With the state Senate Education Committee planning hearings on Common Core, Frank Cable has some thoughts on what’s to come: Gov. Bill Haslam’s education reforms hit a couple of speed bumps this past legislative session, but his reforms may hit a brick wall come next session. A major battle is brewing over the direction of the state’s schools pitting Haslam, Bill Frist, Bill and Melinda Gates, and the state’s business establishment against conservative groups and the legislators who listen to them.
It’s about the Common Core Curriculum, a term you may not have run across. But it has begun to rank with Obamacare as a program reviled by conservative groups.
…I have hundreds of pages of a report introducing the Common Core Curriculum. So far it just makes my head hurt. I suspect the debate in the Legislature will be based on political positions and alliances with different groups rather than on legislators actually studying those hundreds of pages.
The business community and Haslam are determined to raise educational standards. It is entirely possible for the educational reform effort in the state to get derailed over arguments about “liberal ideas” replacing traditional “American values.”
The hearings will be important. The business establishment had better be ready to handle the questions raised. Both sides of the issue need to have “truth squads” to separate fact from fiction. It is the most important issue facing our state at the moment. Let’s don’t screw it up.
All good conservatives believe that the government closest to the people governs best, observes Frank Cagle in his weekly column…. except when they don’t. The business lobby is prevailing on the state Legislature to forbid a city raising the minimum wage above $7.25 an hour ($2.13 for people working for tips).
There is also a bill that forbids a city requiring contractors or people doing business in the city to pay a prevailing wage rate or to require that contractors provide health benefits.
…This comes after legislation last session forbidding cities to require their contractors not discriminate against gay people.
Business lobbyists tell legislators they have to have consistency throughout the state and it would be a real problem if regulations and requirements were different in different jurisdictions. We have to have the same laws in Maynardville and Memphis and Mountain City. That’s the argument they use in Washington to “standardize” laws throughout the states.
Legislators often glibly parrot the talking points and seem to have little regard for the impact of their decisions on the average citizen. If business wants consistency, how about requiring that every town and city in the state require a prevailing wage rate over the minimum?
No? So it isn’t about consistency. It’s about using the law to keep local government from asking for better wages from their contractors.
If it makes you mad for your City Council to ask that contractors pay a decent wage, provide health insurance, or not discriminate against employees then you have the option to run for City Council or support someone else. But it’s a local matter and no one in Nashville ought to be telling local governments what they can and can’t do.
Some local school districts are resisting efforts to set up charter schools. The state is already pulling the purse strings. Will a complete state takeover of charter schools be next? Even if you think charter schools are a good idea, shouldn’t you let the local school board decide? If you don’t like the decision, run for the school board or support someone else.
Robert Houk says that state law should be changed to allow carrying of guns openly and without the need for a carry permit. Just maybe, he’s being a bit sarcastic. There’s nothing in the Second Amendment that says that an American must get a government permit to carry a gun, so why does the state of Tennessee think we need one?
I know there are some folks who say the permit is needed so that people will get the proper training in how to handle their gun. Poppycock! Everyone knows that a true American is born with gunpowder on his fingers.
The only people who might need training are liberals (because everybody knows, aside from Atticus Finch, liberals can’t shoot straight).
Meanwhile, Frank Cagle – clearly serious, not sarcastic – opines that gun owners should be taking the lead in backing sanctions against those who abuse their right to carry a weapon. He focuses on the “stand your ground” law and a couple of cases in Florida, one that’s received a lot of attention and one not so much — yet. Responsible gun owners cannot allow irresponsible gun owners to try and use law-abiding citizens’ hard-won rights and put those rights in jeopardy. Dunn has a carry permit. If he did wrong, it should not negate the responsible practices of literally thousands of permit holders nationwide.
Responsible gun owners should be in the vanguard urging prosecution of people who abuse gun rights.
Further, Otis Sanford brings up the topic in a piece declaring Gov. Bill Haslam needs to stand against more conservative members of his own party. This legislature is determined to enact a law allowing people with handgun-carry permits to bring their guns to work and keep them locked away in their vehicles — even if business owners don’t want firearms on their property.
Haslam and Ramsey disagree over whether a revised version of the bill should allow firearms on college campuses. Haslam wants colleges excluded. Ramsey thinks that’s an overreaction, but he has hinted of late that he may be willing to exempt colleges from the bill.
For his part, Haslam is no fan of the bill either way. But he knows that train has already left the station.
Pardon the pun, but Haslam should stick to his guns on this and other major issues, and not be continually swayed by a rolling tide of extreme conservatism.
— Note: The columns were written prior to the Connecticut school massacre.
The apparent suicide of a mentally-troubled Florida man distraught over the re-election of President Obama is cited by Lenard Pitts in a column critical of right-wing commentators. Sometimes, they act — the Hannitys, the O’Reillys, the Trumps, the Limbaughs, the whole conservative political infotainment complex — as if this were all a game, as if their nonstop litany of half truths, untruths and fear mongering, their echo chamber of studied outrage, practiced panic, intellectual incoherence and unadulterated equine feculence, had no human consequences. Sometimes, they behave as if it were morally permissible — indeed, morally required — to say whatever asinine, indefensible, coarse or outrageous thing comes to mind in the name of defeating or diminishing the dreaded left. And never mind that vulnerable people might hear this and shape their beliefs accordingly.
Did the conservative political infotainment complex kill Henry Hamilton? No.
But were they the water in which he swam, a Greek chorus echoing and magnifying the outsized panic that troubled his unwell mind? It seems quite likely.
One hopes, without any real expectation, that Hamilton’s death will give pause to the flame throwers on the right. One hopes, without any real expectation, that somebody will feel a twinge of conscience. Or shame.
But that will not happen.
— Frank Cagle, who is pretty darn conservative in many matters, says in a column that elections show the Republican party needs to distance itself from the “crackpot caucus.” The Republican brand has come to be associated with bigotry and hate speech. It is the tone and the rhetoric that turns off people who might otherwise agree more with conservative principles than liberal ones.
In the 1950s, the John Birch Society began to make inroads into the Republican Party. Their extremist views and paranoia about government plots threatened to marginalize the party. William F. Buckley, editor of The National Review, and other conservative opinion leaders worked to throw these people out of the party.
What can Republican leaders today do to change the perception of minority groups and demographic changes?
They can start by condemning people who claim, all evidence to the contrary, that Obama is not an American citizen. They can call out conservative talk-radio hosts for hateful tirades and name-calling. They can condemn Limbaugh when he does things like refer to a young woman testifying before Congress as a slut.
They can also call out a handful of state legislators who make national news with stupid bills.
It’s time to start taking responsibility. Call down and excise the Crackpot Caucus.
An insightful (I think) Frank Cagle column poses this question in its headline, “Will most Republicans go along with extreme positions to avoid the ‘moderate’ tag?” An excerpt: If the sparse polling data available is correct, Mitt Romney is not likely to get as large a margin in solidly Republican Tennessee as John McCain did in 2008. Perhaps voters are not as excited about Romney, or perhaps they aren’t quite as rabidly anti-Barack Obama as the first time around.
After all, a black man was elected president and the world didn’t end. (Though from looking at some of my e-mail, there are those people who think it did.)
But has the personality of the Republican Party changed?
Here in traditionally Republican East Tennessee we tend to be more fiscally conservative and less intense on social issues. Middle Tennessee has become the hotbed of radical on-the-march anti-immigration, anti-abortion conservatism and it is an area more in tune with the perception of what the national party has become.
…The problems of the national Republican Party with minorities and women have largely been created by a minority of Republicans in state legislatures. There are religious conservatives who bring legislation primarily designed to make abortions harder to obtain. These bills make it harder for women’s clinics that provide abortions to exist. (A lack of hospital privileges closed a clinic in Knoxville.)
But clinics also provide other health services for women, many of them poor. Will such legislation turn off many women, and many young people, who will view the Republican Party as harsh and anti-women? It makes the face of the party white male state legislators who want to subjugate women.
I sometimes wonder if Tennessee is as conservative as its politics suggest. It may be that the ultra-conservative positions, that may give the national Republicans grief, play well in our state.
Or is it that the extreme branch of the state Republican Party has more passion and more ability to whip up the base than the mainstream Republicans? We have reached a point where even being considered “mainstream” or, God help you, “moderate” can be a mortal blow to a Republican politician.
In the next session of the Legislature we are likely to see a good bit of more extreme legislation than we have seen before. The question will be whether the traditional Republicans will have the courage to vote against “vaginal probes” or whether they go along to get along to avoid being labeled as not being conservative enough.
Frank Cagle has a list of questions that could be asked to legislative candidates, as they campaign this summer, about what should be the law of Tennessee. A sample: –It should be illegal to microwave a biscuit. What you do in your own home is your business and if you microwave a biscuit that’s between you and the memory of your grandmaw. If you think she would be okay with it, go ahead. But there is no excuse for a restaurant to serve a microwaved biscuit. They should be fresh. They should be crispy on the top and bottom and light on the inside. A soggy biscuit is a betrayal of Southern culture and we have to stop it. The bill should allow for a citizen’s arrest should you observe this activity.
–No place that sells cigarettes should have the right to ban smoking. If a restaurant or a convenience store sells cigarettes, then you should be able to light up. They can’t enable people to annoy others with cigarette smoke and not be annoyed themselves. If you sell chewing tobacco or snuff (excuse me, smokeless tobacco) then provide spittoons. Any place that sells tobacco products should be required to carry nicotine gum. You don’t have to go to the drug store to get cigarettes.
–It should be illegal to have sex with a pistol. This is not an infringement of the Second Amendment. You would still be able to sleep with your Nine Mil, it would just be illegal to have sex with it, regardless of your particular fetish. It’s disgusting.
An excerpt from Frank Cagle’s latest column: The Republicans passed a raft of gun bills as soon as they got a majority, an entire session known as the Year of the Gun. The Republicans and conservative Democrats have a constitutional amendment ready for the ballot in the next gubernatorial race to restrict abortion rights. This session saw the repeal of the inheritance tax and the gift tax and a reduction in the sales tax on groceries.
So is there rejoicing in the streets?
Not if your issue is propelled by frustration and anger. But how to gin up frustration and anger when you have control of the Legislature and your agenda is being passed?
Well, you think of something.
You attack the non-existent problem of elementary school teachers teaching homosexual sex. You try and regulate the student handbook at a private university (Vanderbilt) because they are discriminating against Christians. You argue that an anti-bullying law that prevents students calling a gay classmate names is restricting free speech.
You come up with a gun bill that tells property owners they don’t have the right to regulate firearms on their property and then go berserk when it isn’t passed.
You run candidates against conservative Republicans in their primary.
I find it amusing that someone like state Rep. Debra Maggart, chair of the Republican Caucus, is being attacked for not being conservative enough. Maggart is to the right of Attila the Hun.
From Frank Cagle comes a defense of the bill that lots of folks have criticized (including Gov. Bill Haslam, before he signed it into law): ‘ll be the first to admit that some legislators in Nashville and in state capitols across the country have been proposing controversial bills to provide solutions for problems that don’t exist. But I would point out that it is possible for serious people in the Legislature to be doing important work while the clowns are out in the hall getting all the press attention.
I rise today, however, to defend a bill that has met with almost universal derision and has often been used as an easy example of frivolous meddling. I’m talking about the baggy pants bill. You might think a law to stop schoolchildren from wearing their pants hanging off their hips was the idea of an uptight white Republican who hates hip hop.
Joe Towns, the principle sponsor of the legislation, is a black Democratic legislator from Memphis. Why has he pursued this idea for some years?
The style of pants around the butt with several inches of underwear sticking out the top began in prisons and jails, where inmates are not allowed belts. Is it a good thing if our high school students look at convicts as role models? That they want to identify with thugs and drug dealers, ’cause it’s, like, cool?
It seems a trivial thing unless you think about it. Baggy pants won’t get you a job. It won’t help you have an attitude conducive to learning in school. It is a way of identifying with losers.
Do you understand why a black legislator from Memphis finds such an ethos troubling?
— Note: Cagle is not alone, reports the Columbia Daily Herald.
Chuck Rated No. 3 by WaPo
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is ranked No. 3 on The Washington Post’s list of the top 10 House incumbents who could lose their primaries this year (H/T Chattanooga TFP). Here’s the relevant paragraph of the list (which fails to mention the third major GOP candidate, dairy heir Scottie Mayfield): 3.. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn): Fleischmann won this east Tennessee seat in 2010 when then-Rep. Zach Wamp ran unsuccessfully for governor. But now he faces a serious primary challenge from another Wamp — Weston Wamp, the 25-year-old son of the former congressman. Wamp’s last name and his father’s connections in Washington ensure he will be a well-known and well-funded opponent for the still-new-to-Washington Fleischmann. Something to Crowe About?
Robert Houk writes in his weekly column that Sen. Rusty Crowe, senior member of the Northeast Tennessee delegation to the state General Assembly with 22 experience in Nashville, Crowe has “just about seen and done it all” – or thought so until this year. Crowe has managed to emerge from each battle unscathed and a little bit wiser. Yes, he’s seen a lot as a state senator, but even Crowe admits he has never seen anything like the “polarizing” debate about to come on the so-called “guns in parking lots” bill Bizarro World
Frank Cagle begins a column on the effort to make teacher evaluations secret by recalling that value-added testing scores have been secret for a couple of decades now – though the original intent was to make them open after the procedure was well established.
His opening line: Sometime I think I’ve entered Bizarro World when I view public policy issues being argued in the Tennessee Legislature. Targeted Fundraising
On Saturday, the final day of a political fundraising quarter that included a $2,500-per-plate dinner for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., Democratic challenger Bill Taylor invited donors to shoot guns for 100 times less, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Taylor hosted his “Candidate Shootout Challenge” Saturday at Shooter’s Depot in Chattanooga, daring people to fire eight rounds with him in exchange for a $25 campaign donation. The gist of the Second Amendment agreement: If Taylor hit the bull’s eye more often than his donor, the donor owed the campaign an extra $10.
Taylor and Maynardville, Tenn., physician Mary Headrick are competing for the Democratic nomination in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District in the Aug. 2 primary… An Ooltewah resident who manages physician offices, Taylor said he raised about $1,000 Saturday, adding that some donors gave him “a lot more” than his campaign asked for
Marrero Running, Kyle Maybe
Sen. Beverly Marrero, thrown into the same district with fellow Democratic Sen. Jim Kyle under the final redistricting plan, says she will seek reelection. Kyle says he’s thinking about it. From the Commercial Appeal: “I am pleased to have an opportunity to run for re-election to the Senate, and I’m pleased that two-thirds of my district was kept intact (in the new District 30) because I’ve represented most of those people for nearly 30 years,” Kyle said.
Said Marrero: “It’s my district, 30, and I’m going to run. It will be interesting. Those days of women just saying, ‘You take it and I’ll go home,’ are over.” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey
Statement from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey: The redistricting bills we have passed today are fair, legal and logical. The plans restore regional integrity protecting neighborhoods and other communities of interest. I am proud of the hard work by members of both parties that went into creating them. Most of all, I am excited that with this process completed we can all get back to giving Tennesseans what they have asked for — more jobs, less spending and smaller government. Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney
Statement from Sen. Lowe Finney: “With today’s vote to approve redistricting maps in the Senate, the majority party rushed a process that amounted to a secret reverse election. Even today, as these bills go to the Governor for his signature, members of the public have little idea who will represent them.
“The redistricting process should not be conducted this way. Tennesseans deserve openness and proper deliberation regarding such sweeping legislation.” Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris:
From TNReport: “I think it’s the best we can do. It’s the fairest and most legal redistricting plan upon which we could agree,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who sponsored the Republican maps in the Senate. “There’s something about this plan that just about everyone can dislike a little bit, and some dislike a lot.” Sen. Andy Berke
On why he voted for the Senate redisricting bill (in Chattanooga TFP):
“Sen. Watson and I sat down and looked at a number of the precincts in Hamilton County. There were a number of precincts that made more sense to be in the 10th District because of the commonality of interest. They didn’t make all the changes I requested but they made some.” Cagle: GOP Too Clever?
Excerpt from a Frank Cagle column Tennessee has always been conservative and it has been trending Republican. Given the in-state vote in 2008 against the Democrats with a ticket led by President Barack Obama, it will be an uphill battle for Democrats this time around as he seeks re-election. As conservative Democrats from rural areas retire, they have been replaced by Republicans.
The Republicans could use a neutral computer model and likely draw districts that would result in their retaining control. But they didn’t. The question now is whether they have gone too far in trying to get a super majority and open themselves up to a court challenge and a judge intervening in the process.
Have they been too clever? We’ll see. Bipartisan Support
House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey both made a point of declaring “bipartisan supports’ for the legislative redistricting bills that won final passage on Friday.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner and Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle both made a point of saying their ‘yes’ votes were based on a deal. Basically, they agreed a to go along with the bills – even though disliking several aspects – in exchange for Republicans accepting last-minute revisions that benefited some Democrats without harming any Republicans.
The final vote on the state House redistricting bill (HB1555) was 67-25-3 in the House; 23-10 in the Senate. Seven Democrats, including Turner, voted for the bill in the House. Three backed it in the Senate. There were no Republicans voting against it, but two were officially “present but not voting.”
The final vote on the state Senate redistricting bill (SB1514) was 21-12 in the Senate and 60-29-1 in the House. Three Democrats, including Kyle, voted yes in the Senate while two Republicans – Sens. Mae Beavers of Mount Juliet and Kerry Roberts of Springfield, who lost his seat in the plan – voted no. Five Democrats, not including Turner, voted for the bill in the House.
The final vote on the congressional redistricting bill (HB1558) was 68-25 in the House and 24-9 in the Senate. Four Democratic senators – notably including Sen. Eric Stewart of Winchester, who is running for Congress – voted yes. So did seven House Democrats.