Tag Archives: Beth Harwell

Conservative group rates TN legislators

The American Conservative Union Foundation has released its rating of Tennessee legislators for 2016, giving its highest scores to five Republicans at 96 – with 100 being perfection in the ACU view – and its lowest score to Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a 7.

The five highest-rated Republicans at 96 were Sen. John Stevens of Huntington and Reps. Mike Carter of Ooltewah, Roger Kane of Knoxville, Judd Matheny of Tullahoma and Micha Van Huss of Jonesborough.

The Senate average rating was 80 percent (Republicans overall 85; Democrats 49). The House average 70 percent (Republicans 86, Democrats 28). The combined average was 85.5, down from 92 in 2015.

Lowest-rated Republicans: In the Senate, Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville at 57 percent. In the House, Speaker Beth Harwell had the lowest rating, 71.

Highest-rated Democrats: In the Senate, Sen. Thelma Harper at 75. In the House, Rep. Kevin Dunlap of Sparta at 73.

The full Tennessee rating list is HERE.

The ACU Tennessee press release is below. Continue reading

Spivey criticizes Harwell; Butt defends Spivey

State Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, has aimed fresh round of criticism at House Speaker Beth Harwell, who had declared him “irresponsible” for publicizing a complaint against House Clerk Joe McCord earlier in the week.

He says the speaker has adopted a “kill the messenger” stance and suggests Harwell was involved in attention paid to a fishing trip he and other legislators made to the Gulf coast with a school voucher advocate.

(Note: The letter to media is HERE, as provided by Nashville Post.)

Harwell had said earlier (post HERE) that Spivey had been “a longtime defender” of ousted Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, and linked that to the complaint that McCord used abusive language toward a legislative staffer and made an offensive gesture toward the woman’s 2-year-old granddaughter.

Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration, said the matter in question was “fully investigated” but declined to provide specifics about the incident.

Further from The Tennessean:

Spivey was not the only lawmaker to push back against Harwell on Thursday. Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, issued a statement in which she defended Spivey.

“Representative Spivey has served his district with honesty and integrity and to impugn his character or suggest that the allegations made are a ‘joke’ even before any further investigation, may be politically expedient, however, it is very unprofessional,” said Butt, who is running to be the next House Majority Leader.

Former lobbyist paid for trip to Carolina by Harwell, others

A prominent voucher advocate who previously registered as a Tennessee lobbyist paid for a private plane in November 2015 to take House Speaker Beth Harwell, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and others on trips to visit North Carolina private schools, reports The Tennessean.

Dean, a Nashville Democrat, and Kara Owen, spokeswoman for Harwell, a Nashville Republican, confirmed the two leaders went on the trip.

Lee Barfield, a well-known local attorney, former lobbyist and voucher advocate, said he organized the trip and paid for the twin-engine propeller plane the group used. Barfield also said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and others were on the trip.

House Ethics Committee Chairman Steve McDaniel said he went on a different trip with Barfield in September 2015 to the same school in North Carolina. Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, and then-Rep. Mike Harrison said they also went on that trip. Continue reading

Harwell: Rep. Spivey ‘irresponsible’ in complaint about McCord

Here’s a statement House Speaker Beth Harwell emailed to media today in response to a complaint filed against House Clerk Joe McCord by Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg:

“It is no secret that Representative Spivey is a long-time defender of Jeremy Durham’s and is upset about his expulsion at the special session–which Rep. Spivey failed to attend. Rep. Spivey did not want the Attorney General’s report on Durham released to the public and would not sign off on the report. Just as Durham lashed out last week at those who expelled him, his supporters–including Rep. Spivey–are doing the same this week.

“It is irresponsible for Rep. Spivey to involve himself in something without verifying the facts and in harassing our employees by releasing an inaccurate compilation of events. It is disrespectful for him to attempt to play political football with our state employees and their jobs, all because he personally disagreed with Jeremy Durham’s expulsion.

“I take all allegations of harassment seriously. Personnel issues are always handled by Legislative Administration in a professional manner, and they seek to reach a satisfactory conclusion for all parties. Our legislative staff does an outstanding job for every one of our members, and I sincerely appreciate the work they do.”

Note: Previous post HERE.

House clerk accused of abusive behavior

A Republican lawmaker is calling for an investigation into allegations that House Clerk Joe McCord made abusive comments to a woman staffer and raised his middle finger at her 2-year-old granddaughter when she visited House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office.

Further from The Tennessean:

In a letter emailed to The Tennessean late Tuesday night, Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, called for an immediate investigation into what a staffer described as mental and emotional abuses perpetrated by House Clerk Joe McCord against a Legislative Plaza employee over “an extended period of time.”

When reached Wednesday morning, McCord said he wanted to talk to Connie Ridley, director of legislative administration, before speaking with The Tennessean. Ridley and Harwell are also accused of wrongdoing in the report.

The allegation from a fellow Republican comes as Harwell and House leadership continues to stave off criticism for their handling of the allegations of harassment by now-expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said he hadn’t reviewed Spivey’s report as of early Wednesday morning. After The Tennessean described the allegations in the report, Casada said they surprised him.

“I’ve known Joe McCord for 16 years, and I’ve never seen that behavior exhibited in a malicious way, in a way that was meant to be demeaning. That’s just not the Joe McCord I know,” Casada said.

” A lot of people will kid in a way that, it’s just a manner of joking. It’s not actually the emotion of anger, it’s just the way of kidding.” Continue reading

Matlock offers ‘covenant’ to House GOP Caucus

State Rep. Jimmy Matlock has listed what he calls “the guiding principles” of his effort to replace Beth Harwell as House speaker in a document labeled “Covenant with the Caucus,” reports Cari Wade Gervin. The Covenant was emailed to members of the House Republican Caucus.

The one-page “covenant” (Note: Copy HERE) still offers no specifics as to what kinds of legislation Matlock wants to push, but it does throw shade on aspects of Harwell’s tenure.

“After many conversations with friends and colleagues in recent months, it is clear that many of us have a shared sense of concern regarding the manner in which the House operates,” Matlock writes, before elaborating in sections entitled, “SERVICE,” “PROACTIVE INTERACTION,” “CONSISTENT STANDARDS,” “CONSISTENT STRATEGY,” “CONSISTENT SUPPORT,” and “CONSISTENT RESPECT.”

Matlock describes how his office will reach out to members, how he won’t bully them, and how he’ll stand by all incumbents during primary races. 

“I will promote and apply high standards of conduct equally among all members. We cannot secure an environment of trust and confidence apart from the consistent application of such standards (emphasis his),” Matlock writes in the “CONSISTENT STANDARDS” section.

…Matlock stated in his email he plans “to deliver a signed copy of the covenant to each of you in the coming weeks.” However, he added that he wouldn’t be “sharing details regarding specific goals for the coming Session” until after the general election in November.

Harwell, Haslam back new rules on investing campaign funds

House Speaker Beth Harwell says she’s having legislation drafted to put some rules in place for legislators investing campaign funds in private companies, reports The Tennessean. Gov. Bill Haslam says he’d support additional disclosure of investments.

This comes as the Registry of Election Finance is investigating former state Rep. Jeremy Durham’s investment of campaign money in a company owned by Andy Miller, a well-known GOP donor who’s given money to Durham in the past.

“The governor believes it is good policy to disclose campaign investments just like personal disclosures made annually to the Tennessee Ethics Commission,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals. The personal disclosures require public officials to report any investments worth $10,000 or more.

Harwell, R-Nashville, state Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Marvylle, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said separately there should be more transparency and regulations when Tennessee public officials invest their campaign funds.

“I do not personally believe campaign contributions should be invested in private companies. I have directed our legal staff to research these issues and work with the Registry of Election Finance to identify the best remedy, so that legislation can be introduced to address it,” Harwell said in an email Monday.

“I believe in and support full disclosure and transparency in our campaign finance reports, and will always support legislation to that end. We should always strive to keep up to date on best practices, and I will be supportive of legislation seeking to address increased transparency or regulations on gift-giving or investments.”

…Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, agreed there should be more transparency but didn’t go as far as to suggest legislation.
“I think it is entirely appropriate that we require full disclosure of a campaign’s investments and interests, just as we do for personal interests and investments,” the retiring lawmaker said.

“While investments in campaign accounts should be permissible, they should be limited to investments that are public and available to all — publicly-traded stocks, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, etc. — to eliminate even the appearance of undue influence.”

Harwell cleared of ethics complaints

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House Ethics Committee has dismissed three complaints filed against House Speaker Beth Harwell for her handling of a sexual harassment investigation into former Rep. Jeremy Durham.

Republican state Rep. Rick Womick, who opposed Durham’s ouster a day earlier, had filed five complaints against Harwell. He withdrew two of them on Wednesday, and the ethics panel later dismissed the remaining three.

Womick’s remaining complaints alleged that it was an ethical violation for Harwell to effectively quarantine Durham from other lawmakers and staff beginning in April; to create a committee to consider allegations against him; and to order the state attorney to investigate.

Democrats on the panel said they also question Harwell’s handling of sexual harassment allegations, but said Womick’s complaints didn’t contain enough evidence to proceed.

Womick files ethics complaints against Harwell

State Rep. Rick Womick has filed five separate ethics complaints against House Speaker Beth Harwell related to her handling of the investigation into Rep. Jeremy Durham, reports Nashville Post Politics.

Womick’s first complaint alleges Harwell began an investigation into Durham based solely on media reports, in the absence of a formal complaint from anyone. The second ethics complaint says Harwell’s decision to move Durham from his Legislative Plaza office and limit his access to the Capitol was in direction violation of the state constitution because “only by a vote of the full House can a member of the Tennessee General Assembly be punished.”

The third complaint says Harwell’s creation of the Ad Hoc Select Committee, which authorized the attorney general’s investigation into Durham, was appointed unconstitutionally. But Womick’s fourth complaint alleges that Harwell illegally asked the AG’s office to start an investigation before the Ad Hoc Select Committee existed. The final complaint questions the constitutionality of the expulsion process as Harwell has directed it through the special session.

Rep. Steve McDaniel, the chair of the House Ethics Committee, said he hadn’t had time to read the complaints yet, but legal counsel was reviewing them.

“If [the complaints are procedurally] found to be compliant according to rules, we will have a meeting of the Ethics Committee in the next day or two and decide if they rise to the level of action,” McDaniel said.

AP story on squabbles over ditching Durham

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A special legislative session to fix a costly drunken driving law kicked off Monday with a squabble about how or whether Tennessee lawmakers should go about trying to expel one of their own.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam hastily called the special session because Tennessee stands to lose $60 million in federal road money because of a new state law that increased the maximum allowable blood alcohol content for drivers below the drinking age.

While quickly fixing that to bring it back into line with federal zero-tolerance standards appears to be headed for easy approval, an unrelated ouster effort against a lawmaker who was the subject of an extensive sexual harassment investigation led to heated exchanges on the House floor.

The probe detailed allegations that Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham of Franklin had improper sexual contact with at least 22 women over the course of his four years in office. Continue reading