents portions of Knoxville and Knox County, was vacated this summer by Republican Jamie Woodson — speaker pro tempore of the Senate — who resigned to head a private education reform organization. The special election to fill the post coincided with the regular city election. Massey now will serve the remainder of the term until next year’s election.
Massey, 56, pledged to focus her limited term on improving the state’s regulatory climate for small business growth with a “common sense” approach.
“My priority down in Nashville will be to ask questions limit the size of government, limit the size of regulations,” said Massey, executive director of the Sertoma Center, an agency that serves mentally disabled adults. “As opposed to going down there and introducing a lot of legislation.”