The Tennessee Sports and Entertainment Industry Coalition, which lobbied for passage of the “Fairness in Ticketing Act (HB1000),” has thrown in the towel for 2013 in one of the 2013 session’s great lobbying wars.
From the Tennessean: After appearing to flounder recently under the weight of growing opposition from conservative leaders, a proposal to impose greater restrictions on the event ticket resale market died Wednesday in a House committee.
The bill’s author, state Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, said the measure suffered “some of the harshest” lobbying he had experienced, making it impossible to continue.
“They’ve done an excellent job maligning what the bill actually does and that’s just something I haven’t been able to overcome just yet,” Haynes said of the bill’s critics. Opposition has been led since last year by a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy organization, but the army of dissenters swelled in recent weeks to include conservative leaders from throughout the state.
Haynes declined an offer by state Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville, to send the bill to a summer study committee and said he hoped to present it again next year.
“Around here everybody really knows a summer study committee is a way to dispense with a bill and just never have it dealt with again,” Haynes said. “And I think we do need to deal with this issue.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Members of a new coalition say they plan to assist with a statewide campaign to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment on abortion scheduled to be on the ballot next year.
That amendment would allow the state to enact laws requiring a 48-hour waiting period for abortions and requiring all but first-term abortions to be performed in hospitals.
Members of Healthy and Free Tennessee spoke to reporters at a news conference on Monday. They didn’t specify their strategy in the campaign.
However, they did say regardless of what happens with the amendment, the coalition plans to “promote sexual health and reproductive freedom” throughout the state.
Earlier this month, Republican sponsors of a measure that would have required abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and show or describe it to a woman seeking an abortion decided to withdraw the legislation and support the constitutional amendment.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A super political action committee is working against U.S. Rep. Diane Black in the Aug. 2 primary and its sole contributor was formerly the chief fundraiser for Black’s opponent, Lou Ann Zelenik.
Black’s campaign charges that this violates federal rules that require PACs to operate independently from campaigns. Zelenik’s campaign vigorously denies any coordination with Citizens 4 Ethics in government.
The political blog Open Secrets reported this week that thousands of dollars raised by Citizens 4 Ethics has come from Andrew Miller of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition.
The group has spent more than $30,000 on the 6th District primary, according to the Federal Election Commission. Miller told The Associated Press that he contributed the more than $180,000 raised by the PAC and that the money spent so far is to target Black, who edged Zelenik in the 2010 primary and went on to win the seat.
Conservative blogger David Oatney says a coalition of Tea Party groups has sent a letter to the Republican State Executive Committee critical of Gov. Bill Haslam and urging action be taken against him. The letter, reproduced in part by Oatney, is along the same lines as an earlier critique of Haslam in resolutions adopted by eight or so county GOP orgaizations.
Excerpt: Two of the more serious and imminent dangers currently being advanced within the halls of government are advocacy for Political Islam/Sharia and the United Nations’ Agenda 21 on private property rights. The current promotion of both of these agendas by Governor Haslam and members of his administration has led the Republican Party of Tennessee into a crisis of conflict. It is not unreasonable to posit that Governor Haslam’s actions in this regard are fueling a widespread and rapidly growing lack of confidence not only in his leadership, but in the Republican Party in Tennessee by default.
…Governor Haslam’s political stature is not more important than the safety and freedom of our state, nor even the future of the Republican Party in Tennessee. It would be most unfortunate if Governor Haslam – or others within the Haslam Administration – interpret inaction on the part of the State Executive Committee as constituting tacit approval of his actions, as this may well encourage further violations of our principles.
Oatney opines that there is some reason for concern about Islamic actions, but that the GOP SEC can’t really do anything about it. As Governor, Haslam serves as the de facto party leader Statewide, and unless he renounces his Republican status or works to assist the Democratic Party in advancing its political fortunes in an open way (such as Kent Williams did in being elected Speaker of the House in 2009), the SEC is not in a position to openly question his decisions, especially in regard to hiring or firing-that is the job of groups such as the tea party to do, along with other Republicans who serve in the General Assembly and other elected government positions.
…One State Executive Committee Member that this writer spoke with today said “the concerns being raised in this letter are legitimate and real, but the primary concern of the SEC in an election year is to do whatever we can to help the Republican presidential nominee, and to retain the Republican majority in the General Assembly this November. This isn’t really our territory, but if we address it at all it will not be until after the election..”
About 15 people signed up to become members of the Secular Coalition for America in Tennessee in an organizing conference call last week, according to The Tennessean. The idea is to organize a state chapter for lobbying to keep religion out of public policy. (Previous post HERE.) But their critics say that atheists and other nonbelievers are part of a new secular religion that’s pushing for special privileges. … Nick Curry, 24, of Nashville, who calls himself a secular humanist, hopes to join the local Secular Coalition chapter. He grew up Lutheran in Franklin but dropped out as a teenager because he stopped believing what his church taught about God.
Curry said he’s not hostile to people who believe in God. But he’s concerned about politicians who want to bring their religious beliefs into politics and about religious groups that get money from the state.
“Secular humanists don’t care what you believe,” he said. “That’s on you. But don’t bring that into public policy.”
…David Fowler, head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, disagrees.
Fowler’s organization is one of about 10 Tennessee nonprofits with religious ties that are registered to lobby with the state. He argues that atheism or secular humanism, like other religions, is a set of beliefs that shape people’s morals.
“The atheists don’t want beliefs about God to influence public policy,” he said. “But they do want their own beliefs about God’s nonexistence to influence public policy.”
Thaddeus Schwartz, the leader of Secular Life, a social group for local nonbelievers with about 800 members, said atheists have moral and ethical principles, but those principles are different from a religion.
Calling atheism a religion is “like calling bald a hair color,” he said.
Schwartz said he’s supportive of the Secular Coalition because of its emphasis on the separation of church and state and because the group is not openly hostile to religion.
He does worry that society thinks nonbelievers are bad people because they don’t believe in God. He said he doesn’t need God to tell him what is right and what is wrong.
News release from Secular Coalition for America:
Washington, D.C. – The Secular Coalition for America is excited to announce the initial organizing efforts for a chapter in Tennessee this month. The state chapter will lobby state lawmakers in favor of a strong separation of religion and government.
The initial organizing call for the Secular Coalition for Tennessee will be held on Tuesday July 17, 2012 at 3:00 PM ET (2 PM CT). The SCA encourages interested participants to call in. Participation is open to anyone who supports a strong separation of religion and government and wants to get involved, irrespective of personal religious beliefs. The Secular Coalition represents 11 nontheistic member organizations and has in the past worked with other non-religious and religious organizations such as the Interfaith Alliance, Catholics for Choice and the National Council of Jewish Women.
Other states chapters being organized later this month include Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Washington. Since June, the SCA successfully held initial organizing calls for new chapters in 17 states. Participants will be trained in lobbying state lawmakers, and the chapter will be provided with a website and other materials.
The Secular Coalition for America–a lobbying organization representing nontheistic Americans and advocating for a strong separation of religion and government–will launch chapters in 48 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico by the end of 2012. Two state affiliates, the Secular Coalition for Arizona and Secular Coalition for Alabama, are already operational – the SCA has elected to adopt a chapter model, instead of the affiliate model, for the subsequent 48 state groups.
“Some of the most egregious violations of church state separation are being promoted and passed at the state level, and we absolutely must act to stop it,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “There are 40 million Americans who don’t identify with any religion, but our political influence has been limited because we have not been organized. This year, that changes.”
A recent Pew Forum study indicated that 16 percent of Tennessee residents do not express an absolute belief in God, and 28 percent disagreed that “religion is very important to their lives.” Another Pew study found that the majority of Americans (54%) say that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters, and 38% says that there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders – a number that has grown to its highest point since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago. State chapters being organized around the country will lobby to halt such legislation.
No specific legislative agenda has been announced…..Interested participants are encouraged to call in to the meeting at (530) 881-1400, Participant Access Code: 978895.
News release from coalition opposing ‘guns in parking lots’ bill:
NASHVILLE – A coalition of leaders from across the state will tell legislators Tuesday about their fears if the “guns-in-parking-lots” bill if passed.
More than a dozen representatives of business, professional associations, hospitals, private colleges and universities, and law enforcement will testify before members of the Senate Commerce and Agriculture Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee.
They will express their opposition to a pair of bills that would strip them of their right to ban firearms on privately owned property, such as a parking lot. They say the legislation would deny employers their fundamental property rights and would impose costs that will jeopardize jobs.
Remarks about the legislation from several who are expected to testify:
Bill Ozier, chairman of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “Emotions run high in the workplace. If employers are going to provide a safe place for their employees, the should have the right to set the rules on company property.”
Tom Midyett, Tennessee Paper Council, representing more than 300 paper-related businesses: “In their proper place, guns are an integral part of our Tennessee heritage and our lifestyle. But you do not need to upset company policies that have worked well in Tennessee for many, many years, by creating this new mandate on Tennessee employers. You certainly do not need to infringe further on the private property rights of my Tennessee Paper Council members or any other property owners in Tennessee.”
Rick Lassiter, president of Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville: “According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, health-care workers are more than three times as likely as workers in other industries to be injured by acts of violence. A hospital ER or an ICU waiting room are two of the most emotionally charged workplaces around. Add guns to the mix, and you turn a place where lives are saved into a place where lives are in danger.”
Others expected to attend include representatives of the Tennessee Business Roundtable, the Hospital Alliance of Tennessee, Associated Builders and Contractors of Middle Tennessee, the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, FedEx Corp., the Tennessee Public and Teaching Hospital Association, Volkswagen, Campus Chiefs of Police, Bridgestone Americas, Tennessee Class I Railroads, and the Greater Nashville Chamber of Commerce.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A coalition of business and law enforcement groups is urging lawmakers to abandon a bill that would allow employees to store guns in their vehicles at work, calling the proposal a “major infringement on private property rights.”
The letter, which was sent to all 132 lawmakers on Thursday, said the legislation aims to curtail the rights of private property owners by “forcing them to allow firearms to be carried onto their premises — even if the property owner objects.”
While the legislative website describes the legislation as applying to “individuals licensed to carry,” the bill itself makes no reference to state-issued handgun carry permits, meaning it could apply to any gun owner in the state.
“The proposed law is a major infringement on private property rights,” the letter said. “Supporters of this legislation argue that this enhances individual rights, but you cannot expand rights for one person by restricting the rights of another.”
Supporters of the guns in parking lots measure include the Tennessee Firearms Association, which has urged its members to lean on lawmakers not to allow the “employee safe commute” bill to be pushed aside.
The association issued a release Thursday that said the House leadership is seeking to kill the bill to “appease the big business … big money investors in House leadership.”
“Sadly for conservatives, this support is apparently based more on Chicago style influence peddling for dollars rather than supporting bills based on conservative and constitutional principles that directly impact the citizens,” the release said.
Previous attempts to allow guns on college campuses have drawn heavy resistance from the state’s higher education system, while the guns in parking lots measure has been vehemently opposed by business interests.
The Tennessee Bankers Association and the Hospital Alliance of Tennessee are among the 18 entities in the letter, which also includes the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Senate version of the proposal is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, while the companion bill has been stuck in a House subcommittee since early last month.
Republican House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga is proposing a competing bill that would narrow eligibility to “employees who possess a valid handgun carry permit.”
Rep. Eddie Bass, the sponsor of the original House proposal, said he hasn’t talked to McCormick, but the Prospect Democrat said he just wants “the best bill for the people.”
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey told reporters later Thursday that he expects a compromise to be reached on the issue.
“It will be a compromise that protects property rights, and at the same time allows law-abiding, handgun permit carrying people to take their guns in places that seem legitimate,” said the Blountville Republican.
Read SB3002 at http://capitol.tn.gov.
From Jack McElroy’s blog:
Frank Gibson, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, is moving to a new role. Starting next week, he’ll be public policy director for the Tennessee Press Association. The good news is that he’ll continue to battle for government access in that job.
Gibson has been synonymous with TCOG since the organization was founded in 2003 to bring together citizens, journalists and lawyers concerned about the preservation and improvement of open-government laws.
Under his leadership, the group has been very successful. Soon after its inception, TCOG conducted statewide public records and open meetings audits that showed the need for additional training and education. In 2006, after the Tennessee Waltz scandal broke, it got open-government language included in the governor’s ethics study commission report and persuaded the legislature to include “sunshine” for the General Assembly in the ethics law. In 2007, it convinced the governor to create the Office of the Open Records Counsel to help enforce the Public Records Act, and in 2008, at its urging, the legislature passed the first improvements to the records law in 25 years.
This past year, Gibson and TCOG battled a number of bills to limit access and public notice. The fight convinced the press association that it needed someone in Nashville year-round, and Gibson was the guy. His departure won’t mean the death of TCOG, however. The organization decided Thursday to draft a job description and appoint a committee to look for a new director, who will team up with Gibson to provide even more firepower in the fight for open government.
Tennessee hospitals, other health care providers and advocacy groups are making a statewide push to educate and warn the public and elected officials on the dangers of proposed federal budget cuts to health care, according to Andy Sher. The Coalition to Control Spending with Care begins today with a newspaper advertising campaign in five major cities, including Chattanooga.
The ad features a baby sitting in soapy water.
“Everyone agrees we must rein in federal spending,” the ad says. “However, simply cutting without considering the consequences is a bit like throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. In our urgency, we have to consider the human cost to our most vulnerable citizens and those who care for them. ”
Otherwise,” the ad says, “the cuts will be devastating.” The coalition warns that some legislation being advanced in Washington, D.C., could cut anywhere from $100 billion to $300 billion from Medicare alone over the next decade.
That could have a $2.8 billion to $4 billion impact in Tennessee, which the group calls “a very tough pill to swallow.”
Tony Garr, policy director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, an advocacy group participating in the coalition, said no one is “offering anything by way of helping control costs on health care. There’s nothing about the underlying issues of why we spend so much on our health care in this country compared to other developed countries.”