News release from House Democratic Caucus:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (July 17, 2013) – The Tennessee Black Caucus released the following statement in response to the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida:
“This was a disappointing verdict that just goes to show we have a long way to go until all Americans enjoy true equal protection under the law,” said Rep. Larry Miller, Chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus. “While we mourn and pray with the Martin family, we must also work hard to stop this from happening to innocent children here in Tennessee.”
On Sunday July 14, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators released a statement of support for the Martin family and reiterated the NBCSL opposition to so-called “stand your ground” laws across the country. In December of 2012, NBCSL ratified resolution LJE-13-06 “urging state legislatures that have adopted ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Shoot First’ laws to reform or repeal them and we also support the review and investigation by the United States Department of Justice referencing the Zimmerman case.”
In the aftermath of House-Senate hostility at an end of the legislative session, the Senate Republican Caucus has decided to terminate a joint fundraising operation with the House Republican Caucus.
For years, the two GOP legislative caucuses have combined for fundraising to form the Tennessee Republican Caucus, which would solicit contributions and host events. The joint caucus then paid the fundraising costs and split the remaining money between the House Republican Caucus and the Senate Republican Caucus.
In the past two years, reports filed with the Registry of Election finance show the House Republican Caucus has received checks totaling $460,465 from the arrangement; the Senate Republican Caucus $425,590.
The Tennessee Republican Caucus still had a balance of $123,000 in the last report it filed, dated Jan. 25. That will now apparently be split between the House and Senate.Republicans as the arrangement ends.
Frank Cagle opines in favor of Medicaid expansion in his weekly column… interestingly, just as Florida Gov. Rick Scott has done an remarkable reversal to support expansion over objections of many Republican legislators there.
An excerpt from Cagle: House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, with help from some good committee chairs, have much to be proud of in recent years. They cut taxes and still balanced the budget. The state is on an even keel while many other states are reeling from tax increases, budget deficits, and out-of-control pensions.
Unfortunately, the hard work by Republican leaders is often overshadowed by state and national coverage of the Wacko Caucus, a small group determined to embarrass themselves and their colleagues.
But there are some issues coming along this session that will be a real test on whether the Republican majority can govern responsibly or whether a minority of loud members will be allowed to rule. It will also be a test to see if Gov. Bill Haslam will have the courage to step up.
The major issue is whether the state will accept hundreds of millions of dollars in new Medicaid funds so that the working poor can pay medical bills and the hospitals will get a much-needed infusion of cash.
…Yes, the increase in Medicaid money is part of the Affordable Care Act. Yes, it is what Republicans call Obamacare. And yes, I understand that Republican legislators hate President Obama. There is even the idea among Republican legislators and governors around the country that if enough of them refuse to participate, Obamacare will collapse.
…If Haslam, Harwell, and Ramsey allow the anti-Obama animus to reject these funds, then you can thank them the next time your Blue Cross premium goes up because you are continuing to subsidize the medical bills of the people who can’t pay.
It’s time for the Republicans to demonstrate that they can govern responsibly instead of reverting to rabble-rousing backbenchers who have nothing to lose. Unlike the previous decades, what you do now has consequences.
State Rep. Barbara Cooper, who was chairman of the Legislature’s Black Caucus last year when Sen. Jim Summerville sent her a controversial email, says the senator has belatedly apologized for the remark. In August, 2012, Dickson Republican Summerville declared in an email to Cooper, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the Black Caucus thinks.”
The missive was sent after the Black Caucus issued a news release critical of a hearing Summerville led that looked into allegations of grade tampering at Tennessee State University.
Cooper provided a copy of a new Summerville email dated Jan. 12 and addressed to “Hon. Barbara Cooper and friends in the Black Caucus.”
“Dear Rep. Cooper and friends, one of my personal hopes in the new year is to try to lead a more Christ-like life. I realize that may require making amends to people I’ve hurt in the past.
“I want to tell you, then, how much I regret losing my temper last summer over your reaction to the TSU report. You said what you did with intellectual integrity and honesty of purpose. My reaction was unbecoming to me.
“Please know that I look forward to working with each of you in the 108th General Assembly for the welfare of all the people of our great state.
“Most sincerely, Jim Summerville.”
Cooper said that, in reply, she told the senator: “You’re apology is accepted and appreciated and you are forgiven.”
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), February 5, 2013 — State Senators Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville; John Stevens, R-Huntingdon; Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey and Reginald Tate, D-Memphis have joined colleagues in the House of Representatives to form the Religious Freedom Caucus in the Tennessee General Assembly.
The Tennessee Religious Freedom Caucus is the 9th state caucus in the nation organized to protect religious freedom and is affiliated with the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP).
“As lawmakers, we have an important role in protecting the free exercise of religion,” stated Senator Kelsey. “The Religious Freedom Caucus will help safeguard those rights and will work to strengthen protections for the diverse faith communities in Tennessee.”
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) will be led by Tennessee’s own Rep. Joe Armstrong (D-Knoxville), who will serve as President of the organization over the next two years.
Joining him in leading the group will be Rep. Karen Camper who will continue to serve as Region IV Chair (KY, TN, VA, and WV), as well as Rep. Brenda Gilmore and Rep. Johnny Shaw who will serve as Executive Committee members at-large. Allyson Sneed, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Shaw, will serve as Chair of the staff organization.
“I am honored to be chosen by my peers to serve as the President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators,” said Rep. Armstrong. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand the caucus and find new and better ways to serve our African-American constituencies.”
NBCSL, founded in 1977, is an organization dedicated to developing and promoting educational, research and training programs to help African-American legislators be more effective when considering and introducing legislation that affects their constituents.
“This is a great opportunity for me to be a voice for rural African-Americans within the Black Caucus,” said Rep. Shaw. “I hope to use this opportunity to inform other legislators about the work we’ve done in Tennessee, and to learn from my colleagues how we can be more effective in our state.”
In addition to a newly elected board, NBCSL has for the first time allocated funds to the regional chairs for the purpose of promoting policy engagement between the states.
“I am grateful to be chosen by my peers to once again serve as Regional Chair,” said Rep. Camper. “I am excited about the opportunity to use these new resources to work with other states in our area so that we can learn from each other about the best ways to help improve the lives of our constituents.”
“Too often the needs of African-Americans are neglected by state legislatures,” said Rep. Gilmore. “By amplifying our voices through NBCSL, we can ensure that important issues and programs are not forgotten as we work to make our states better places for all.”
The new NBCSL Executive Committee will take effect on February 1, 2013.
Rep. Mike Turner was reelected chairman of the House Democratic Caucus Wednesday, defeating an opponent who had promised to be less caustic in criticizing Republicans.
Turner was challenged by Rep. Johnny Shaw of Boliver, who told colleagues “I think the world of Mike as a friend, but I just don’t think he has the leadership ability.”
Shaw, who would have been the first black elected as caucus chairman had he won, said he didn’t think the Democratic caucus “has been as inclusive as it should be” but added, “Above all, I think we need a leader who can be calm, cool and collected.”
Earlier, Shaw said Turner had been too insulting to Republicans on occasion.
Turner does have a reputation for colorful and sometimes confrontational commentary. State GOP Chairman Chris Devaney, for example, has twice demanded an apology from Turner – never received – for saying that racism as a factor in Republican opposition to President Barack Obama.
“You understand that if a guy got a gun on you, why you going to cuss him out? ” said Shaw. “That’s kind of an elementary phrase, but we’ve got to find a way to work with people even if they disagree with us and even if we don’t get what we want.”
Turner said in a brief speech that “we have tried to be more inclusive” in the caucus and contended House Democrats had been successful in the November elections, given the disadvantages of dealing with Republican-engineered redistricting. And he rejected the idea of being softer in dealing with Republicans.
“Now is not the time to be shy. Now is not the time to shrink,” Turner said. “We’re not going to just lay down and be run over.”
Senator Mae Beavers was ousted from her role as Republican Senate Caucus Treasurer today in leadership elections, according to TNReport. The other Senate GOP caucus elections kept leaders in their roles, including Ron Ramsey, who will be the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor and Mark Norris as majority leader. (News release posted HERE.) The new treasurer will be Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin.
The caucus treasurer plays a key role, particularly in election years. That person has check-writing authority and can send campaign cash to key members fighting to keep their seats or snatch away Democratic ones.
…The Senate vote, in some ways, mirrors last month’s House Republican leadership vote. The only contested race in that race was for the Speaker Pro Tem, the House’s number two spot. Rep. Judd Matheny lost that race to Rep. Curtis Johnson.
Those losses may pull the curtain back a bit on what has appeared have been a united Republican Party since the GOP won supermajorities in both Houses. Both Beavers and Matheny endorsed Lou Ann Zelenik over incumbent US Rep. Diane Black in the 6th Congressional District race. Black has many friends in the General Assembly, where she served in the House from 1998 to 2005 and in the Senate from 2005 until her Congressional win in 2010.
— Note: Haile was named to replace Black in the Senate on an interim basis when she won the seat in Congress. He did not seek election to a full term until this year, when redistricting left the seat without an incumbent. (Sen. Kerry Roberts found himself in a new district with Sen. Jim Summerville of Dickson.)
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — December 12, 2012 – Tennessee Senate Republicans met Wednesday, December 12 in Nashville to elect leaders for the 108th General Assembly where they voted unanimously to nominate Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey
(R-Blountville) to retain his top leadership post as Lt. Governor and Senate Speaker. The Senate Republican Caucus also voted to re-elect Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) for a 4th term as Senate Majority Leader and chose
Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) for a 2nd term as Republican Caucus Chairman.
The State Senate’s organizational session is set to begin on January 8.
Election of the Lt. Governor is the first order of business after State Senators take the oath of office. Senate Republicans now number 26 of the 33 members of the Tennessee Senate after gaining 6 new seats in the November election.
“It has been the honor of my life to serve as Tennessee’s lieutenant governor,” Lt. Governor Ramsey said. “I am truly humbled to once again be the nominee of my party for Speaker of the Senate. We have welcomed some great new
members to our caucus today and elected a fantastic leadership team. I look forward to getting to work this session continuing to bring Tennesseans what they have asked for: more jobs, less spending and smaller government.”
“I appreciate the confidence of my colleagues and look forward to continuing on the conservative course our constituents deserve,” Leader Norris added.
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve again as Senate Republican Caucus Chairman,” said Chairman Ketron “This is a united team that will work together to encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, follow sound
fiscal budget practices and that will address many other concerns facing Tennesseans.”
Other Caucus members elected to leadership positions were Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) as Treasurer, Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) as Secretary, Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson (R-Hixson) as Majority Whip and Senator
Mark Green (R-Clarksville) as Caucus Chaplain.
Rep. Mike Turner of Old Hickory is the current House Democratic Caucus chairman, but Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar in West Tennessee is challenging him in a caucus election later today. WPLN says Shaw believes Turner can be too quick to insult Republicans, who now hold a two-thirds super majority in the House. “You understand that if a guy got a gun on you, why you going to cuss him out? That’s kind of an elementary phrase, but we’ve got to find a way to work with people even if they disagree with us and even if we don’t get what we want.”
Shaw says the party also needs to come up with a strategy to start winning more seats than are being lost. He says the candidate recruiting process for the 2014 elections should already be underway.
Shaw says he believes he has support from most of the House Black Caucus. While that includes half the Democrats in the chamber, Rep. Turner still says he has the votes to retain his chairmanship.