Gov. Bill Haslam and his chief of staff, Mark Cate, said Tuesday they show no favoritism toward Tom Ingram’s lobbying clients, though Cate’s emails indicate considerable friendly contact with Ingram and an associate.
Several of the emails obtained by WTVF-TV involved HR Comp Employee Leasing, a Knox County firm that had problems with the state Department of Insurance and retained The Ingram Group’s lobbying and consultant services. The firm, owned and operated by Andrea Ball of Powell, at one point was found to be operating without a state license and agreed to pay $10,000 in a consent order.
In one email, Ingram describes the company’s situation as “a very troubling case.” In another, Marcille Durham, president of the Ingram Group, says Andrea Ball would like to meet with him about departmental action “driving her out of business” and Cate replies that he is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
Both Cate and Ball said in interviews Tuesday that they had never met.
Cate said “I don’t really see any point” in the TV report on his email since he was merely doing his job of dealing with people who have issues with one part of state government or another.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After defeating several attempts by Democrats to dial back the proposal, the House on Thursday approved Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to change the way the state considers injured workers’ claims.
The chamber voted 68-24, almost entirely along party lines, to approve the bill (SB200). The Senate would have to agree to minor changes before the measure can head for the governor’s signature.
A major feature of the measure is that it would remove workers’ compensation cases from the state’s trial courts and instead create special panels appointed by the governor to hear claims and appeals.
Democrats noted that the bill would grant all the power over the system to the executive branch without input or oversight from the Legislature.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville derided the new system as a “Tennessee kangaroo court,” and offered a symbolic amendment to simply do away with the state’s workers’ compensation program altogether. It failed overwhelmingly.
Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, said the changes will jumpstart workers claims, removing uncertainty from both them and their employers.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House has approved Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to change the way the state considers injured workers’ claims after defeating several attempts by Democrats to dial back the proposal.
The chamber voted 68-24 to approve the bill. The Senate would have to agree to minor changes before the measure can head for the governor’s signature.
Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, the House Democratic leader, argued that the bill would give governors too much power over the workers’ compensation program in the state because the executive branch would have complete power to select judges considering injured workers’ claims and appeals.
He also argued the maximum allowable compensation under the bill levels would fall below the average benefits under the current law. But his efforts to change the bill failed.
A few dozen people, including members of the Tennessee AFL-CIO and other labor groups, gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon to express their opposition Gov. Haslam’s proposed changes to workers’ compensation, according to TNReport. The ralliers, waving signs and chanting “Save Workers’ Comp,” were joined by Democratic leaders from the state House of Representatives who address the crowd and promised to continue to oppose the reform measure, House Bill 194, sponsored by Republican Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner had strong words for the governor and GOP supermajority on the matter, calling the legislation “just wrong,” “shameful” and “immoral.” ”
This administration and this legislature have cut every tax they could cut on the wealthy and they’re paying for it on the backs of working people,” said the Old Hickory Democrat. “This workers comp bill is just one more example of that and it may be the worst of all that I have seen.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush inadvertently took aim at one of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative priorities this year when the two appeared at an education forum.
Bush said Monday during the question and answer phase of the event featuring the two Republicans that as governor he relished taking aim at the bigger challenges, even if it meant facing stronger resistance.
“If it isn’t controversial or hard to do, you probably needed to add a few more bales of hay on the truck,” Bush said. “Bigger is better.”
Otherwise, he said, the inclination is toward less sweeping agenda items.
“If you have legislature that’s focused on pleasing the people who are there all the time, you’re going to be worried about tweaking the workers’ comp bill,” Bush said.
Haslam, who this year plans to introduce changes to the way injured workers claims are processed in Tennessee, interrupted Bush with a laugh.
“Careful,” Haslam said. “Quit preaching on about that one!”
Bush quickly changed analogies, instead saying lawmakers shouldn’t cater to fringe groups like the “left-handed Albanian caucus.”
“There’s all sorts of little things you can focus on,” Bush said. “I’ve found if there’s a bigger focus on the big things, the little things don’t get time.”
Bush was effusive in his praise of Haslam’s education initiatives after the event organized by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
“I’m a huge Gov. Haslam fan,” Bush told reporters. “Tennessee’s lucky to have him.”