City annexations across most of Tennessee would be stopped dead in their tracks for up to 27 months under bills scheduled for final consideration this week in the General Assembly, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The bills are a compromise from initial plans by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, to require voter consent before cities could annex territory.
After cities and their lobbyists objected fiercely to the original bill, the legislation now blocks annexations of unwilling property owners while a comprehensive study of Tennessee annexation laws is conducted by June 30, 2015.
The bill’s effects are back-dated to April 1 to block cities such as Collegedale, which in February began annexing dozens of properties in response to the original bill.
…Watson’s bill is up for consideration this afternoon on the Senate floor. He said he’s not sure whether he will move on it or wait to see what happens to Carter’s bill in the Calendar and Rules Committee, the last hurdle before hitting the House floor.
Carter, a freshman lawmaker, has been driving the legislation, adjusting it to accommodate legislative critics.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“I think we’re going to make it to the floor, and I think we’re going to win the vote on the floor,” he said, adding that little differences in the House and Senate bills would need ironing out.
Carter’s amended bill includes the moratorium but only for residential and farm properties, not commercial properties. The study would be conducted by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
The bill has its origins in Chattanooga’s recent annexation efforts. Carter said he and Ramsey managed to stop three annexations by Mayor Ron Littlefield, but seven others went through.
All were within Chattanooga’s urban growth boundary created under a 1998 state law aimed at providing for orderly growth rather than simply revenue-snatching land grabs.
Republican Mark Green unseats Democratic Sen. Tim Barnes in Senate District 22, HERE.
Republican Steve Dickerson defeats Phil North in Senate District 20, HERE.
Democrat Bo Mitchell defeats Charles Williamson in House District 50, HERE
Republican Todd Gardenhire wins Senate District 10, HERE
Kent Williams, the state’s only independent legislator, wins a new term, HERE
Democratic Rep. John Tidwell wins a new term in House District 74, HERE.
The House District 50 seat is open for the first time in at least 28 years, but the two men competing for it are no rookies when it comes to campaigning, reports the Tennessean. Democrat Tim Garrett represented the district in the General Assembly for 20 years until Gary Moore unseated him in a primary fight and went on to win the seat in 2004, starting an eight-year run that will end soon with Moore’s retirement.
Now Democrat Bo Mitchell, who has served with Garrett in the Metro Council since 2007, and Republican Charles Williamson, who unsuccessfully sought a different legislative seat two years ago, are vying to represent the area stretching from Goodlettsville to Bellevue.
The race has taken on a negative tone lately, with Mitchell hammering at Williamson’s residency issues and Williamson saying in a news release that Mitchell, although welcome to attend a recent campaign bean supper, “may already be full of beans.”
Mitchell, director of sales for Health Cost Solutions, previously worked for former Gov. Phil Bredesen as director of community affairs and ran the state Senate’s Government Operations Committee while working for former Sen. Pete Springer.
As Georgia prepares for runoffs in primary elections that didn’t produce a clear majority winner, some Tennesseans wonder why their state isn’t doing the same thing, according to Chris Carroll. “I got elected in 2004, and I’ve never heard it discussed in the Legislature,” said state Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson. “My suspicion is because it’s never been done here.”
(Chuck) Fleischmann isn’t the only one who benefited from a low-end plurality on Aug. 2. Gary Starnes captured a nonpartisan Hamilton County General Sessions judgeship with 37 percent of the vote, and notorious Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Mark Clayton achieved victory with 30 percent, allowing him to face U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in November.
…Timing, tradition and “voter fatigue” are the main barriers between Mayfield and another bite at the apple, Watson said. But ask Hamilton County Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan why runoffs haven’t gained traction, and she’ll answer with one word.
“Money,” she said.
The tab for the Aug. 2 primaries in Hamilton County was $245,971, she said. “[A runoff] would cost a little less. To pin me down as to how much, I can’t tell you exactly.”
Experts said runoff elections are the product of Southern racial politics around the turn of the 20th century. States that enacted runoffs were controlled by Democrats unfriendly to the idea of “minority factions being able to win” with a small percentage of the vote, according to Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.
“Did Tennessee [refrain from runoffs] because the Republican Party was slightly more viable in Tennessee than other Southern states?” Oppenheimer wondered aloud. “Was it because Tennessee had a smaller African-American population? I don’t know. But it probably played a part.”
Tennessee Republicans think they can turn yet another state House seat their way this year in a district stretching from Goodlettsville to Bellevue, reports the Tennessean. But Democrats believe they have a strong candidate to keep the District 50 seat in Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell, who will face one of three relative newcomers from the GOP ranks. Democratic state Rep. Gary Moore, a union advocate like Mitchell, is retiring after representing the district for eight years.
Early voting starts today. Mitchell, 41, is running unopposed on the Democratic side. The Republican race features Dwight “DJ” Farris, a 25-year-old Realtor; Dave Hall, 24, who works with data for Wyndham Resorts; and Charles Williamson, 51, a geologist, business owner and bison rancher.
…Both Williamson and Hall ran for House seats in 2010, while Farris is making his first bid for public office. Williamson lost to state Rep. Mike Turner of Old Hickory in District 51. Hall was the Republican nominee in District 50. He drew more than 42 percent of the vote but couldn’t unseat Moore.
Moore made an issue two years ago of the fact that Hall lived with his parents, which still appears to be the case. Hall and his father, Senate District 20 candidate David Hall, listed the same address and phone number when they qualified to run in April.
Hall said he’s legally old enough to run and that he would focus on cutting taxes, confronting illegal immigration and communicating with the people he hopes to represent.
“If you’re here illegally, we need to deport you,” he said. “We need you to come here through the proper channels.”
Farris, who said he closed his first real estate deal when he was a 20-year-old sophomore at Lipscomb University, said he would work to reduce regulations on businesses and create an environment that encourages student achievement and rewards successful teachers.
“People are ready to see someone that’s focused on creating jobs,” he said. “They understand that government does best when it gets out of the way of small business.”
Farris has been endorsed by Tennessee Right to Life, a pro-life group.
Williamson did not return two phone calls or an email seeking an interview this week. In a response to a request for basic information last month, he wrote that he decided to run because “I want to give back in a meaningful way and represent my neighbors with common sense leadership and a sincere willingness to work across party lines for solutions that keep Tennessee vibrant and strong.”
The area designated by state law as House District 89, today geographically covering a part of urban Memphis and represented by one of the few acknowledged liberal Democrats remaining in Tennessee, will be transformed on Nov. 6.
On that date, House District 89 will certainly become, geographically, a rural-suburban enclave within Knox County 300 miles away, thanks to the new state legislative redistricting plan enacted to change state law earlier this year by the General Assembly.
And, almost certainly, House District 89 will be politically represented by one of four Republican men who — based on recent interviews — have few philosophical differences in adhering to basic conservative Republican principles and equal ambivalence on issues that have split sitting Republican legislators. The race to represent the relocated District 89, then, would seem to be largely a personality contest.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to close off public access to company information used to decide economic development grants was withdrawn Wednesday.
Republican Sen. Bo Watson of Hixson said that the decision followed a failure to reach a compromise.
“I just don’t think we could get the language right to satisfy everybody’s needs,” Watson said. “The administration sort of recognized that they were kind of at an impasse in trying to get the language right, and said we’ll just try this next year.”
Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to overhaul the Tennessee Regulatory Authority scraped though a Senate committee last week with a “neutral” recommendation and could be headed for more trouble this week, reports Andy Sher. Two area lawmakers pointedly told Haslam’s legal counsel, Herbert Slatery, that officials need to come up with better answers to criticisms of elements such as turning the agency’s full-time director slots into part-time positions.
“I think, going forward, you will find it much more difficult and you will need to answer the questions,” Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, warned Slatery in the Government Operations Committee hearing. Bell is committee chairman.
At one point, Slatery couldn’t recall the names of people in the regulated utilities who were asked for advice about the proposed changes.
….Haslam’s original bill called for creation of a full-time executive director, appointed by the governor.
Critics, including TRA Chairman Kenneth Hill, charged that effectively would put the governor in charge of the independent agency and its part-time board.
Haslam retreated; new language provides for an executive director jointly appointed by the governor and the House and Senate speakers for a three-year term.
On Friday, Haslam told reporters he “strongly” believes the TRA needs a full-time executive director with a professional background. Currently, directors rotate the chairmanship and management responsibilities annually.
“You can’t show me another management structure like that [which] is effective,” Haslam said.
“At the end of the day, what the TRA bill is about is providing utilities at the lowest price possible for those people who use those regulated agencies,” Haslam said.
The amended bill also would save more than $347,000 a year, the administration says.
The four full-time directors now are paid $152,400 plus benefits. Part-time directors would be paid $36,000 a year, plus benefits. Qualifications would include at least a bachelor’s degree and at least three years’ experience in a regulated utility industry or in “executive-level management,” plus expertise in an area such as economics, law, finance, accounting or engineering.
The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of evolution and other scientific theories while the House approved legislation authorizing cities and counties to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
The Senate voted 24-8 for HB368, which sponsor Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, says will provide guidelines for teachers answering student questions about evolution, global warming and other scientific subjects… Critics call it a “monkey bill” that promotes creationism in classrooms.
The bill was approved in the House last year but now must return to that body for concurrence on a Senate amendment that made generally minor changes. One, says the law applies to scientific theories that are the subject of “debate and disputation” — a phrase replacing the word “controversial” in the House version.’
The measure also guarantees that teachers will not be subject to discipline for engaging students in discussion of questions they raise, though Watson said the idea is to provide guidelines so that teachers will bring the discussion back to the subjects authorized for teaching in the curriculum approved by the state Board of Education.
All eight no votes came from Democrats, some of whom raised questions about the bill during brief debate.
Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Clarksville, said he was concerned that the measure was put forward “not for scientific reasons but for political reasons.” And Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said teachers were doing just fine teaching science without the Legislature’s involvement.
“We are simply dredging up the problems of the past with this bill and that will affect our teachers in the future,” Berke said.
Watson said the purpose of the legislation is to encourage teachers in helping their students learn to challenge and debate ideas to “improve their thinking skills.”
The bill authorizing display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings (HB2658) is sponsored by Rep. Mathew Hill, R-Jonesborough, who said it is in line with court rulings. In essence, courts have often declared displays of the biblical commandments unconstitutional standing along, but permissible as part of a display of “historic documents.”
The bill authorizes all local governments to display “historic documents” and specifically lists the commandments as being included.
Hill said the bill will prevent city and county governments from “being intimidated any further by special interest groups” opposed to display of the Ten Commandments.It passed 93-0 and now goes to the Senate.
News release from National Center for Science Education:
All eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences — including a Nobel laureate — have signed a statement (PDF) expressing their firm opposition to House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893. Both bills, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” HB 368 was passed in April 7, 2011, but SB 893 was stalled in committee until March 14, 2012, when the Senate Education Committee passed a slightly amended version.
The scientists object to the misdescription of evolution as scientifically controversial, insisting, “As scientists whose research involves and is based upon evolution, we affirm — along with the nation’s leading scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences — that evolution is a central, unifying, and accepted area of science. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming; there is no scientific evidence for its supposed rivals (‘creation science’ and ‘intelligent design’) and there is no scientific evidence against it.”
The scientists also object to the encouragement to teachers to present the so-called scientific weaknesses of evolution, which, they contend, “in practice are likely to include scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution. As educators whose teaching involves and is based on evolution, we affirm — along with the nation’s leading science education organizations, including the National Association of Biology Teachers and the National Science Teachers Association — that evolution is a central and crucial part of science education. Neglecting evolution is pedagogically irresponsible.”
Their statement concludes, “By undermining the teaching of evolution in Tennessee’s public schools, HB 368 and SB 893 would miseducate students, harm the state’s national reputation, and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy.” The statement is signed by Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986, Roger D. Cone, George M. Hornberger, Daniel Masys, John A. Oates, Liane Russell, Charles J. Sherr, and Robert Webster; all eight are members of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific organizations.
— Note: As explained by Sen. Bo Watson in committee, his amendment (which had not been posted on the legislative website four days after adopted in committee) deletes the word “controversial” and replaces is with “debated or disputed.” That may well be, as the release suggests, a matter of ‘slightly amending” the original version.